The Sound Mixer Who Helped Robin Williams, Meryl Streep Find Their Voice

Aladdin - H 2016
Courtesy of Disney

This story first appeared in the Feb. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

If not for Doc Kane, some of your favorite movie lines would be mum­bles. The ADR mixer — the guy who recorded Robin Williams' dialogue in Aladdin, Billy Crystal's in Monsters, Inc. and Tim Allen's in Toy Story — is a four-time Oscar nominee who is getting the Career Achievement Award at the Cinema Audio Society Awards.

"ADR stands for automatic dia­logue replacement, though there really isn't anything automatic about it," says Kane of the process. "In animation, we record everything first [before anything is drawn]. The actors read the script, but they can go off book, and a lot of times that ends up in the movie. So you have to be ready for it. You have to be prepared for Robin Williams or Billy Crystal — or any actor that can go from a whisper to a scream. You have to ride the faders and make sure your hands are on the volume control. If you distort it, you lost that moment of their magic."

Kane has worked on more than 350 films in his 30-plus-year career, not all of them animated. He's done sound on scores of live-action movies (including Ant-Man, Jurassic World and Pitch Perfect, to name a few), rerecording dialogue that came out muddy on location. "Actors don't like to come in and rerecord their performances," he says. "But what a lot of them don't understand is that they have a last chance to improve their performance. Meryl Streep [who rerecorded scenes from Death Becomes Her with Kane] uses ADR the best. She'll come in for a handful of lines because maybe there was a car door sound the editors can't get out, but she'll talk to the director and ask to look at the whole scene. She'll say, 'I'd like to loop the entire thing because I think I can make it better.' "