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Interview

‘It’s All About Performance’, An Interview with Dubbing Director Nathalie Régnier

Nathalie Régnier et Anaïs Le Fèvre-Berthelot

Notes de l’auteur

This interview was led on May 18, 2012 in Dubbing Brothers’ Studios in La Plaine Saint-Denis, and completed over the phone on June 26, 2012. 

Texte intégral

  • 1 Martine Danan, “A la recherche d'une stratégie internationale : Hollywood et le marché français des (...)
  • 2 Directed by Alan Crosland and distributed by Warner Bros., The Jazz Singer (1927) is the first feat (...)
  • 3 Jean-François Cornu, “Le doublage et le sous-titrage des films en France depuis 1931 : Contribution (...)
  • 4 On the various strategies tested by the industry to adapt talkies see Abé Mark Nornes, Cinema Babel (...)
  • 5 On multiple language versions see Ginette Vincendeau, “Films en versions multiples,” in L'Histoire (...)
  • 6 Because hiring European actors to come to Hollywood was too expensive, American studios would hire (...)
  • 7 Danan notes that French and German studios kept producing foreign language versions throughout the (...)

1Dubbing was adopted progressively by Hollywood for the French market in the 1930s, after three years of trials and errors. In an article about Hollywood and the French market in the 1930s, Martine Danan explains that between 1929 and 1932, Hollywood was threatened by the arrival of sound as it introduced issues of cultural distinctions. To export its products, Hollywood used various strategies that sometimes coexisted: subtitling, international sound versions, multiple language versions (MLV), original productions and dubbing1. In 1929 The Jazz Singer (Alan Crosland, 1927)2 was screened in Paris with subtitles but the initial curiosity for sound films was not enough to convince French viewers to watch subsequent films with subtitles3. It quickly appeared that subtitling would not satisfy mass audiences. Other strategies were tested4. International sound versions consisted in keeping the original version while translating only the major lines or adding intertitles to explain the plot. Such versions sometimes deleted dialogues altogether and only kept music and other sounds. Another solution was to insert short sequences in which an actor would address the audience in French and explain the main plot. Between 1930 and 1931, multiple language versions were produced, first in Hollywood and later in Europe. Paramount built a studio for this purpose in Joinville, France. The process consisted in shooting the same scene in various languages5. Although this solution proved cheaper than producing original movies for each market, it was still costly and did not attract enough viewers to be profitable —the French audience protested against actors whose accent was not good enough6. The Paramount studios in Joinville shut down in 1932 and were turned into dubbing studios7.

  • 8 Silent films were sometimes post-synchronized to add dialogues. See Danan, “A la recherche d'une st (...)
  • 9 Nornes, Cinema Babel, 147.
  • 10 On the topic of synchronicity, see Nataša Ďurovičová, “Local Ghosts: Dubbing Bodies in Early Sound (...)
  • 11 Decision quoted in Jean-François Cornu, “Le doublage et le sous-titrage des films en France depuis (...)
  • 12 Jean Renoir, “Contre le doublage,” in Ecrits 1926-1971 (Paris: Pierre Belfond, 1974), 47.
  • 13 Martin Winckler, Petit éloge des séries télé (Paris, France: Gallimard, 2012), 69-72.

2When it became clear that subtitling would not work, dubbing became the favored option in France. The practice was not new since post-synchronization was one of the techniques that accompanied the transition from silent to sound films8. The dubbed version of Derelict (Rowland V. Lee, 1930) marked a watershed in the reception of dubbing in France9. Technical problems linked to synchronicity—the correspondence between lip movements and speech—were progressively solved in the following years10. Some voices however rose against the practice of dubbing. In April 1931, an actors’ union (l’Union des artistes) forbade its members to dub foreign films as it deemed the practice unworthy of professional actors and disrespectful towards the work of the actors who were dubbed11. Jean Renoir wrote that adding the voice of someone else to another's body was sacrilegious12. Still today, critics regret the cultural loss implied by dubbing and the poor quality of dubbed versions13. Despite such oppositions and the initial technical obstacles, dubbing has become the privileged solution to adapt foreign audiovisual products for the French market.

  • 14 Danan, “A la recherche d'une stratégie internationale : Hollywood et le marché français des années (...)
  • 15 Cornu, “Le doublage et le sous-titrage des films en France depuis 1931”.
  • 16 The distinction between so-called “dubbing” and “subtitling” countries is becoming outdated as glob (...)
  • 17 Martine Danan, “Dubbing as an Expression of Nationalism,” Meta : journal des traducteurs 36, no. 4 (...)
  • 18 Group Media Consulting and Peacefulfish, “Study on Dubbing and Subtitling Needs and Practices in th (...)

3Martine Danan stresses the importance of national culture in the adoption of dubbing. She defines dubbing as a compromise accepted by both parties (the French viewers and Hollywood producers) rather than a trick that would dupe the viewers14. According to Jean-François Cornu, the author of a dissertation on dubbing and subtitling in France since 1931, dubbing became a common practice in France because of the economic, commercial and technical power of the French cinema industry at the time15. Dubbing was the cheapest way to attract French viewers who were attached to their national culture. The practice was also encouraged by the French government who supported the distribution of films dubbed in French as part of its policy to promote the French language. Together with Germany, Spain, and Italy, France is among the few European countries where dubbing was favored16. As Martine Danan explains, this choice can be an “expression of nationalism”17. In France, pride in the national language can partly explain the choice of dubbing. If economic reasons are not enough to justify the adoption of dubbing, they usually explain why distributors renounce it. In countries such as Portugal, the Netherlands or Sweden, the market is too small for dubbed versions to yield profits and subtitling is the chosen method of adaptation both for cinema and television18. In France, the adoption of dubbing, by the industry and the viewers, is therefore at the crossroads of political, cultural, and economic concerns.

  • 19 Alfred Hitchcock Présente was broadcast by the ORTF (Office Radiodiffusion Télévision Française) as (...)
  • 20 European Audiovisual Observatory, Press Release 28 January 2003 cited in Rachele Antonini and Delia (...)
  • 21 Thierry Le Nouvel, Le Doublage (Paris: Eyrolles, 2007), 8.
  • 22 Around 1.6 million viewers watched the first episode of season 8 of Desperate Housewives in French (...)

4The adoption of dubbing by the film industry later had consequences for television. When television developed in the 1950s and 1960s in France, foreign programs and films”, such as Alfred Hitchcock presents (CBS, 1955-1960 ; NBC 1960-1962)19, were dubbed. A report published by the European Audiovisual Observatory in 2003 states that 70% of fiction and films broadcast on French television channels are American productions or co-productions20. These figures are consistent with Thierry Le Nouvel’s estimate: about 60% of television programs aired in France are dubbed, among those, over 90% are transposed from English21. New viewing practices such as streaming, downloading and VOD challenge dubbing in favor of subtitled versions. Similarly, new technologies such as digital TV give viewers the possibility to choose between a dubbed and a subtitled version of the same program. Despite such practices that have encouraged the development of official and non-official subtitled versions, dubbing is still central to issues of cultural transposition. Indeed, many French viewers still watch American series on television, in their dubbed French version22.

  • 23 See for instance: Jorge Diaz-Cintas, ed. New trends in audiovisual translation, Topics in translati (...)
  • 24 Alain Boillat, Décadrages “Le doublage”, (Lausanne, Suisse: Association Décadrages, 2013).
  • 25 Joseph Garncarz, “Sous-titrage, versions multiples, doublage—En quête du mode de traduction optimal (...)
  • 26 Ally McBeal (Fox, 1997-2002)
  • 27 Other interviews were conducted with dubbing actresses working on Desperate Housewives (Caroline Be (...)

5The literature on dubbing is growing. It often focuses on issues of translation23, even though some articles tackle the subject from a sociological and economic perspective24. Studies on the economy of dubbing usually consider only the emergence of this practice25 and few reports are available on today’s situation. The perspective adopted here emphasizes dubbing practices and the political economy of a global industry. The following interview was conducted as part of a doctoral research project on women’s voices in contemporary TV series. This research focuses on issues of gender representation based on a corpus of four TV series using a female voice-over26. Although dubbing is not central to this particular project, the issue of cultural transposition of voices—and the representations they imply—rises when considering global audiovisual products such as TV series. This interview is part of a series of conversations with dubbing directors and actresses27. It was conducted in May 2012 at Dubbing Brothers’ recording studios in Saint-Denis, France while Ms. Régnier was directing the dubbing of the last episodes of Desperate Housewives (ABC, 2004-2012).

  • 28 Marc Cherry was previously known for his work as a writer-producer for The Golden Girls (NBC, 1985- (...)
  • 29 Apart from episodes 3.16 and 5.19 narrated by the late Rex Van De Kamp (Steven Culp) and Edie Britt (...)
  • 30 Viewers who received the channel via their satellite dish (CanalSat) could select the version with (...)

6Desperate Housewives was launched in 2004 on ABC. The show was created by Marc Cherry28 and tells the story of four women in suburbia: Bree Van de Kamp (Marcia Cross), Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria), Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman) and Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher). One of its characteristics is that all episodes are framed by remarks spoken by a dead character in voice-over: Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong), who committed suicide in the first episode, comments on her friends’ lives from beyond the grave29. The show ran for eight seasons. In France, Desperate Housewives first aired in September 2005 on Canal Plus (a pay channel that showed the series both in French and in English with subtitles30) and then in May 2006 on M6 (a free channel that only showed the French dubbed version). The last episode aired in the United States on ABC in May 2012, a few weeks later on Canal Plus, and on November 28, 2012 on M6.

  • 31 Distributors usually are careful to keep the same dubbing actors throughout the run of a series. Ho (...)

7Nathalie Régnier is a French actress specialized in dubbing, she is the French voice of such characters as Skyler White (Breaking Bad, AMC 2008-2012) and Sarah Braverman (Parenthood, NBC 2010-). She was the dubbing director for Desperate Housewives throughout the series’ run in France. She cast the French voices of the show and directed the dubbing actors for eight years. The five main characters were dubbed by the same actresses throughout the series31: Caroline Beaune (Lynette), Françoise Cadol (Mary Alice), Claire Guyot (Susan), Blanche Ravalec (Bree) and Odile Schmitt (Gabrielle). Ms. Régnier organized and supervised the recording sessions, and made sure that the dubbing actors’ performances followed the original and were consistent over the seasons. Candace Whitman-Linsen, author of a study on the synchronization of American films into German, French and Spanish describes the role of the dubbing director this way:

  • 32 Candace Whitman-Linsen, Through the Dubbing Glass, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang (1992), p.82 quote (...)

Like the director of a theatre play or film, the dubbing director is responsible for prompting, stimulating and instructing the actors to put on their best performances. He can demand that lines be read differently, re-directing emphasis and shifting expression. Suggestions and criticism pertaining to intonation, expression and voice-projection are also made by the director. Before each take, the director might add a remark or two sketching in missing context for the benefit of the dubbing actor: where the character is, what the character feels, what message is intended to be imparted.32 

  • 33 In addition to international competition, new viewing practices increase the pressure to provide du (...)
  • 34 Décret n°90-174 du 23 février 1990 - Article 17, (Legifrance, 1996).
  • 35 Nicolas Picquet, “La VF à quitte ou double,” Libération, 08/07/2012, <http://www.liberation.fr/medias/2012/07/08/la-vf-a-quitte-ou-double_831981>.
  • 36 Today, a few companies such as RS Doublage, VF Productions, Cinekita, or Dubbing Brothers are respo (...)

8The following interview with Ms. Régnier offers insight into the dubbing process and helps understand the individual and industrial factors that shape the dubbed versions. It first points to the importance of economic and time constraints. As a result of globalization33, the dubbing industry is becoming more and more competitive. Before 1996, dubbed versions could only get an exploitation visa if the film had been dubbed in France. Since then, dubbed versions can get an exploitation visa as long as they are made in the European Union34 and since dubbing cost 40% less in Belgium than in France35, competition from its neighbor has increased the pressure on dubbing professionals working in France36. In the case of Desperate Housewives, the team had one and a half day to dub each episode, which according to Ms. Régnier is substantially more than for other series. However, in such a short time, the actors do not see the episodes or read the scripts in advance, they enter the studio and deliver their lines immediately and generally do not watch the entire episode. In this context, Ms. Régnier's role is essential as she ensures continuity between the episodes as well as from one season to the next. She makes sure the French voice of the show is “faithful” to the original.

  • 37 Chaume, Audiovisual translation, 17.
  • 38 About the dubbing process, see Xenia Martinez, “Film Dubbing: Its process and translation,” in Topi (...)
  • 39 Nolwenn Mingant, Hollywood à la conquête du monde: marchés, stratégies, influences (Paris, France: (...)
  • 40 On the transformations imposed by French broadcasters, see “Séries Télé : Winckler contre la censur (...)
  • 41 On the process of cultural translation see also Chiara Francesca Ferrari’s study of the adaptation (...)

9The notion of “fidelity” to the original has no simple definition, however. As Frederic Chaume explains in his book on dubbing, “the concept of fidelity has a long tradition in translation theory” and it is generally understood as fidelity “to content, form, function, source text effect, or all or any one of the aforementioned, depending on the job in hand.”37 This interview shows that the choice of the dubbing voice is less a matter of grain or pitch, or anything measurable, than the result of an intuition, of the subjective correspondence between two personalities. Similarly, the general tone of the dialogues depends on the dubbing director’s understanding of the scene and on the actors’ performance. The main process is one of transposition. This transposition is the result of the combined work of a translator, a dubbing director and actors whose aim is to convey a story to the French audience38. Following Martine Danan, Nolwenn Mingant explains that dubbing is a way to “localize” the film or series, to mask part of its foreignness39. Hence, while some elements remain untouched, others can sometimes be transformed to satisfy broadcasters40 and to attract French viewers41. Dubbing is thus about interpretation. It implies to enact the meaning of the audiovisual product for a foreign audience, through performance. As a dubbing director, Ms. Régnier is at the heart of this complex process.

10The actors also play an important role in this transposition. During the French promotion of the last season of Desperate Housewives, the actresses who dubbed the show acted as representatives of the American actresses. They participated in promotional events and TV programs in which they were addressed as either their characters (“So, you're Gabrielle”), or the actors they dubbed (“you're Eva Longoria”). Ms. Régnier herself often speaks of the character and the actor as if they were one. This interview stresses the link between voice and character.

  • 42 Sabine Chalvon-Demersay, “Enquête sur l'étrange nature du héros de série télévisée,” Réseaux 1, no. (...)
  • 43 Divina Frau-Meigs, Mediamorphoses américaines (Paris: Economica, 2002), 127.

11Sabine Chalvon-Demersay has studied the hybrid being that is produced through the combination of the actor's body and the character’s personality42. She shows that, in the viewers’ minds, actors in popular television series often conflate with the characters they embody. This association of actors with their characters is made easier in TV series because of the temporality involved in the viewing process. The TV series hero is an entity that emerges gradually along the episodes and the seasons. The viewers’ relationship with characters they follow on such long time periods and who enter their home via the TV screen, implies a feeling of intimacy. It can be argued however that such a phenomenon is not limited to TV series since seriality permeates many media productions today. Staging the actors’ every appearance might be one of the solutions used by Hollywood to extend the spectator’s experience. Whether it is on websites, on TV shows, in magazines, or in tabloids, actors are omnipresent to talk as or about their characters. Divina Frau-Meigs explains how the notion of “character” includes the person, the persona and their moral qualities43. Increasingly, because of seriality, viewers endow actors with the moral qualities of their characters, and links can be made between the actors’ private lives and the part they play on screen. The notion of character is central to dubbing. Alain Boillat claims that

  • 44 Alain Boillat, “Le doublage au sens large : de l'usage des voix déliées,” Décadrages, no. 23-24 (20 (...)

whereas the original version highlights the actor, the dubbed version favors the character (all the while contributing to exporting the star system). This distinction is all the more important today when Hollywood stars are not always dubbed by the same actor.44

12Dubbing adds a third layer of being to the hybrid entity that is the TV series hero: for French viewers, TV series heroes are made of the character, the actor’s body, and the French actor’s voice. Voice is at the center of this hybrid being. It is key to its social, cognitive and emotional construction, as it is both the sound uttered through the actor’s lips and the character’s agency and point of view. The voice is also crucial as the medium that projects intimacy into the public sphere. Studying dubbing throws light on the complexity of this creature: the French voices have become part of the characters for French viewers. This interview tells us how those voices are chosen and performed.

Anaïs Le Fèvre-Berthelot: In your opinion, what makes Desperate Housewives special?

Nathalie Régnier: I was surprised with the show’s popularity with men as well as with women. I met someone whose wife is a psychoanalyst who has patients, men and women, who talk about Desperate Housewives in therapy. It really is a funny series and that may be why it can appeal to men.

  • 45 United States of Tara (Showtime, 2009-2011). This comedy-drama follows Tara, a housewife and mother (...)

I think people identify with the four main characters of the show. They are engaging because of their weaknesses —Gabrielle's selfishness, Bree's rigidity. They are not perfect beings, they have flaws. Desperate Housewives is very neat, it is not trashy as United States of Tara45 for instance, or as HBO series can be. The show follows a clear path, it is very well-polished. The diction is pretty and the acting is very precise. Desperate Housewives is very different from British shows for instance, in which female characters are just like you and me. Here, even though the actresses are not Barbie dolls, they still tend toward a typically American female ideal. However, it is not stereotypical in the way cop shows can be: even though the girls are beautiful and the atmosphere is that of the fancy suburbs, it is not always politically correct.

With Desperate Housewives, Marc Cherry did not think “I'm going to make the show of the century”. The significance of this series is linked to its originality. Marc Cherry is a real creator, he has a personal universe and his aim was not only a commercial one. Desperate Housewives is also original because it features four actresses who were not really famous, women in their forties who were revealed by the series.

Finally, the show has a very human feel to it, which is emphasized by the voice-over. Especially in the beginning of the series, the voice-over is like a guiding thread and it’s an interesting device. For instance, there is an episode about compassion, the voice-over states the theme and guides the viewers as the episode explores this theme.

AL: Could you tell us about the specificities of dubbing?

  • 46 The translation is supervised by Dubbing Brothers.

NR: Dubbing means transposing into French, because acting in French is very different from acting in English. This being said, there are certain things that cannot be transposed, things you do not change, the location for instance. The way we act is different; rhythms and stresses change in each language. Acting is about rhythm, you must follow the actor's breath and it is also the author’s job to keep a good rhythm. Even when you are not at all familiar with the source language, you try to understand the acting codes and transpose them into French. The actor's eyes are also essential, they are the mirror of your emotions. Some things are obvious, some emotions are universal. Finally, you need a good translation, with no major misinterpretation46.

AL: Do you analyze the episodes yourself or do the clients provide you with guidelines on the meaning of the episodes?

NR: There is some analysis done, but more in terms of perception, of body language. I analyze the direction. You must not take everything you see at face value, there are several levels of analysis. Body language and eyes are very important. My job is to decode the actors’ intentions and what is going on in terms of situations and emotions. I only follow the director’s work. It's about interpreting what you receive as a spectator and transposing it so that French spectators are not lost when they see the dubbed version. It is really about directing the actors. My job is to be as close as possible to the original. Of course, we cannot act like them, the way we speak and our vocal inflections are different but still, we are as faithful as possible. We are not trying to make a different show, I am not a director, I’m only a dubbing director. If it is not clear in English, it will not be clear in French. If it was directed properly, it will not be bad in French. We must remain humble: it is not pure creation.

The quality of Desperate Housewives comes from its being centered on the actors’ performance. Some scenes are really difficult. In terms of dubbing, the better an actor, the more difficult he is to dub, because you have to try and match the absolute precision of his performance. It is more enjoyable, but not easier. Then of course, dubbing a very bad actor is also very difficult.

AL: How did you cast the French dubbing actors?

  • 47 Blanche Ravalec is Marcia Cross’s official French voice. She dubbed her in Melrose Place (Fox, 1992 (...)
  • 48 Claire Guyot is the official French voice of Sarah Michelle Gellar and Winona Ryder. Before Despera (...)

NR: We auditioned all the actors except one, Blanche Ravalec, who has been dubbing Marcia Cross for a long time47. Claire Guyot had already dubbed Teri Hatcher48 but she still had to audition. The clients —the broadcasters and ABC— decide whether they want auditions. Having auditions is a good thing, it is expensive, but it is also a safety net for high-profile series. A lot of research was done on Desperate Housewives to track who had dubbed whom. Often, different French actors have dubbed the same American actor and then the client makes the decision. If the actor does not have an official French voice, the dubbing director makes the decision. Casting is a bit complicated because we don’t all have the same feeling, it is a matter of intuition and it is really personal. There are no rules and people do not always agree, as it depends on our relationship to art. It is also what makes a difference: our feeling about a scene, the way we direct the actors. If you do not have good actors, you cannot dub well. Then of course, we try to be as close as possible to the American voice.

AL: How do you define this closeness? Is it a matter of grain, of vocal range?

  • 49 Capote (Bennett Miller, 2005)

NR: Of range, yes. That being said, Americans have lower voices, so we adapt to each language, there are no rules. But sometimes the American voice does not match a person’s appearance and what is acceptable in the original version would not work in French. Some people’s voices do not match their appearances and then it is our job to find a middle path and cast the right voice. We try to respect the original voice as much as possible except when it really sounds ridiculous. A pretty woman does not necessarily have a deep voice, but a big man with a thin, high-pitched voice will not work in French. Yet, if the unusual voice brings something special to the character, as in Capote49, then it also works in French. But people whose voices do not match their bodies are rare. One’s build matters for the voice’s power, it is a matter of resonance, of being able to fill the role. If the voices match the original it is a good point, but what really matters is the actor’s personality. There are no rules, you must adapt to the product and to the actors.

AL: After the auditions, who makes the final decision?

NR: I am not directly in touch with the producers or the broadcasters. The dubbing company [Dubbing Brothers], through the production manager, passes the client’s wishes on. The dubbing director’s privilege is to suggest names for the auditions. If I put someone forward, it means I think it could work. But eventually it is the client’s decision, and for Desperate Housewives I think it worked out well.

AL: How did you work on the harmony between the various voices?

NR: We needed four distinctive voices, so that they could be recognized. It wasn’t very difficult on this show because the voices were already very different in the original version. But when you have four women of the same age on a show, it is important to pick the voices so that the characters can be identified without their faces.

Then, it’s also a matter of the actresses’ characters. Some are more tense, others are more languid, some are contemplative while others are more corporeal. Casting is not only about voice, it’s also about character. The character of the dubbing actress should correspond to that of the actress on screen, otherwise she can’t identify with her acting. It is really important to be in harmony, to feel close to the actress you are dubbing, otherwise you will not be able to understand how she acts.

AL: What about the casting of the voice-over?

NR: We had two auditions for this character, because the voice-over is important. It is the link. Mary Alice’s voice is close to us as she looks over the other characters. It shows us things; it is really important. I have noticed that now series often use voice-overs, and I like that.

AL: Do you feel that female voice-overs in films and in TV series are specific compared to male voice-overs?

NR: The voice-over is first and foremost part of the screenplay, and the fact that it is male or female depends on the writing. In this case it is more interesting to have a female voice-over because it is a women’s series. Emotions are universal and concern all human beings, and I do not think voices convey different things because they are male or female. I do not think there are gender specificities, even though some genres are more masculine (thrillers, cop shows, gross-out comedies...) and others are more feminine, more romantic. We live in a world where screenplays are mostly written by men. And in the dubbing industry there are more parts for men than for women. As women we have not completely gained our freedom. It is a larger issue and we will need time for true liberation to happen.

AL: On a more technical note, how is the voice-over recorded? In the US version, Brenda Strong records alone, with a special microphone and filters. How does it work in the dubbing process in France?

NR: It is similar, the microphone is adjusted to Françoise Cadol’s voice. You do not record a voice-over in the same way you do an exterior or interior voice. It is a way of recording, the voice is more present. For all voices unwanted mouth noises such as plosives or clicks are removed.

AL: Do you think the French voices create characters that are different from the American ones?

NR: It depends on the dubbing. As far as Desperate Housewives is concerned, I think it fits rather well. I think we are quite close to the original version, at least in terms of acting intentions. I pay close attention to the atmosphere, because you do not want to break something that is so pretty. Of course we have time constraints, when we dub TV series, we have to work faster. The quality is not the same for TV and for cinema: the sound is different —it is louder and more precise in cinema— the sound mixing is different too. We have a day and a half to dub one episode. Time is important in dubbing, because it allows you to go back, to correct, we always want to do better. On Desperate Housewives, we have the time we need, we could not do with less. Fortunately we have actors who know their job and are up to it. An actor could not start on a lead role in Desperate Housewives, it is too difficult.

AL: You seem to stress the importance of the relationship with the actress more than the relationship with the character.

NR: When I speak about the actress, I speak about the character she plays, because it is all about performance.

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Picquet, Nicolas. “La VF à quitte ou double.” Libération, 08/07/2012, <http://www.liberation.fr/medias/2012/07/08/la-vf-a-quitte-ou-double_831981>, accessed 26/02/2014.

Renoir, Jean. “Contre le doublage.” In Ecrits 1926-1971. Paris: Pierre Belfond, 1974.

“Séries Télé : Winckler contre la censure des doublages.” Arrêt sur Images, <http://www.arretsurimages.net/breves/2012-10-24/Series-tele-Winckler-contre-la-censure-des-doublages-id14606>, accessed 26/02/2014.

Szarkowska, Agnieszka. “The Power of Film Translation.” Translation Journal 9, no. 2 (2005).

Vincendeau, Ginette. “Films en versions multiples.” In L'Histoire du cinéma : nouvelles approches, 101-17. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1989.

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Notes

1 Martine Danan, “A la recherche d'une stratégie internationale : Hollywood et le marché français des années trente,” in Les Transferts linguistiques dans les médias audiovisuels (Paris: Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 1996), 109.

2 Directed by Alan Crosland and distributed by Warner Bros., The Jazz Singer (1927) is the first feature-length film to include synchronized dialogue sequences.

3 Jean-François Cornu, “Le doublage et le sous-titrage des films en France depuis 1931 : Contribution à une étude historique et esthétique du cinema” (Thesis, 2004), 29.

4 On the various strategies tested by the industry to adapt talkies see Abé Mark Nornes, Cinema Babel—Translating Global Cinema (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 123-54.

5 On multiple language versions see Ginette Vincendeau, “Films en versions multiples,” in L'Histoire du cinéma : nouvelles approches (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1989).

6 Because hiring European actors to come to Hollywood was too expensive, American studios would hire local actors who spoke phonetically. The audience’s bad reaction to those versions prompted the decision to open studios in Europe.

7 Danan notes that French and German studios kept producing foreign language versions throughout the 1930s. Danan, “A la recherche d'une stratégie internationale,” 120.

8 Silent films were sometimes post-synchronized to add dialogues. See Danan, “A la recherche d'une stratégie internationale,” 123.

9 Nornes, Cinema Babel, 147.

10 On the topic of synchronicity, see Nataša Ďurovičová, “Local Ghosts: Dubbing Bodies in Early Sound Cinema”, in Anna Antonini, ed., Il film e i suoi multipli/Film and Its Multiples (Udine : Forum, 2003).

11 Decision quoted in Jean-François Cornu, “Le doublage et le sous-titrage des films en France depuis 1931,” 173.

12 Jean Renoir, “Contre le doublage,” in Ecrits 1926-1971 (Paris: Pierre Belfond, 1974), 47.

13 Martin Winckler, Petit éloge des séries télé (Paris, France: Gallimard, 2012), 69-72.

14 Danan, “A la recherche d'une stratégie internationale : Hollywood et le marché français des années trente,” 127.

15 Cornu, “Le doublage et le sous-titrage des films en France depuis 1931”.

16 The distinction between so-called “dubbing” and “subtitling” countries is becoming outdated as globalization and new practices modify the landscape of audiovisual translation. On this topic see Frederic Chaume, Audiovisual translation: dubbing, Translation practices explained (Manchester, UK: St Jerome Publishing, 2012), 6-7.

17 Martine Danan, “Dubbing as an Expression of Nationalism,” Meta : journal des traducteurs 36, no. 4 (1991). On the influence of fascism in the adoption of dubbing in Spain, Germany, and Italy, see also Agnieszka Szarkowska, “The Power of Film Translation,” Translation Journal 9, no. 2 (2005).

18 Group Media Consulting and Peacefulfish, “Study on Dubbing and Subtitling Needs and Practices in the European Audiovisual Industry - Final Report,” (European Commission, 2007). This point must be nuanced however since in most countries most children’s programs are dubbed.

19 Alfred Hitchcock Présente was broadcast by the ORTF (Office Radiodiffusion Télévision Française) as soon as 1959.

20 European Audiovisual Observatory, Press Release 28 January 2003 cited in Rachele Antonini and Delia Chiaro, “The Perception of Dubbing by Italian Audiences,” in Audiovisual Translation: language transfer on screen (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 98.

21 Thierry Le Nouvel, Le Doublage (Paris: Eyrolles, 2007), 8.

22 Around 1.6 million viewers watched the first episode of season 8 of Desperate Housewives in French on Canal Plus, (http://www.leparisien.fr/laparisienne/actu-people/desperate-housewives-clap-de-fin-le-13-mai-16-04-2012-1957214.php) and they were 4.3 million to watch the first episode of season 7 in French on M6 (http://www.serieslive.com/news/audiences-beau-succes-pour-le-retour-de-desperate-housewives-sur-m6/15718/)

23 See for instance: Jorge Diaz-Cintas, ed. New trends in audiovisual translation, Topics in translation (Bristol, UK: 2009).

Jorge Diaz-Cintas and Gunilla Anderman, eds., Audiovisual translation: language transfer on screen (Basingstoke, UK: 2009).

Gilbert C. F. Fong and Kenneth K. L. Au, eds., Dubbing and subtitling in a world context (Hong-Kong: Chinese University Press,2009).

Pilar Orero, ed. Topics in audiovisual translation, Benjamins translation library (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company,2004).

24 Alain Boillat, Décadrages “Le doublage”, (Lausanne, Suisse: Association Décadrages, 2013).

25 Joseph Garncarz, “Sous-titrage, versions multiples, doublage—En quête du mode de traduction optimal,” L'écran traduit 1(2013), http://ataa.fr/revue/archives/595.

26 Ally McBeal (Fox, 1997-2002)

Sex and the City (HBO, 1998-2004)

Desperate Housewives (ABC, 2004-2012)

Gossip Girl (The CW, 2007-2013)

27 Other interviews were conducted with dubbing actresses working on Desperate Housewives (Caroline Beaune, Françoise Cadol, Claire Guyot, Odile Schmitt), with Magali Barney who worked as dubbing director on Gossip Girl and Chloé Bertier who was the French voice of the eponymous blogger.

28 Marc Cherry was previously known for his work as a writer-producer for The Golden Girls (NBC, 1985-1992) a series that centered on four older women and gave a voice to a demographic that was rarely represented in fiction.

29 Apart from episodes 3.16 and 5.19 narrated by the late Rex Van De Kamp (Steven Culp) and Edie Britt (Nicolette Sheridan), all episodes were narrated by Mary Alice Young, even after her secret was revealed at the end of the first season.

30 Viewers who received the channel via their satellite dish (CanalSat) could select the version with their remote.

31 Distributors usually are careful to keep the same dubbing actors throughout the run of a series. However, French viewers remember that in 2003 the French voices of Joey, Chandler, and Rachel in Friends (NBC, 1994-2004) changed because the production company who owned the rights for France refused to raise the wages of the dubbing actors. See http://www.leparisien.fr/loisirs-et-spectacles/trois-friends-vont-changer-de-voix-17-07-2003-2004256076.php

32 Candace Whitman-Linsen, Through the Dubbing Glass, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang (1992), p.82 quoted in Chaume, Audiovisual translation, 36.

33 In addition to international competition, new viewing practices increase the pressure to provide dubbed versions more quickly as they speed up the circulation of audiovisual products.

34 Décret n°90-174 du 23 février 1990 - Article 17, (Legifrance, 1996).

35 Nicolas Picquet, “La VF à quitte ou double,” Libération, 08/07/2012, <http://www.liberation.fr/medias/2012/07/08/la-vf-a-quitte-ou-double_831981>.

36 Today, a few companies such as RS Doublage, VF Productions, Cinekita, or Dubbing Brothers are responsible for dubbing both films and TV series in France. With studios in the USA, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Spain, Dubbing Brothers is representative of the role played by dubbing in the globalized audiovisual market.

37 Chaume, Audiovisual translation, 17.

38 About the dubbing process, see Xenia Martinez, “Film Dubbing: Its process and translation,” in Topics in Audiovisual Translation, ed. Pilar Orero (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2004) and Chaume, Audiovisual translation, 29-30.

39 Nolwenn Mingant, Hollywood à la conquête du monde: marchés, stratégies, influences (Paris, France: CNRS éditions, 2010), 83-85.

40 On the transformations imposed by French broadcasters, see “Séries Télé : Winckler contre la censure des doublages,” Arrêt sur Images, <http://www.arretsurimages.net/breves/2012-10-24/Series-tele-Winckler-contre-la-censure-des-doublages-id14606>, accessed 26/02/2014 and for a different point of view: Juliette De La Cruz, “Réponse à Martin Winckler : “Le doublage et le sous-titrage nécessitent un travail d'adaptation”,” Arrêt sur Images, <http://www.arretsurimages.net/articles/2012-11-28/Reponse-a-Martin-Winckler-Le-doublage-et-le-sous-titrage-necessitent-un-travail-d-adaptation-id5402>, accessed 26/02/2014.

41 On the process of cultural translation see also Chiara Francesca Ferrari’s study of the adaptation of three programs in Italy: Since When Is Fran Drescher Jewish?: Dubbing Stereotypes in The Nanny, The Simpsons, and The Sopranos (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010).

42 Sabine Chalvon-Demersay, “Enquête sur l'étrange nature du héros de série télévisée,” Réseaux 1, no. 165 (2011).

43 Divina Frau-Meigs, Mediamorphoses américaines (Paris: Economica, 2002), 127.

44 Alain Boillat, “Le doublage au sens large : de l'usage des voix déliées,” Décadrages, no. 23-24 (2013): 52. My translation.

45 United States of Tara (Showtime, 2009-2011). This comedy-drama follows Tara, a housewife and mother who suffers from dissociative identity disorder.

46 The translation is supervised by Dubbing Brothers.

47 Blanche Ravalec is Marcia Cross’s official French voice. She dubbed her in Melrose Place (Fox, 1992-1999) as Dr Kimberly Shaw Mancini, and in Everwood (The WB, 2002-2006) as Dr Linda Abbott.

48 Claire Guyot is the official French voice of Sarah Michelle Gellar and Winona Ryder. Before Desperate Housewives, she had dubbed Teri Hatcher in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (ABC, 1993-1997) and in Tomorrow Never Dies (R. Spottiswoode, 1997). Claire Guyot had also dubbed Eva Longoria in L.A. Dragnet (ABC, 2003), but Odile Schmitt, who had dubbed Eva Longoria in The Young and Restless (CBS, 1973- ), got the part of Gabrielle Solis.

49 Capote (Bennett Miller, 2005)

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Référence électronique

Nathalie Régnier et Anaïs Le Fèvre-Berthelot, « ‘It’s All About Performance’, An Interview with Dubbing Director Nathalie Régnier », InMedia [En ligne], 5 | 2014, mis en ligne le 04 février 2015, consulté le 19 novembre 2017. URL : http://inmedia.revues.org/793

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Auteurs

Nathalie Régnier

Nathalie Régnier is a French actress specialized in dubbing, she is the French voice of such characters as Skyler White (Breaking Bad) and Sarah Braverman (Parenthood). She was the dubbing director for Desperate Housewives throughout the series’ run in France. As a dubbing director, she cast the French voices of the show and directed the dubbing actors for eight years.

Anaïs Le Fèvre-Berthelot

Anaïs Le Fèvre-Berthelot is a doctoral student at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University. She is currently working on women’s voices in contemporary American TV series.

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