Voice actor Max Felder
Echoes of Hogwarts at LMU
He spent his early years with gorillas in the jungle, then he and his friend Harry Potter battled Lord Voldemort, and he lost Bella, the love of his life, to a vampire. LMU student Max Felder has inhabited all of these characters, giving each his own distinctive voice.
In light of the list of his roles as a voice actor, it is entirely appropriate that Max Felder should arrive for the interview on his motorbike. His crash-helmet may have compromised his coiffure, but the 24-year-old has no objection to being photographed. Vanity is not in his makeup, although – like the stars whose voices he overdubs – he is strikingly good-looking. Tall and slim, he looks every inch the promising young actor with a bright future. His days on the LMU campus may be spent at the Institute for American Studies, but his professional career as an actor already goes back 15 years.
Take 1: Mama, I want to be an actor
It all began when the 8-year-old Max was taken to see Macaulay Culkin in “Home Alone”. “I loved everything about the film, but especially all the things that Kevin got to do in it. It looked like so much fun … I just wanted to be an actor too.” He nagged his parents constantly until they finally got him listed for an audition.” A month after his first screen test he was offered the leading role of Anton in Caroline Link’s 1999 feature film Pünktchen und Anton (“Annaluise and Anton”) based on the novel by Erich Kästner, which was to have a very successful run in Germany.
Felder landed his first role as a voice actor a short time later, when he was asked to overdub the role of the young Tarzan in Disney’s animated adventure film. He was also selected to speak Taylor Lautner’s lines in the role of the werewolf Jacob Black in the German version of “Twilight”. When the Harry Potter series began, he was initially cast for several other roles, before nabbing that of Ron Weasley - the part he had set his heart on. It would become his biggest, best-known and longest-running role. Max’s voice would be Ron’s German voice over a period of 11 years.
Take 2: Max Felder in the studio
His repertoire as a dubbing actor has grown with him, and the diversity of his roles is surprisingly wide. He has learned his craft essentially by doing. He has studio sessions virtually every week. “No voice actor I know does speaking exercises at home, just as nobody who works in an office practices with Excel spreadsheets at home.” Felder himself rates his part in “The Keys of the House” (“Le chiavi di casa”) as his greatest dubbing challenge to date. In the German version he speaks the part of a mentally handicapped boy whose voice becomes progressively weaker as the film progresses, so that he ends up murmuring indistinctly. In this case Felder made use of the services of a voice coach.
Films are generally dubbed in takes consisting of one to three sentences, although a single take may be devoted to a laugh or an intake of breath. Felder first studies each passage in the original before speaking the lines in parallel with the shot. His contribution has to be in character with the original. “Of course dubbing directors and voice actors enjoy an element of artistic freedom. Nevertheless, the dubbed version of a film should be as faithful as possible to the original – that is the primary goal.”
Take 3: Max‘s American dream
Dubbing artists in Germany can find work only in Munich or Berlin. Munich is Felder’s hometown, so his choice of base was clear. The decision to take American Studies as his major at LMU wasn’t difficult either. “I have always been fascinated by North America. I’ve been there several times; I have also worked there. And I soon realized that I wanted to learn more about the place and, in particular, its history.”
Motivated primarily by his lively interest in the subject itself, his university studies keep him mentally flexible and ensure that he doesn’t get stuck in a rut. He has already found his niche – acting – with voice, movement and gesture. “My greatest ambition is to establish myself as a professional actor in Europe and America,” he says. – And he keeps this goal firmly in his sights. At the end of the interview, he mounts his bike and sets off for the studio. His voice has more work to do.
The original article appeared in insightLMU, the University's international newsletter.