Localization Talent Shortages and Dubbing in Italy

In some countries, the voice of the dubbing artist is much more important than the original voice of the dubbed actor. In Italy, for instance, the audience is used to different actors having the same voice.

When I had just arrived in Bologna in the nineties, there was no way that I could get access to television programs in their original language. I was used to watching subtitled movies or series in Belgium — they were never dubbed and still aren’t. So I had to watch my favorite television series in Italian as everyone else did. To me, it seemed extremely funny that, for instance, Phoebe from Friends had such a different Italian voice from the American one. When she sang Gatto Rognoso the effect to me was even more obscene than the original song Smelly Cat, which to me made the Italian version much funnier than the English. My Italian friends couldn’t relate to this or join in the fun, they had never heard the English version and couldn’t compare.


Nowadays, millennials, also in Italy, are more and more open to reading subtitles, being used to them thanks to platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and such. Even so, dubbing actors are still revered as real actors. Because historically, well, they are.

For instance, the Italian voice of Robert De Niro (and of Al PacinoSylvester Stallone, and Dustin Hoffman) was performed by actor and dubbing talent Ferruccio Amendola until 2001, when he died of throat cancer. From 2001 on it took the Italian audience just a moment to get used to the new voice of Robert De Niro, as it is widely accepted that an actor’s voice can change from one movie or series to the next, even if for the most important actors there is a tendency to stick with the same dubbing actor as long as possible. Robert De Niro’s voice is now performed by another talented actor, Stefano De Sando, who by the way, also dubbed the voices of Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad and James Gandolfini in the role of Tony Soprano in the series The Sopranos.

Nowadays there is a lot of talk about the shortage of talent in the media sector due to the increase in content that we expect. If only talent was as revered as it is in Italy, and the audience continued not to mind that more than one “original” actor is dubbed by the same person, perhaps things might not look that bad after all?



Renato Beninatto
Renato Beninatto co-founded Nimdzi to provide insights to investors, analysts, buyers, and suppliers of language services and has written three books on global business.

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