December 8th, 2023 / 2 Comments

8 December 2023

Rob has been receiving rave reviews about his voicing of the Grey Heron “Watched The Boy and the Heron a second time today—this time with the English dub, which was incredible (yes Robert Pattinson definitely steals the show). I also enjoyed it so much more this time! (@Achim) and “the new studio ghibli movie is really beautiful :,) Robert Pattinson was going FERAL in that sound booth” (@ghosthoney).

Indiewire has given us some background as to how integral GKIDS was the English dubbed version of the film and this is what they had to say about Rob:

For the most part, Ghibli’s self-referential emphasis on continuity made things relatively straightforward, but the studio threw a major curveball when it came to one of the most crucial roles: The Gilbert Gottfried-esque heron who taunts Mahito with rumors that his mother is still alive and terrorizes the boy around his new house before revealing that he’s actually a giant-nosed little man wearing a heron suit as a disguise. The mere sight of the character was enough to give Jesteadt a clear indication of who to cast in the role: “Danny DeVito. Done.” But that isn’t exactly what Ghibli had in mind. “They said, ‘Oh no, in Japan it’s actually going to be played by a young, 30-year-old hot singer-actor guy [Masaki Suda],’” Jesteadt laughed. “I was like, ‘What!?’ They said, ‘Yeah, so for the English dub we want someone who matches that age and would also be unusual in the role.” 

Enter: Robert Pattinson. 

The “Batman” star was definitely a left-field pick, but he was on GKIDS’ radar for a reason. “One of the things that we were talking about with Ghibli was his role in ‘Good Time’ and his desire to play characters that don’t fall into a typical matinee idol filmography,” Jesteadt said, and even a quick glance at his body of work would suggest that Pattinson’s art-forward tendencies have only gotten stronger over time. 

As GKIDS’ Director of Acquisitions and Development Rodney Uhler remembers, “When we introduced the film to him, he was, I would say, giddy with excitement. He was nothing but enthusiastic about the project, not only because of the film but also because of the prospect of doing this role in particular. We didn’t offer him a platter of roles — we offered him only the Heron, and he was very, very excited about being presented with a role as complicated and nuanced as this one.” 

In fact, Pattinson was so excited about the role that he showed up to his first recording session in Los Angeles ready to prove that he was the right person to do it. Voice director Michael Sinterniklaas initially had his doubts (“When Pattinson’s name came up,” Sinterniklaas said, “I thought he’s a fine actor but there was nothing in his body of work to indicate that he could do this crazy thing”), but Pattinson was quick to dispel them. “When he came to our studio in L.A.,” Sinterniklaas said, “he was like ‘OK, I’ve been thinking about this role and I recorded some stuff. Do you want to hear it?’ And he whips out his iPhone and plays some stuff that he’s just been doing in the Memos app and it was already the voice. I was like, ‘Oh, bingo, you’ve already got the character.” 

What Pattinson played for Sinterniklaas was the result of several weeks spent in pursuit of a nasal growl that sounds like a menacing cross between Gollum and the Cryptkeeper, but laced with pockets of softness that gradually allows the Heron — a puckish stand-in for Suzuki in a film about Miyazaki’s complicated friendship with his Ghibli co-founders (Takahata is represented by the great-uncle) — to soften into a reluctant ally for Mahito in his journey to the heart of another world. Not in a million years would you ever be able to guess the actor behind the bird, and even when you know who it is there are only a few moments in the movie you’ll actually believe it. 

 But Pattinson’s casting is hardly a gimmick. On the contrary, the taunting cruelty of his performance and the begrudging way in which that cruelty is embarrassed by Mahito’s flawed but genuine pursuit of a more loving future, reflects a deep understanding of Miyazaki’s creative ethos. Pattinson had never done proper voice work before, let alone a dub (after talking Pattinson through the process, GKIDS gave the actor an opportunity to opt out if he felt like he couldn’t do it), but he threw himself into the process with such vigor that recording the entire part only took a couple of days. “He knew he could do it,” Uhler said, “and he showed up and delivered magic.”

The role of the Heron is particularly important to Miyazaki’s film — and to its various dubs from around the planet, many of which were being recorded at the same time as GKIDS’ English-language version — because the bird acts as an intermediary of sorts between the real world and the fantasy realm inside the grand-uncle’s tower. And while Pattinson’s performance is rather faithful to the tone of the Suda one on which it’s based, his character speaks to the self-divided nature of the movie around him, which itself reflects the internal tension at the heart of any great dub: As Mahito discovers in his own way at the end of the film, truly honoring the spirit of an original sometimes requires you to put your own spin on it, or maybe even defy it altogether.

To read the rest of the background click on the link above.

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Rob’s Films
Mickey17 Role: Mickey17
Director: Bong Joon Ho
Release Date: 31 January 2025 (US). | Post-Production since 22 December 2022. Check out all upcoming release dates at our Film Page by clicking on News below

The Batman Role: Bruce Wayne | Batman
Director: Matt Reeves
Release Date: Aust: 3 March 2022 | US: 4 March 2022. Check out all upcoming release dates at our Film Page by clicking on News below

Tenet Role: Neil
Director: Christopher Nolan
Release Date: 26 August 2020. For DVD release dates head to our dedicated film page by clicking "News" below.

The Lighthouse Role: Ephraim Winslow
Director: Robert Eggers
Release Date: Screened at TIFF Sept 2019 | US 18 Oct 2019 - DVD releases at Film Page - click News below

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