Hal Douglas, voice of countless movie trailers, dies

Hal Douglas, a voice-over artist whose husky intonations provided the backdrop to thousands of movie trailers, has died at age 89, according to the New York Times.

Douglas’ daughter, Sarah, said the cause was complications of pancreatic cancer.

In a career spanning five decades, Douglas narrated trailers for serious dramas (“Philadelphia”) comedies (“Meet the Parents,” “Men in Black”), action movies (“Lethal Weapon,” “Con Air”) and everything in between. His demo reel, which you can watch above, further demonstrates his range and prolificacy.

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He became one of the top talents in the voice-over industry, along with Don LaFontaine, “the trailer king,” who died in 2008, and Don Morrow, who voiced the trailers for “A Fistful of Dollars” and “Titanic.”

Douglas worked steadily until two years ago and never lived in Hollywood, instead preferring to operate from studios in New York. In 2006, he talked to the Los Angeles Times about his approach to his work.

“Movies, particularly, fall into departments,” he said. “You have an action film, you have a romantic film, you have the dark films. They all suggest an attitude and a voice quality. I don’t do character voices per se, but depending upon the emotion, try to approach it as an actor.”

Douglas took his craft seriously, but not too seriously, as demonstrated by his rare on-screen appearance in the trailer for Jerry Seinfeld’s 2002 film “Comedian.” In the spot (watch it here), Douglas plays a voice-over artist named Jack who can’t speak in anything other than bombastic trailer cliches such as “In a world …" and “Now more than ever … .”

In addition to his daughter, Douglas is survived by his wife of 43 years, Ruth Francis Douglas, and two sons from a previous marriage, Jeremy and Jon. His death shines a light on a relatively obscure corner of the movie business, one recently explored by writer, director and star Lake Bell’s comedy titled, fittingly, “In a World... .”


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