Fighting talk on the soundtrack: Spain's dubbing actors are on strike, writes Phil Davison in Madrid

'HASTA la vista, baby,' was probably the easiest line the Spanish actor Ernesto Aura ever got to dub into his own language. There wasn't a whole lot to wrestle with. By the time he uttered the famous line from Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator, Mr Aura's voice had long become the one Spaniards expected to hear from Schwarzenegger's screen lips.

Spaniards are among the world's leading filmgoers. They love foreign films but detest subtitles. Subtitled foreign films have often flopped. The fact that Spaniards prefer them dubbed is largely due to the quality of the dubbing actors' profession here, going back almost as far as 'talkies' themselves.

Tonight, when Schwarzenegger's Last Action Hero has its Spanish premiere in Madrid, the audience will be quick to note that the man they knew as the Terminator has undergone a considerable vocal transition. The star of the Last Action Hero will not have Aura's rugged tone but a Galician accent, from Spain's north-west. It's a bit like giving, say, a Glaswegian Rab C Nesbitt accent to Alec Guiness in Star Wars.

The heart of the matter is a three-month-old strike by most of Spain's dubbing actors from the two traditional unions based in Madrid and Barcelona. The 1,200 film and television dubbers from the two unions, including the voices of Schwarzenegger, Lt Colombo, Benny Hill and the Monty Python team, stopped work on 24 May to protest increasing moves by Spanish film impresarios and television stations to dub their products 'on the cheap' in the provinces, sometimes even abroad.

They complain that inexperienced actors, mostly from Galicia, the Basque Country, Valencia and Andalucia, are dubbing films and television shows for 40 per cent less than nationally agreed union rates, and producing poor quality voiceovers. The impresarios and television stations blame the economic crisis, saying they have to seek the cheapest labour.

The striking dubbers will distribute leaflets explaining their protest outside the Callao cinema before tonight's Schwarzenegger premiere. They say it took them decades of negotiations to reach current rates and that provincial dubbers should not undercut them.

As for moviegoers and television buffs, they are confused. They are faced with a barrage of new voices and accents from old lips. The provincial dubbers, though with perfectly good Spanish, are often lacking in the art of matching words to lips.

Actors' unions from around the world recognise the art of the dubbers and have sent messages of support to the strikers. A letter from Equity's general-secretary, Ian McGarry, promised to try to 'prevent the sale of British television programmes to broadcasters in Spain for the duration of your dispute'.

Sir Richard Attenborough, perhaps concerned that he might come out in Spain sounding like an Andalucian flamenco singer with a Maurice Chevalier accent, sent a message of support to the strikers after hearing of efforts to dub Jurassic Park on the cheap in Paris, using non-professional Spanish residents.

The French actors' union has said it is trying to block the move. Spanish filmgoers are unlikely to see a dubbed version of the film by its originally scheduled Spanish premiere date in early October.

The Spanish voice of Lt Colombo, Jesus Nieto, 66, demonstrated how he imitates Peter Falk's gestures while reading his part. 'You have a Spanish translation, but it's usually twice as long as the English. The art is in condensing it to fit the time Colombo opens his mouth. You've got to breathe when he breathes,' Mr Nieto, said, adopting the gruff twangy Spanish he uses to match Falk's voice. 'The only thing I don't bother with is the dirty raincoat. And I don't have a glass eye.'

With 40 years' experience, Mr Nieto recalls the Franco years, when the dubbers were strongly censored. 'There was a film, I think called Mogambo, where Grace Kelly fell in love with Clark Gable. That was too racy for the censors, who insisted they be brother and sister in the Spanish version. In the end, the Spanish script didn't make the slightest bit of sense.'

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Sales, London

£70 - 95K OTE £125K. Plus Car,Private Healthcare and Pension: Charter Selectio...

Head of Sales, Milton Keynes

£70 - 90K OTE £125K. Plus Car,Private Healthcare and Pension: Charter Selectio...

Head of Sales, Bristol

£70 - 90K OTE £125K. Plus Car,Private Healthcare and Pension: Charter Selectio...

Head of Sales, Birmingham

£70 - 90K OTE £125K. Plus Car,Private Healthcare and Pension: Charter Selectio...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game