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Lou Romano Lends His Voice to Ratatouille

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Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) and Linguini (voiced by Lou Romano) in Ratatouille.

Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) and Linguini (voiced by Lou Romano) in Ratatouille.

© Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios

Lou Romano, a production designer on Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar’s The Incredibles, provides the voice of an inept chef in the animated family movie Rataouille. ‘Linguini’ wants to be a cook but doesn’t have the talent for it. Fortunately for Linguini and for diners at Gusteau’s restaurant, a rat named Remy who’s a furry little master chef agrees to secretly help Linguini cook up delicious dinners.

Getting Hooked Up with Ratatouille: Romano was simply helping out by laying down a scratch test, but that turned into a real voice acting gig. “I first became involved in 2002 I believe,” explained Romano. “I was actually working on The Incredibles, doing production design for that film. I was asked to do some scratch dialogue for the story reels. I thought it was just going to be temporary. Once they decided to keep it and told me I would be actually cast as the character, it was very exciting and kind of a surprise.”

Romano describes landing the job as a little surreal. “It didn’t really hit me until I saw the film and started seeing my scenes with other characters in the film and other voice actors like Ian Holm and Peter O’Toole. That’s when it started dawning on me that this is so bizarre but wonderful. I get to share scenes with these great actors. But during the whole recording process, again, because I was in isolation and thought it was temporary, I didn’t really think of it at the time. I just was helping out. A lot of people at the studio, actually all their temporary dialogue is taken from people at the studio. And sometimes they’ll keep those people as the character.”

Director Brad Bird Takes Over Ratatouille: Once director Bird came onboard, Romano noticed one big change. “My character was expanded, the role, and I think that was out of the necessity of figuring out how Remy would actually be able to get into the kitchen and cook,” revealed Romano. “I think what’s great about Brad is he’ll take time to explore an idea and really make the idea work of how he would be puppeted in a believable way so that there’s some credibility to that idea in the first place. And he really took the time to flesh it out and in doing so, really fleshed out their relationship, too.”

The Actual Process of Doing Voice Work: “Doing voice recording is interesting because when you’re working, you’re working in isolation. I mean with the exception of Brad who was in the recording studio with me. But it’s a little bit abstract and it’s all getting done in chunks. If you can see the film or have a clear picture in your mind in terms of the context of whatever you’re doing, it’s very helpful. But I would go in there and sometimes it would be five minutes of recording a piece of dialogue. Sometimes it would be an hour, you know, of a big chunk of dialogue.”

Romano never had the chance to work in the booth with any of the other voice actors. “That’s rarely done although I know for The Incredibles Brad [Bird] did get Craig T Nelson and Samuel Jackson together, although they were in separate booths. The scene’s great because they had a real dialogue with each other. For this, I was really isolated. But Brad is great because he gives you the context with which to work in and is kind of a fellow performer. He helps you.”

Linguini Doesn’t Speak with a French Accent: The film’s set in Paris and there was some talk about whether the character should have a French accent. “Early on they considered having Linguini having a French accent. I tried a little bit. This was, again, just when I read for the part in the scratch test, ‘Try it with French accent.’ I tried that and I tried it with an Italian accent, even. They were just looking for my own speaking voice. And it worked logically with Brad because he made the Americans in the film kind of the outcasts. All the rats and Linguini have American accents.”

Seeing Both Sides of the Picture: Working behind the scenes helped Romano really get into character. “I think it was helpful for me and maybe I had an advantage in that I watched Ratatouille during its development and watched the process, watched the story evolve. And definitely it was helpful in seeing all of the character designs develop and seeing my character being drawn and sculpted and fully realized. It gave me a clear picture of who he was.”

Up Next – Lou Romano’s Returning to Production Design: “Pete Docter who directed Monsters, Inc, his next project which comes out after Wall-E, which is coming out next year – I’m working on that project doing design work. So I was working on that project while we were kind of getting more of the recent dialogue for Ratatouille. I’d go to my office and be doing paintings and drawings and have to go to the recording studio for maybe 10 minutes, just downstairs here. ‘Okay, you got it,’ and then go back to my desk.”

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