November 12, 2018

Douglas Rain, the Voice of HAL 9000, Passes Away at the Age of 90

The pod bay doors will forever remain closed.

The cold, emotionless HAL 9000, the villainous (by way of growing more human-like) archrival of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, was voiced by Canadian thespian Douglas Rain, an actor who sadly passed away yesterday morning in Stratford, Ontario at the age of 90. Known primarily for his work in the theater, the actor's cool, calm, and collected voice had seeped into the minds of cinephiles worldwide for his work on Kubrick's film, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Recorded in New York City while the film was in post-production, it took only a day-and-a-half of work for Rain to voice his performance as HAL. Others had auditioned for the role, of course, but it was Rain's delivery (void of human emotion but not intent) that ultimately netted him both Kubrick's approval and the job. Rain was so good, in fact, that he went on to reprise his role in 2010: The Year We Made Contact as well as obtain the gig of another evil computer in Woody Allen's 1973 film, Sleeper.

It's hard to imagine another voice in the role of HAL; it's so iconic as to have become the most popular on-screen character that never really existed. To redub the film with another voice actor would prove sacrilege, and it's to Rain's immense credit that his performance still intrigues and haunts us to this day.       

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Soon a computer's AI will listen to Mr. Rain's voice during that day and half voice over sessions in New York city and learn all that it takes to keep HAL 9000 functioning forever. We may after all, ask HAL to open the pod bay doors again.

November 12, 2018 at 2:29PM, Edited November 12, 2:29PM

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