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Lake Bell has acted in the movies It's Complicated, What Happens in Vegas and No Strings Attached. She's been on television, on HBO's How to Make It in America and the TV series Boston Legal. And she is now starring in a movie she has written and directed. It's called In a World ... -- as in that instantly recognizable phrase that kicks off so many movie trailers.
In a World ... is a comedy about doing voice-overs for those trailers, and Bell's character, Carol, is to movie trailers roughly what Rocky was to boxing. Underneath the comedy, it's a moving story about female empowerment — though Bell tells NPR's Robert Siegel that she doesn't like to be preached to. "I always hope that, you know, if I do have a message, that perhaps it is with a good sense of humor and not too soap-boxy. Just a little suds on you, to get the message across."
On wanting to be the voice of movie trailers
"It's still an ambition ... I get in front of this microphone right now, and I get very excited. But I was always interested in the idea that the omniscient voice was always considered male. This sound that's telling you what to buy, what to think, how to feel about what bank to have, or what kind of car, or what movie to see — so I thought it would be an interesting protagonist to have a female vocal coach who would sort of aspire to take on this world."
On unfortunate vocal trends
"I had been personally ruptured and unsettled by the trend, the vocal trend that I call 'sexy baby vocal virus' talking ... Not only is it pitch, so really high up, but it's also a dialect, it's like a speech pattern that includes uptalking and fry, so it's this amalgamation of really unsavory sounds that many young women have adopted. It's a pandemic, in my opinion.
"I can't have people around me that speak that way, and mainly because I am a woman, and I grew up thinking a female voice and sound should sound sophisticated and sexy, a la Lauren Bacall or Anne Bancroft or Faye Dunaway, you know. Not a 12-year-old little girl that is submissive to the male species."
On different voices for different situations
"For me, when I do interviews I speak lower than I would elsewhere, especially if I'm on a panel with a lot of guys ... it's an amazing tool, and I always loved the idea of voice-over being this blind voice ... you can be different sexes, you can be different nationalities ... it's incredible, it's the ultimate acting in a way."