Xian Lim is the voice of ‘Paddington’ bear
Motorists along EDSA, as well as mallers who pass by the billboard or poster of the upcoming foreign film Paddington always have to do a double take. For as they quickly scan the names of the fantasy movie about England’s most loved furry creature, Paddington Bear, a very familiar name sticks out among those of Nicole Kidman, Hugh Bonneville, Sallie Hawkis and Julie Walters: Xian Lim.
For most, a third take is even required to make sure they read the blurb, “Featuring Xian Lim as the voice of Paddington” correctly.
Well they did read it right as the movie’s Philippine distributor Captive Cinema confirmed in the presence of both Xian and Paddington at an official announcement in Quezon City. It turns out that Studio Canal, which co-produces the movie with Heyday Films, decided it would be interesting to have a local talent voice over the original Paddington voice of British actor Ben Winshaw.
Executives of Captive Cinema related they received the directive from producer David Heyman himself, who is also the man behind the Harry Potter film series. Heyman was sent Xian’s demo and personally approved Studio Canal’s recommendation.
“The whole thing caught me by surprise as well,” Xian remarked as his audience of journalists obviously tried to digest the entire concept. “I was told that it’s not just here in the Philippines Studio Canal decided to feature a local talent for Paddington, but also in other territories, including France.”
Luckily for Xian, who had all but days to complete the voice over in December 2014, he was familiar with Paddington, whose story was first told in a series of books in 1958 by writer Michael Bond, quickly becoming a classic. (Incidentally, author makes a cameo in the movie as the man at Paddington Station).
The Filipino actor, however, met Paddington through an animated series while living in the United States, as most people in recent years have done. Xian recalled enjoying the adventures of the marmalade-loving bear in his trademark blue raincoat and red hat, who lives with his foster bear family in London.
“Obviously I knew Paddington has a British accent but it was decided to just speak as I do now,” Xian explained. “A pinch of the accent comes out when I have to say very British words from the script.”
The ABS-CBN talent further related how the assigned voice coach for the project was surprised at how attuned he was with dubbing.
“I had to explain to him that we often dub our films over here to make sure the sound quality of the production is good,” he continued. “But if you ask me, what really helped me through it was to imitate Paddington’s actions in the movie as I dubbed. Kung anong ginagawa niya, ginawa ko as I spoke.”
The movie also includes Harry Potter voice talents Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge), and Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasley), while Nicole Kidman portrays the role of villain Millicent.
Now while Studio Canal and Heyday Films gave their thumbs up to Xian’s completed version, the question is whether this unprecedented marketing move for a foreign film will succeed on two levels: first, to pique the public’s curiosity and bring them into the cinemas, which is highly probable; and the second—and this is more significant—is whether having a Filipino talent voice a British icon allow audiences to truly experience, enjoy and appreciate this classic and beloved character in children’s literature.
Only opening day on February 11 will tell.