Why is France obsessed with dubbing films?

If you’ve ever turned on a television in France, you’ll surely have noticed that foreign movies and shows are dubbed into French.

Personally, I’ve never understood it. In Australia where I’m from, I don’t think I ever saw a dubbed film, we always had English subtitles.

So why do the French always dub?

To find out the answer, I met with voice actor Jean-Pierre Michaël, who does the dubbing for Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, Ethan Hawke, Ben Affleck, Jude Law… and many more actually.

That’s right, French Brad Pitt and French Keanu Reeves are the same person. But get this: Their voice is exactly the same. Jean-Pierre doesn’t change his voice for different actors.

Now, if you’re anything like me, this surely prompts many more questions, and luckily I asked them all in this week’s episode of The Earful Tower. You can listen below. (If you enjoy it, subscribe!)

Episode summary

If you’re in a rush, here’s a short summary of some interesting points from Jean-Pierre.

  • In French movies, the actors (and voice actors) don’t do accents for other parts of France. As in, Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds has a clearly different American accent from his role in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. But in French movies, they don’t do accents at all, unless it’s for a comedy. It can only detract from the performance, Jean-Pierre says.
  • According to Jean-Pierre, there’s a sort of elitism among French people who prefer to watch movies in the original language with subtitles. It’s far more accepted and normal to watch it in dubbed French.
  • Dubbed TV shows are often poorly done, says Jean-Pierre, sometimes even including the original English voices in the background, as well as the dubbing. This is because they dub too many shows too quickly. Films, on the other hand, are made with extreme care with experts on hand to detect mouth movements and to ensure they line up with the translated French words.
  • And lastly, there will be very irate viewers if Brad Pitt was ever voiced by anyone else. It happened once, and it wasn’t pretty.

To hear the full stories and all the context, click play below or anywhere you listen to podcasts. Just search for “The Earful Tower”.

And if you want to make Jean-Pierre smile, follow him on Instagram below and leave the secret coded comment mentioned in the episode 😉

More from me next week, as always. Be sure to sign up as the newest Patron if you want my new Paris guide, which I’ll release later this week!

2 thoughts on “Why is France obsessed with dubbing films?

  1. Loved this episode!
    My husband watched TV very loudly all evening–so all the shows were dubbed. Sometimes I thought he was watching one show only to discover it was another show or a movie with the same voice actor. After a while, the voices really became associated with the actor, especially for the actors I hadn’t heard speak with their own voices.
    In “French Kiss,” Kevin Kline plays a French winemaker, laying on a thick accent. In the dubbed version, he speaks normal French, but Megan Ryan is dubbed with a very thick American accent. Hilarious.
    Jodie Foster dubs herself in French. Perfect accent.

  2. Another wonderful Monday, I can hardly sleep on Sunday nights waiting for “The Earful Tower Podcast” it is the high light of my day!!! Today was fabulous. Thank you for making my ho hum life so exciting. Best to the family.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: