Movie Interviews
5:50 pm
Thu July 25, 2013

'In A World ...' Is A Comedy About, You Guessed It, Voice-Over Artists

Lake Bell has acted in the movies It's Complicated, What Happens in Vegas and No Strings Attached. She's been on television, on HBO's How to Make It in America and the TV series Boston Legal. And she is now starring in a movie she has written and directed. It's called In a World ... -- as in that instantly recognizable phrase that kicks off so many movie trailers.

In a World ... is a comedy about doing voice-overs for those trailers, and Bell's character, Carol, is to movie trailers roughly what Rocky was to boxing. Underneath the comedy, it's a moving story about female empowerment — though Bell tells NPR's Robert Siegel that she doesn't like to be preached to. "I always hope that, you know, if I do have a message, that perhaps it is with a good sense of humor and not too soap-boxy. Just a little suds on you, to get the message across."


Interview Highlights

On wanting to be the voice of movie trailers

"It's still an ambition ... I get in front of this microphone right now, and I get very excited. But I was always interested in the idea that the omniscient voice was always considered male. This sound that's telling you what to buy, what to think, how to feel about what bank to have, or what kind of car, or what movie to see — so I thought it would be an interesting protagonist to have a female vocal coach who would sort of aspire to take on this world."

On unfortunate vocal trends

"I had been personally ruptured and unsettled by the trend, the vocal trend that I call 'sexy baby vocal virus' talking ... Not only is it pitch, so really high up, but it's also a dialect, it's like a speech pattern that includes uptalking and fry, so it's this amalgamation of really unsavory sounds that many young women have adopted. It's a pandemic, in my opinion.

"I can't have people around me that speak that way, and mainly because I am a woman, and I grew up thinking a female voice and sound should sound sophisticated and sexy, a la Lauren Bacall or Anne Bancroft or Faye Dunaway, you know. Not a 12-year-old little girl that is submissive to the male species."

On different voices for different situations

"For me, when I do interviews I speak lower than I would elsewhere, especially if I'm on a panel with a lot of guys ... it's an amazing tool, and I always loved the idea of voice-over being this blind voice ... you can be different sexes, you can be different nationalities ... it's incredible, it's the ultimate acting in a way."

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Lake Bell has acted in the movies "It's Complicated," "What Happens in Vegas," "No Strings Attached." She's been on television, on HBO's "How to Make It in America" and the TV series "Boston Legal." And she is now starring in a movie that she has written and directed. It's called "In a World," as in...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "IN A WORLD")

LAKE BELL: (as Carol) In a world...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) ...where a hybrid breed of mutant male savages... (as character) ...are feeding on the barren lands of Mother Earth...

BELL: (as character) ...a time where mankind has been replaced by womankind.

SIEGEL: That's right. "In a World" is a comedy about voicing movie trailers, and Lake Bell's character, Carol, is roughly the voice-over is what "Rocky" was to boxing.

And Lake Bell joins us now from NPR West. Welcome to the program.

BELL: Hello and welcome.

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: I suppose I'm actually selling you short with the "Rocky" analogy. This is a moving story of female empowerment that you've written.

BELL: Indeed, indeed. Though I personally am not someone who likes to be preached to, so I always hope that, you know, if I do have a message, that perhaps it is with a good sense of humor and not too soap-boxy, just a little suds on you, to get the message across.

SIEGEL: But the idea of actually being the voice that would do movie trailers, like the late Don LaFontaine, who's famous for the phrase in a world.

BELL: In a world.

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: This was actually a past ambition of yours or current ambition of yours.

BELL: Clearly, it's still an ambition. I get in front of this microphone right now, and I get very excited. But I was always interested in the idea that the omniscient voice was always considered male. This sound that's telling you what to buy, what to think, how to feel about what bank to have, or what kind of car, or what movie to see. So I thought it would be an interesting protagonist to have a female vocal coach who would sort of aspire to take on this world.

SIEGEL: I want to ask you about one scene in the film. We'll play a little clip from it. Here, your character is approached by a young woman who asks her, as best we can make it out, where she can find a smoothie.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "IN A WORLD")

CORSICA WILSON: (as Stacy) You know where I can get a smoothie around here?

BELL: (as Carol) I'm sorry. I...

WILSON: (as Stacy) Sorry. I didn't hear what you said.

BELL: (as Carol) I said I don't know where you'd get a smoothie around here at all. I'm so sorry.

WILSON: (as Stacy) Oh. OK. Thanks so much.

BELL: (as Carol) Yeah. No worries.

SIEGEL: Later, you tell her that she talks like a squeaky toy.

BELL: Yes. OK. So here, OK, small soap-box moment. I have been personally ruptured and unsettled by the trend, the vocal trend that I call sexy baby vocal virus talking. So it's this is - not only is it pitch, so really high up, but it's also a dialect. It's like a speech pattern that includes uptalking and fry, so it's this amalgamation of really unsavory sounds that many young women have adopted. It's a pandemic, in my opinion.

SIEGEL: And if you put all those together, it would sound like?

BELL: It would sound like this, and, like, we would just have this way of speaking. And it's not necessarily that I'm, like, stupid. It's just that what I'm saying makes me sound less than. And so, for me, I find that - like I can't have people around me that speak that way, and mainly because I am a woman, and I grew up thinking a female voice and sound should sound sophisticated and sexy and a la Lauren Bacall or Anne Bancroft or Faye Dunaway, you know? Not a 12-year-old little girl that is submissive to the male species.

SIEGEL: Lake Bell was actually born Lake Siegel Bell. Her father is named Harvey Siegel, but she says her mother got the last name in the divorce settlement. Her father bought auto racetracks in Virginia and New Jersey, giving her enough experience of fast cars to write reviews of Porsches and Maseratis for the Hollywood Reporter. She once wrote, when I was a little girl, my dad always told me I should never settle, but he was referring to high-performance vehicles and not the more sentimental topics that another might address. Bell studied acting in England where she honed an uncanny gift for voices.

BELL: I don't know if you hear someone who has a telephone voice, you know, and people are saying, hey, yeah, hold on, let me - yeah, I'm going to get to you in a second, let me just - I got to take this call really quick. Hello. Hey. How are you? OK, cool. I'll call you back. Sorry. So what were you saying? It's amazing. There's a full octave goes down once you get off the phone. We have voices for different people. For me, when I do interviews, I speak lower than I would elsewhere, especially if I'm on a panel with a lot of guys, I end up speaking like down here.

(LAUGHTER)

BELL: It's so physical it's crazy. But it's an amazing tool, and I always loved the idea of voice-over being this blind voice. It's like you can be different sexes. You can be different nationalities. You could be, you know, it's incredible. It's the ultimate acting in a way.

JULIE ROSE, BYLINE: Well, Lake Bell, it's been a pleasure talking with you.

BELL: Thank you so much for having me.

SIEGEL: Lake Bell directed, wrote and stars in the new film "In a World," or I should say in a world. And, you know, it's not as dramatic as saying in a world, but somebody has to say at the end of every half hour: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Would you have oblige us and possibly, you know, say it in a way that might make the BBC envious?

BELL: Oh. You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: That was very good.

BELL: Look, I will do 12 others for you.

(LAUGHTER)

BELL: What about you're listening - how about like south east London?

SIEGEL: Sure, sure.

BELL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

SIEGEL: You could do it in the squeaky toy voice.

BELL: Oh, yeah. I could totally do that. Let me - hang on. You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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