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
"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
"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.