Building Your Empire One Book at a Time
July 7, 2010
Voice actor Denny Delk is a Lucasfilm veteran. Delk got his first gig with Lucasfilm as a police sergeant in More American Graffiti (1979). Since then, he has provided the voices of various characters in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) , Wicket in the animated series Ewoks (1986-1987), and various characters in Star Wars video games including Empire At War, Battle Front II, Rogue Squadron II and III, X-Wing Alliance, the Dark Forces series, Rebel Assault II, and TIE Fighter. Delk discusses life as a voice actor and describes his experience working on Star Wars projects.
How did you become interested in voice acting and when did you decide to turn it into a career?
I was starting college, and got a job in radio. Part of the job included recording commercials and the like, so it was an easy introduction. It wasn’t until I got to San Francisco that I found a city big enough to support a career just doing VO [voice overs].
How did you get hired to provide the voice of the medical droid 2-1B in The Empire Strikes Back? Did you find Lucasfilm or did Lucasfilm find you?
I can’t swear that I am the voice of the medical droid. I have been told I am. In doing ADR (automatic dialogue replacement) and looping, you can often tell which character you are providing the voice for, because you have to match the mouth movements. In Star Wars, there are many characters that require no matching, because basically they have no mouths (droids, storm troopers, Jawas). We did a lot of stuff “wild” (not in conjunction with film playback). And I guess Lucasfilm found me. I had been doing some work for them before.
Who has told you that you are the voice of 2-1B?
I have been told by fans, agents....All kinds of people.
Describe a typical day working on The Empire Strikes Back. How long did you work on the film?
It usually only takes a couple of hours to complete an ADR session. As I recollect, in those days they were working in San Rafael. So you drive across the Golden Gate bridge, go in the studio, meet the engineer and audio producer, do the work and stop in Sausalito on the way home for lunch.
How did working on The Empire Strikes Back compare with other projects that you've done?
Pretty tame, actually. There really is more work required in, say, video games. I loved doing [the video game] Day of the Tentacle for Lucas[Arts]. I was the evil, purple tentacle, among other characters. And I enjoy working on the Monkey Island [video game] series. I am Murray the Skull.
Have you ever gone to a Star Wars fan convention? Any plans to attend a convention in the future?
I attended one in San Francisco. It was great fun. I don’t keep up with convention schedules, so I really don’t have any plans.
How did you start working for LucasArts?
My first work for Lucas was actually in the film, More American Graffiti. My first job for LucasArts (the game division) was in an Indiana Jones game. The name escapes me, but I seem to remember being credited as Count something-or-other, General whats-his-name and “various Nazis”. I’ve always liked that credit.
What's the most fun type of voice to do?
It’s all fun, but I suppose animation is the most fun. You get to work with lots of people. A real sense of camaraderie and sharing energy. It’s like being in a play, rather than doing stand-up comedy.
How much creative control do you have in the voices that you do?
Obviously, the producer gets to decide what fits the project, but I get to bring some interesting choices to the table. Sometimes it’s fun to “work against type”, like if you have a gourmet chef, why not give him a Texas accent rather than a French one. It’s like when I came up with Murray the Skull. Here is a character that can’t do anything more than just yell at you. How frustrated he must be.
What are the most challenging and rewarding parts about voice acting for you?
Part of the challenge is getting people to think in sound. A lot of people don’t understand how to use the audience’s imagination by making voices and sounds different. If you ever hear a radio spot with two people talking to each other and you can’t really tell which one is which, you have an idea what I mean. The rewarding part is probably when you come up with something for the character to do or say that isn’t in the script that the producer likes, and decides to incorporate the improvisation.
How often do people recognize your voice?
Occasionally, but not that often. Which is good, 'cause it means I’m hiding behind my characters really well.
What's a common reaction you get when you tell people you are a voice actor?
“Oh, well, you have a very nice voice. Pass the ketchup.” There is so much more involved, but I don’t have the heart or time to tell them.
Is there anything else our readers should know about you or any of your projects?
You mean like “I have a tattoo of Thelma Todd on my hip and I am currently wearing chiffon”? Not really. I have a job for a local awards show coming up and have been doing a bunch of commercials for Sprint.
What's next for you?
When I’m done with this interview, I am going to clean my office and see about buying a new ice cream maker. Have a great Fourth of July.
A big thanks to Denny Delk for taking the time to share his story with SWBookZone.com. For more information, visit Denny Delk's website at ddelk.com.
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