During an appearance at a Transformers fan convention earlier this year, veteran voice actor (and voice of Optimus Prime) Peter Cullen shared a behind-the-scenes story from the making of Predator and confirmed what many pop culture fans have known for a long time: voice actors are goddamn delightful. With the jovial familiarity of your best friend’s dad, Cullen recounts his brief experience working on the 1987 sci-fi action movie, during which he developed the iconic purring/clicking/growling noise the alien hunter makes.
“I’m not going to do any monster sounds,” Cullen remembers telling his agent prior to the audition for Predator. “I can’t. My throat is really, kind of, burned up.” Apparently, he had just finished recording eleven reels of material for King Kong and had started to cough up blood, something he shrugs off as being a hazard of the job. After being egged into going to the audition anyways, Cullen insisted on seeing the creature before attempting to find the voice. From an outsider’s perspective, this seems like an obvious step in the process, but the filmmakers were hesitant, perhaps wanting to keep their big monster reveal under wraps.
Eventually, though, they relented and showed Cullen one of the final scenes from the film where the Predator removes its mask and Arnold Schwarzenegger famously calls it an “ugly motherfucker.” Cullen didn’t disagree and compared the Predator’s face to a dying, upside down horseshoe crab he once saw on a beach. That flailing, suffocating crab became the inspiration for the quiet clicking growl Cullen then recorded, which presumably didn’t do as much damage to his throat as a more traditional monster sound.
The whole story is really a gem, but Cullen’s reenactment of the director (possibly John McTiernan, possibly an A.D.) doing a complete 180 after hearing the test recording is a must-watch. As a follow up, we’d recommend Cullen’s heartwarming story about auditioning for Optimus Prime, whom he describes as a “hero truck.” Then, just watch every damn Q&A this guy has ever done.
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