• American-Beauty +

    Kevin Spacey & Annette Benning

  • Brokeback-Mountain +

    Jake Gyllenhaal & Heath Ledger

  • Black-Swan +

    Mila Kunis & Natalie Portman

  • Fight-Club +

    Edward Norton & Brad Pitt

  • Cast-Away +

    Tom Hanks

  • Pulp-Fiction +

    John Travolta & Samuel L. Jackson

  • Silence-of-the-Lambs +

    Anthony Hopkins & Jodie Foster

  • Speed +

    Keanu Reeves & Sandra Bullock

  • Melancholia +

    Kirsten Dunst

  • Shawshank-Redemption +

    Tim Robbins & Morgan Freeman

  • Wolf-of-Wall-Street +

    Leonardo DiCaprio

  • Pretty-Woman +

    Julia Roberts


Italian Dubbers

In 1930 when the first sound films were beginning to circulate in Italy, Mussolini prohibited the use of foreign languages in movies. They were considered “vehicles of exoticism,” as were foreign words in general. The word cocktail under his dictatorship was substituted with bevanda alrecchina, and Louis Armstrong had to be referred to as Luigi Braccioforte. Italians braced themselves for the worst censorship they had ever known and looked for ways to quietly rebel. In 1934 the Fascist government banned all foreign films dubbed outside of Italy. As a result, dubbing in Italy was born essentially to outsmart Mussolini and his repressive laws. Theater actors in Rome were called into recording studios to lend their voices to famous American celebrities, and the dubbing trade quickly became a “family affair” that stuck through generations.

Italians grew to love the voices they associated with certain actors and, soon enough, specific actors were tied to specific voices. For example, Ferruccio Amendola — probably the most recognizable voice in cinema between the 70s and 80s (Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, and some Al Pacino) — was considered to be an invisible, “cool” relative who spent his life in the living rooms of Italians. Amendola was able to create a unique imaginary persona that incorporated the traits of De Niro, Hoffman and Stallone all in one. In some way, to most Italians, they were all the same person.

Today — to most Italians — there is no question: Leonardo DiCaprio is none other than Francesco Pezzulli. Tom Hanks is Angelo Maggi. Julia Roberts’ sweet candence is actually that of Cristina Boraschi’s. Switch this up and Italian audiences would flip. The audience needs to associate a voice with an actor. It’s a matter of familiarity.
Voice actors, themselves, often embody the Hollywood star they are employed under, referring to one another per their dubbed star name (“Sorry, can’t come – having dinner with Meg Ryan tonight.”) Luca Ward, known for interpreting Samuel Jackson frequently volunteers to do his “Pulp Fiction” monologue to complete strangers. He knows every breath, every pause, every movement of the actors he interprets. It’s easy to see why they would identify as their alter persona.

Rome, the capital of Italian cinema, is home to the country’s largest dubbing studios. For this reason Reed’s photos were shot here – to give a sense of the seriousness of the art form and longstanding tradition, whilst depicting, with irony and style, the famous “Italian way” of doing things. Cristina Boraschi walks down Via Condotti, the same way Julia Roberts walks down Rodeo Drive in Pretty Woman. Luca Ward and Paolo Sorrentino try to clean off blood from a Cinquecento, like Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta did in their Cadillac in Pulp Fiction. Reed has played with the idea of what makes something iconic and has twisted this idea in a witty and cultural adaptation. Glamour meets DIY, Hollywood meets Spaghetti Western, the mythological meet the anonymous. It’s a play on the complex and ambivalent role of being a dubber in Italy – one of the only places in the world where the voices are cherished as much as the faces.

– Chiara Barzini