NO OTHER ACTOR IN HOLLYWOOD has as many movie credits. Few, if any, work as many days a year. And no one has a voice that commands as much attention. Mel Gibson? Tom Hanks? Arnold? Try Don LaFontaine, a voice-over actor who has become the towering titan of movie trailers. Sure, there are others who narrate those 15-to 30-second coming attractions (each takes him up to 15 minutes to record). But it’s LaFontaine, making an average of 15 to 30 movie trailers a week (including those for Independence Day, True Lies and That Thing You Do!), who monopolizes the market. “When a trailer is good,” he says, relaxing in his limo as he shuttles between jobs, “it sings operatically to everyone.”
No promo donna, LaFontaine, 56, credits good ad copywriters (“Well-written copy tells you exactly how it wants to be read”) and luck for his thriving career, which earns him, he says, “millions a year.” “Don has the voice of God,” says Bob Israel, CEO of Aspect Ratio, a motion-picture advertising agency. “He’s got a great ear, and he can act.”
Performing was never LaFontaine’s ambition growing up in Duluth, Minn. Moving to New York City in the ’60s, he landed a job at an ad agency, where he produced trailers and occasionally did voice-overs. In ’82 he moved to Los Angeles to launch his own trailer production company; within days a friend who had heard LaFontaine’s voice-over work introduced him to agent Steve Tisherman, who coaxed him into giving the gig a try full-time. After one of his first feature trailers, 1984’s Bachelor Party starring Tom Hanks, LaFontaine’s career skyrocketed. Today he lives in a two-story, five-bedroom Hollywood Hills home with his wife, performer Nita Whitaker, and their daughters Skye, 6, and Elyse, 2. “I live a fantasy life,” says LaFontaine. “I have money, a beautiful house, a beautiful family. It’s like living an enchanted existence.” Happy trailers to you.