Interview with the Voice of Kane
(otherwise known as Mr. Corey Burton).
Above, Nathan Davis as the Rev. Kane. His voice was provided by Corey Burton.
Mr. Burton actually worked on both "Poltergeist II" and "Poltergeist III." In P2, he did ADR work for some of actor Julian Beck's offscreen lines after Beck passed away. In P3, Burton was tapped by the producers to provide the voice of the Rev. Kane, while actor Nathan Davis portrayed him visually. You can check out Corey's long list of fascinating voice-over work at his web site, which is www.coreyburton.com.
Q: How did the filmmakers want you to do the voice of Kane in 3? Did they want you to mimic Julian Beck as close as possible, or come up with your own style?
A: Gee – I had no idea that there was that much interest in the Poltergeist sequels; even though I felt that the first of the 2 was quite a good film. The idea was to sound just like Mr. Beck in P2. Unfortunately, there really weren’t any original lines shot for Kane in P3 (I suppose because the
substitute actor was only a visual representation, and wasn’t trusted to deliver lines ‘in character’); so nearly everything was just generic ‘echoes’ of phrases from the previous film, ad-libbed into those few places that seemed open for an audible Reverend Kane ‘presence’. While I really enjoyed working with everyone there, it was extremely frustrating to have not been given anything of substance to deliver as the character, and I felt that my delivery sounded “flat” and lifeless (and not the right kind of ‘lifeless’) - - there wasn’t enough material to be able to ‘get into’ the role. Not that there was much of a script there, in general.
Q: One of the things I've always wondered about is the film's re-shot ending. Did you ever do any dubs for the original ending? There is still a mystery as to exactly when this re-shoot took place (I suspect it was December of 1987 in LA, but then Heather O'Rourke died February 1, 1988, and a body double had to be used for the very last scene in the film). [NOTE: I later learned the re-shoot took place the week of March 14, 1988]
A:I do remember going in to record after Heather’s tragically untimely death; and I may have recorded a little something at the first session... But I seem to recall that it was already established, that the ending would be reworked, and Gary Sherman didn’t want to waste studio time recording what would most likely not be used anyway.
Q: P3 obviously had lots of problems, but there were just enough interesting elements in it to have kept a small but loyal fan base over the years (I first saw it at the age of 8; I'm 25 now).
A: It seemed to have a lot of promise: I was extremely impressed with Gary Sherman. He was so smart, really good-natured, and a delight to converse with. I figured that he'd pull it off nicely, despite the problems with the script.
Q: I always thought your VO as Kane was pretty creepy, especially that scene where he's chasing Carol Anne through the garage, and only his voice is heard saying "You're the only angel...who can lead us into the Light...we would never hurt you...never...don't run away from me."
A: That was all ad-libbed, from a hastily scribbled sheet of phrases.
Q: Did they alter your voice in any way (I know they added echoes and whisperings in some scenes)?
A: Other than those reverberant/acoustical effects, the basic vocal quality was not electronically altered.
Q: It's too bad they didn't give you an onscreen credit. I only found out you'd worked on the film from reading the list on the IMDB.
A:I don't mind. I never was in this business to be famous (at least in "the public eye").
Q: What did you do in P2? I heard Julian Beck finished his scenes before he died, but maybe they needed some additional voice overs in post?
A:Most of his off-screen lines (like "Come with MEEEEeeeee!!!"), and several bits & pieces of his on-screen performance which were too noisy or muffled to be clearly heard were 'covered' by my ADR work; a word, phrase or syllable, 'woven' together with the location recordings, here and there. It was definitely "the high water mark" for me, at the craft of 'invisible' voice-matching (and an incredible feat of precision sound editing). Actually, I recently wrote about it on my website's messageboard, when asked about 'memorable looping bits'. So you don't have to dig through all the threads, here it is:
: ...any other bits which stand out like that, are that you are particularly proud of?
I am most proud of the looping I did for Reverend Kane in "Poltergeist II". It worked so well, that I can hardly tell the difference between the actual location recordings, and what I did on the ADR stage. The haunting hymn he sings, in fact, constantly alternates between deceased actor Julian Beck and myself ("God is in His holy temple; Earthly thoughts be silent now..."); and upon first seeing the film, the only way I knew they had indeed used what I had done - was because I remembered the scene was cut together from different takes; and the late Mr. Beck originally sang it in different keys from shot to shot. I would be remiss, if I didn't mention the remarkably seamless sound editing/mixing work done by the great Paul Huntsman and the MGM Studios audio staff (100% ANALOG!).
Q: I had no idea that so much of Julian's dialogue had been looped (your "Come with MEEEEEE!" line sounds just like him!)...
A: I can't be positive that every word was me, as there was so much intercutting - but I'm pretty sure that the line was not there at all in the workprint. I remember doing quite a few takes, having a difficult time
"projecting" my rendition of what was otherwise a very weak voice. The only piece that 'sticks out' as being "off character", where I can easily spot the imperfection of voice matching, is "You can't keep her... I am not dead.". I remember thinking that it missed the mark, and having a hard time delivering what felt 'clumsy' to me; but they seemed to be satisfied with it, and there wasn't time for more takes anyway.
Q: I've heard a rumor that there was at least 30 minutes of footage cut from "Poltergeist II." Do you know if this is true? Allegedly, some of the scenes cut included:
1. Kane coming back to the House to confront Diane and Tangina (a very short clip still exists showing him walking toward the house after Zelda
tells Diane "He is the beast"). Supposedly Kane was to warn them that "he would win, and there's nothing they could do about it." [NOTE: I later learned this scene was most likely fabricated by someone else and was never in any script or filmed]
2. A dream sequence in which Kane enters Carol Anne's room at night before the grandmother passes away. Kane would have shown Carol Anne his "rotting
ribcage" before Taylor appeared in the dream to rescue her (a version of this scene still exists in the P2 novelization, and there is a publicity still showing Kane opening up the door to Carol Anne's bedroom as she holds
the toy telephone). [NOTE: Michael Grais says the "rotting ribcage" scene was only an invention of novelization author James Khan and was never in any draft or filmed]
3. A sequence in the backyard at night in which Taylor summons lightning bolts to help protect the family, and which he disappears and reappears magically behind them while the family sits around a small fire beside Taylor's tent.
4. Possibly more detail of Kane and his followers in the cavern below the cemetery when they were still alive (Diane's flashback).
5. Mention of Dana, the older sister, who was supposed to be away at college (actress Dominique Dunne was strangled by her boyfriend after the first film).
6. A scene in which a toaster floats above Jobeth and Craig's heads at the breakfast table (I've seen the publicity shot of this also).
A: All of those sound familiar to me - especially the 'rotting ribcage' (I seem to recall looping a sigh or sickly chuckle there). But I really can't be sure if I'm just superimposing a 'phantom memory' of those scenes, having read this. But, all in all, the finished film certainly did 'flow' a lot differently than I expected, going by what I'd seen on the ADR stage. In fact, I am absolutely sure that after Craig T. Nelson swallows the worm, he was to speak in Kane's voice - or a blend of the two voices; but when doing it, it was clear that his expression and rhythm was too different from Beck's to work properly (it just looked "dubbed"), and I figured they
wouldn't use the track (although there was a possibility that it would be heard faintly under Nelson's voice).
Q: Regarding the mystery of why Kip Wentz ("Scott") wasn't invited back to do the re-shot ending of P3, I think the key is to find out when the scene was filmed-I suspect the shot showing Tom Skerrit about to walk out of the mirror with Carol Anne in his arms and Lara Flynn Boyle ("Donna") beside him was filmed BEFORE Heather died, (which would mean Kip was not included on purpose) and the very quick shot right after
that when they've stepped out of the mirror (the mist clears and Nancy says"She did it...she saved us") was what was hurriedly shot in one day after
Heather passed. Of course, I could be wrong. [NOTE: Turns out I was wrong; the entire scene was re-shot during the same week (March 14th), AFTER Heather died. "Scott" was never included in the re-shot ending]
A: I believe your theory is correct.
Q: Did you get to meet Heather O'Rourke, or record any lines with her during the two films?
A: My work on P2 was entirely solo. The brilliant people around [director Brian Gibson] most certainly 'rescued' the whole movie in Post Production. Paul Huntsman and the MGM staff "Totally Rocked"! I did meet Heather, Nancy, Kip, and Zelda on the ADR stage during P3. Heather really was "angelic": a beautiful, talented and exceptionally smart little girl - mature 'beyond her years' in understanding every aspect of filmmaking, and life in general. What a shocking loss (due to a boneheaded oversight by the Kaiser/Permanente doctors, and her sweet but medically naive parents). As with most ADR work, we did not actually record our lines at the same time. All of the castmembers I met were absolutely wonderful, kind, 'unassuming' people.
Q: It is too bad that Kane's role in P3 couldn't have been written better; Julian Beck was quite scary in the second film. I think it may have been better to just come up with an all new villain for "Poltergeist III", but Kane was such a memorable character I guess they wanted to continue it in some way (even if the plot of P3 contradicted the first two films; in 3, Kane wants to "go into the Light", in 1 and 2, he didn't!).
A: Mr. Beck was well aware of how terminal his illness was, and was (reportedly) delighted to "go out In Style" by making use of his deteriorating condition to bring an 'organic' appearance of deathly horror to what he knew would be a powerful final performance. I am especially pleased to have been able to participate in saving that last performance, which might have otherwise needed to be entirely re-shot with another actor. I believe it was a "death bed" wish of his, to be remembered for that uniquely haunting portrayal. Knowing this, I "went the extra mile" to sound like him - using every method I could think of to beat my voice to a ragged 'pulp' before each session (inspired largely by Dustin Hoffman's 'vocal destruction' techniques detailed in an article about how he prepared for his role as the 100-Plus years-old Jack Crabbe in "Little Big Man").
Q: One thing that always bugged me about the very end of the movie is when lightning strikes the building just before the credits go up, and Kane's laughter is heard, presumably leaving an open door for yet another sequel. Did Gary/MGM ask you do do that scene with the express purpose of a possible sequel in mind, or was it just a last ditch effort to "punch up" the ending after Heather died, when they were forced to come up with that abrupt ending?
A: Both assumptions are correct.
Q: Regarding a possible "Poltergeist IV," I think it would only work if Carol Anne were grown up and faced a new supernatural force. Would you ever consider doing the Kane
voice again if MGM actually had a good script? On the other hand I don't think it would make sense for Kane to come back again, the ending of P3 notwithstanding!
A: Fun to think about anyway. But I think "that ship has sailed". Best leave
well enough alone.
I'd like to thank Mr. Burton for taking the time to speak with PoltergeistIII.com and allowing his responses to be posted!
I recently spoke to Avram Gold, who was the supervising dialogue editor on P3. Here's what he recalled about the film:
Although I supervised the dialogue and all the ADR sessions, I remember very little about the movie. It posted a long time ago. I vaguely remember something about Heather's death when I started the job, but the reshoots and rewriting happened before the picture was turned over to sound. What I do remember is what a fun and generous guy Gary Sherman was and that Cory Burton, in his thirties at the time, had to smoke half a pack of cigarettes before the ADR session to get his speech raspy enough to revoice the character of Henry Kane. And then he kept smoking through the session to the point of a headache.
You can check out an interesting interview with Mr. Gold explaining how ADR works here: