In the entertainment industry, Hal Douglas was an icon for his decades of movie and TV voice-over work in trailers and commercials. For years, he did much of that work from his home studio in Lovettsville. Douglas passed away earlier this month at the age of 89. The Post’s Adam Bernstein wrote a great obituary, which is here, and noted that he did the voice-over for film trailers such as “Philadelphia” and “Forrest Gump,” ads for Broadway plays such as “Cats” and “Dreamgirls,” and for many television commercials on various networks. He may not have invented “In a world…” but he had the voice to put you in that world within a two-minute preview.
Just a few months before Douglas died, New York filmmaker Casimir Nozkowski released a nine-minute documentary that was likely one of Douglas’s last interviews. Nozkowski’s film is below. I asked Nozkowski how he happened to focus on Douglas.
“If you work in our industry,” said Nozkowski, who has done the promos for “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men,” “inevitably you know the name Hal Douglas.” He became friends with Douglas’s daughter Sarah, and in the summer of 2012 headed down to pastoral Loudoun County for a weekend visit. Nozkowski considered bringing his professional camera and microphone, but instead just carried his portable camcorder. On the last day of his stay, “it just happened,” Nozkowski said. “We started talking, and I recorded about an hour and a half interview.”
Nozkowski figured he’d go back for more, with better equipment, particularly since he’d only shot the “Voice of God” with a crummy built-in mic from the camcorder. “There’s a famous rule,” he said, “if your audio’s bad, it doesn’t matter how good your picture is. I had to disobey that rule with this guy of all guys, but ultimately I don’t think it mattered.”
Nozkowski found Douglas to be “a great guy and so fun to talk to. When someone has a gift, you want to talk to them about it. He didn’t take himself seriously, and really was inspiring to hear. Because he was such a humble person, I got the impression it wasn’t easy for him to pontificate about himself. But it was fun to get him to open up about all the different things he could do with his voice.”
When Nozkowski had trouble lining up a return date for an interview, in part because of Douglas’s declining health, he decided to put the film together with what he had, with help from Douglas’s family for photos and old trailers. He shared rough cuts of the film with Douglas. “My intent was always to make something he was happy with.” And he said Douglas was pleased with the final product, which was released last August.
Here is Nozkowski’s short film, followed by some of Douglas’s best-known trailers:
A well-known, self-mocking trailer for the film “Comedian”:
A “demo reel” of much of his work (audio only):
For the film “The Saint.” “A man who doesn’t love can never truly be loved…”
For the first “Lethal Weapon.” “If these guys can just stand each other, the bad guys don’t stand a chance…”