The actors behind voice-overs

BT has signed up Tom Baker as the voice of its new 'audio-text' service, cementing his status as Britain's king of the jingle. But who are his rivals behind the microphone? Ciar Byrne listens in


MICHAEL JAYSTON

Tom Baker has paid tribute to the "wonderful warmth" of the voice of this classical actor, who was once considered for the part of James Bond. Like Baker, Jayston has played Doctor Who, although, unlike Baker, he was an evil doctor. The 70-year-old played Raquel's dad in Only Fools and Horses and provided the voice-over for Finisterre, the first film made by the UK pop trio Saint Etienne, for which he describes in his narration as "a quick glance at the London nobody knows". His voice can also be heard between tracks on their album of the same name.

SIR MICHAEL GAMBON

Sir Michael might be better known for his classical roles, including Falstaff at the National Theatre, but he has a lucrative niche as a "voice professional". He provided the voice-over for the television campaign for HSBC's mortgage offer and has also starred as the voice of a washing machine and in a 2002 commercial for Beechams All-In-One. Sir Michael has supported Equity's campaign to stop the advertising industry effectively slashing voice-over artists' salaries by two-thirds.

JULIA DAVIS

Davis has shown that being funny can be a great asset in the world of voice-overs. The actress, who wrote and appeared in the award-winning BBC comedy Nighty Night and is currently appearing in Woody Allen's Match Point, has worked with some of the biggest names in comedy including Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Arabella Weir and the Father Ted creators. In between comic stints, she has also provided voice-overs for commercials for Marks & Spencer, British Gas, Vodafone, Mastercard and Renault.

ANDREW LINCOLN

Lincoln shot to fame in the 1990s twentysomething drama This Life. Since then he has starred as an unrequited lover in Richard Curtis's Love, Actually and in the BBC's Canterbury Tales. Despite his busy schedule, he has still found time to do voice-overs for AOL, Adidas, Classic FM, the BBC and Government information campaigns. According to his agency, Qvoice: "Andrew is currently treading the boards at the Almeida, so is free to zoom into Soho, or wherever, for voice-overs".

JOHN THOMSON

As the down-to-earth Mancunian Pete in thirtysomething drama Cold Feet, Thomson's character was not averse to a beer or five. More recently, his Northern tones have been heard as the voice of the tortoise in the latest advertising campaign for Diet Coke. Thomson also appeared in The Fast Show, and was the voice of Mr Windfall in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. He has also provided the voice-over for Wrigley's chewing gum, and delivers the end-line in the latest commercials for Daz.

JOANNA LUMLEY

Her fantastically upper-crust vowels can currently be heard in the advertising campaign for insurance company Privilege, purring the catchline: "You don't have to be posh to be privileged." She may be one of the most respected comic actresses of our time, from the unforgettable Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous to the recent BBC2 sitcom Sensitive Skin, but she is also renowned as the voice-over queen, promoting suitably pukka products including the Royal Bank of Scotland and Twinings Tea.

JOHN SIMM

Currently playing DI Sam Tyler, the confused copper who has been transported back from the present day to Manchester in 1973 in BBC1's Life on Mars, Leeds-born Simm is a popular voice-over artist. The actor, who also starred in State of Play, Sex Traffic and 24 Hour Party People, has provided the voice for campaigns for Vodafone, Teach, The Times and the Teenage Road Safety campaign, as well as numerous album, single and film releases. He has also recorded "promos" for the BBC and Film 4.

DERVLA KIRWAN

The Dublin born actress who rose to fame in Ballykissangel and recently starred in the BBC's Casanova, is the seductive voice behind the current Marks & Spencers advertising campaign. "This is not just food..." she croons. In 1997, she made a series of adverts for BT in which she oversaw a couple having an argument in a restaurant and followed them home. She also provided the voice-overs for television and radio commercials for Clinique make-up, Irish multichannel television and Pampers.

TIM BENTINCK

"The name's Bond, James Bond..." It wasn't Pierce Brosnan who said that in the computer game The World Is Not Enough (2000), but Tim Bentinck, who plays David Archer in BBC Radio 4's The Archers. Bentinck started doing voice-overs as a child when his father was a producer at the advertising agency J Walter Thompson. He has voiced campaigns for American Express, Hamlet cigars, Levi's, Lynx, M&S, Persil and Whiskas. He is also the voice of "mind the gap" on the Piccadilly Line in London.

RUBY WAX

An instantly recognisable voice is one of the greatest assets in the voice-over market and there is no mistaking Wax's Illinois twang. The zany comedienne has provided voice-overs for the Carphone Warehouse, Archers and Pepsi. Thanks to her 2002 show, Ruby Wax's Commercial Breakdown, she is intimately acquainted with the weird and wonderful world of television commercials. The American actress and presenter was also the voice of the Pope in Popetown, an irreverent animation which BBC3 pulled.

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