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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Wednesday, October 18, 2017 

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SCOTT, KEITH

THE MASTER OF MIMIC
You want Sylvester Stallone, Daffy Duck, Prince Charles, Gough Whitlam, Dame Edna, a New York cabbie – or that famous moose, Bullwinkle? No problem. Get Keith Scott, Australia’s master of mimic, with over a thousand character voices on call, who spoke (in his own voice) to ANDREW L. URBAN.

After 25 years of anonymity, to be picked up for a voice recording in a stretch limo made voice actor Keith Scott laugh out loud in the expensive leather back seat. Having done a voice audition by ISDN from Sydney, the producers flew him to Los Angeles for a physical one – first class. "I was already a member of the US Screen Actors Guild, having worked on several commercials, and I hadn’t known this, but one of the SAG rules is that they have to fly you first class!" he says with an incredulous laugh.

"Robert DeNiro waving at me every morning,"

And then, having got the gig, turning up on set to have "Robert DeNiro waving at me every morning," after a career of being deliberately hidden from the public, gave Scott a significant buzz.

Sydney born and based, Scott was recording the voices of the Narrator and the Moose, Bullwinkle, for Des McAnuff’s feature film based on Jay Ward’s celebrated comic characters, Rocky & Bullwinkle. It wasn’t his first Hollywood assignment – that was the voice of the Narrator in the live action adaptation of Jay Ward’s George of the Jungle.

So it’s no coincidence: Keith Scott is the recognised Jay Ward specialist, confirmed by the publication of his book, The Moose That Roared (St Martins Press, US), coinciding with the film’s US release on June 30, 2000. "Ward’s daughter, Tiffany, insisted that I do this," Scott says as we talk over a coffee at Morgan’s in Sydney’s Kings Cross. He was also the historical consultant; as DeNiro’s partner, producer Jane Rosenthal said, the characters had to remain true to the original.

"But it was the longest and strangest job I’ve done," says Scott. "They wanted me on the set for the entire six month shoot, not just recording the voices afterwards. The voices were actually added months after the shoot. But the director, Des McAnuff, wanted the actors to react to the voice of Bullwinkle, not just someone reciting the lines. It enabled the actors to actually hear the voice, with all the comedic flair inherent in it."

One of our critics Brad Green says "Scott steals the show with his brilliant vocalisations of Bullwinkle and our loveably cynical narrator."

"a very tricky and fiddly film to make" on Rocky & Bullwinkle

Scott, a stickler for accuracy, has a vast library of voices – people he mimics. But his collection of animated characters is just as impressive – and superbly spot on. On Rocky & Bullwinkle, he spent agonising days – starting at 5 am, driving two hours to location – standing around often for just one line of dialogue. "But the film has over 600 CGI shots, and even the veterans admit this is a very tricky and fiddly film to make."

This sort of work is in total contrast to much of his day to day work, which consists of one-hour recording sessions. The bulk of Scott’s work is tv commercials, radio work and corporate functions, where he does the ever-evolving version of his original stand up comedy routine.

"I’m always trying to stay topical," he says. That’s why he does the voice of Professor Alan Fels, for instance.

But feature films are not entirely new to Scott, who has been doing voices for animated characters created by the Yoram Gross studio in Sydney, for the past 15 years, including five feature films (like the series of films around the Dot character) and now the tv series being produced by Gross.

"I still fall into the ‘impressionist’ category," he says, "but lately people have been calling me a voice actor. I aim for a really high standard of accuracy, not taking the mickey. In radio comedy a lot of people just lump it all together as ‘voices’. But I perform even at the microphone…I use my body, my shoulders, my face….if the script is well written, you can really act the part, just like they used to in the old days of radio plays."

"born with a flair for audio"

Like Orson Welles, Scott was "born with a flair for audio. My speciality is mimicry, but I’ve developed original characters and can pick up a voice quite quickly." He often does voice replacement work for actors who can’t be there. "I’m a ‘stumper’ - they’ll come to me when they want something no-one else can do, and I’ll do it, usually within 24 hours."

One that almost stumped him was Tom Cruise ("his is a flat voice, hard to get a handle on…") He had to record it for the State of Origin match: "It might have fooled the crowd but I wasn’t totally satisfied…"

Scott regards himself as a fan of Rocky & Bullwinkle, and spent eight years working on his book, a complete history of Jay Ward’s extraordinary work. "It works on three levels of comedy…this was always something special….they were doing jokes about the US Congress, the Cold War, that sort of thing."

Scott also assisted with the mammoth restoration of the Bullwinkle library.

But in Australia, he is renowned for many other cartoon characters, and was the official voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and other Looney Tunes characters for the Asia Pacific in the mid to late 90s.

"'academic hobby' in comedy"

Indeed, animation is Scott’s first love, but has an "academic hobby" in comedy, with esoteric comics such as Tom Lehrer ("Poisoning Pigeons in the Park") and Adrian Dangerfield – as well as Australia’s living legend comic, Brian Doyle – among his heroes.

Married (a second time) Scott is waiting for his next opportunity to submerge his talents in a major project. "In the meantime, it’s back to the routine," he says with a grin, as we walk out of the café, and cross the street in front of a white limo. Scott grins.

14/9/00

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Keith Scott: what you see is not what you get (to hear)

Bullwinkle TALKS to Urban Cinefile (about working with De Niro)

Robert De Niro TALKS to Urban Cinefile (about...uh...oh...ah...)

See our REVIEWS


Scott with Whoopi on the set of Rocky & Bullwinkle (Australian release, January 11, 2001)


Scott with Jason Alexander & Billy Crystal


Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle

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Editor’s note:
Keith Scott has been a respected impressionist /mimic and comedian for a couple of decades (hard to believe, considering his boyish looks…)
The first stories I wrote about him (for Encore magazine, which was then published by Louise Keller and myself) appeared in the late 70s.

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Sample a few of Keith Scott’s many VOICES

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