This story starts in Italy more than 80 years ago when Mussolini prohibited the use of foreign language in movies. Italian actors started being tied up to specific voices like well-known Feruccio Amendola and his persona that incorporated De Niro, Hoffman and Stalone all in one. Italians still love the voices and the persona these dubbers have created. This fascinating story caught the interest of American photographer Reed Young and took him to visit one of the biggest studios of dubbers in Rome. Reed and the Italian Dubbers managed to recreate the most famous scenes of Hollywood. Irony, Hollywood and an Italian/Roman mood make this photo story interesting and captivating. We talked to Reed about how was it like to shoot these unique Italian celebrities.
How did you find out about the story and the studio in Rome?
My friend Patrick Waterhouse had the idea back in 2007. We both loved the thought of photographing someone and letting an iconic Hollywood actor’s name be the only thing you learn about them. So, at the beginning it was more about the irony of showing unknown face with a well-known name. We originally talked about photographing Julia Robert’s dubber in her kitchen for example, and then just calling the image “Julia Roberts”. Six years later I still had this story idea in mind and I began doing some research and I learned about the compelling history of dubbing –that’s when I decided it would be a lot more fun to recreate actual scenes and let the voice actors play their character’s role.
And how did you meet them?
In Italy dubbers are their own kind of celebrity and I realized quickly that I’d need to find someone well connected who could put me in touch with them. It was around that same time that I found one of the few articles in English about Italian dubbers in Harpers Magazine. Chiara Barzini wrote the essay, so I asked her to help put me in touch with everyone. It was clear that after publishing the piece in Harpers, Chiara became the unofficial go to person regarding dubbers, I could never have finished the project without her help.
The history associated with them is fascinating, how do they talk about their history and the years of Mussolini?
To be honest I’m not sure I ever spoke with any of the dubbers directly about the Mussolini beginnings, which is a bit of a shame because it would be interesting to hear their thoughts. We always spoke about the industry and their craft, which they take very seriously. Most of the dubbers who were alive when Mussolini was in power have died and this may be a reason our conversation didn’t focus much on the fascist history. There were many legendary dubbers who I would have loved to photograph but they had just recently died. Oreste Lionello & Ferruccio Amendola were two of the greats, adored by most moviegoers. It would be fascinating to hear their thoughts on the notorious historical beginnings.
And how was the process of doing the photos and doing the sets?
It was so much fun to work on this project. Most of my personal work doesn’t involve creating sets and finding props so this was a huge undertaking. I knew from the very beginning that it would take a lot of time to produce so I planned to finish it in 5 weeks. We only had 10 shooting days but we still barely finished. The idea was to recreate these scenes in the most Roman way possible, so it was such a cool way to see the city. Rome is a beautiful town, which made location scouting one of the most memorable parts of the job.
That’s great, is there any special personality that really captured you?
I won’t forget meeting Francesco Pezzulli, the voice of Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s been playing Leo since Growing Pains and he knew his roles so well - both in English and Italian. The Wolf Of Wall Street was our last shoot and I was out of time and money, but I told Francesco the scene I wanted to shoot and he said not to worry about the clothing - that he’d bring something similar. When we all arrived on set his outfit was spot on.
Can you pick a favorite?
That’s so hard. I think it’s either John Travolta & Samuel L. Jackson or Tom Hanks. The shot of Tom Hanks really feels like what I wanted the project to be about, the recreation of a scene that still felt very Roman.
"Broke Back Mountain"
Your other stories also have editorial feel to them, but they explore social phenomena and have an interesting story behind them. How do you research for your stories?
I read a lot and I’m fascinated by human perspective so that has a big influence on my work. I also travel quite a bit on assignment, which affords me the opportunity to meet tons of interesting people from different walks of life – I think that must have a huge impact on my work as well. I enjoy taking pictures but I’m not very sentimental about the medium of photography. I’m more drawn to culture and how we all fit into it and photography has been my excuse to explore that in a way I would have never imagined.
Article by: Laura Rodriguez Castro