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- "I wouldn't say this was just another job—there's no such thing as just another job—but I didn't realize how special it was going to be at the time."
- ―George Roubicek on Star Wars
George Roubicek is an actor, as well as a dialogue director and script adaptor for English-language versions of foreign films and television shows. Roubicek portrayed Nahdonnis Praji in A New Hope, although his voice was dubbed by a different actor. Prior to that, the Austria-born actor appeared in small film roles throughout the 1950s, '60s and '70s, including parts in The Dirty Dozen (1967) and two James Bond films: You Only Live Twice (1967) and The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). He appeared in The Tomb of the Cybermen, a four-part Doctor Who serial, as well as two episodes of The Avengers, playing different roles each time.
Although he continued acting in small parts well into the 1990s, Roubicek's later career was more focused on dubbing foreign films and television shows into English-language productions. He directed the dubbing of previously unaired episodes of the cult Japanese series Monkey, as well as such films as Odin: Photon Sailer Starlight (1985), Asterix and the Big Fight (1989), X (1996), Roujin Z (2006) and Azur & Asmar: The Princes' Quest (2008).
Early acting careerEdit
George Roubicek was born in 1935 in Vienna, Austria. In 1958, he appeared in the original cast of the Agatha Christie play Verdict, where he played the role of Lester Cole, the student of a professor who has fled from prosecution in his home country. The play was first staged at the Strand Theatre in London on May 22, 1958. Roubicek's first film roles were bit parts in the late 1950s, and included such parts as a German prisoner in the 1957 British World War II film The One That Got Away and a police constable in the 1963 murder mystery Blind Date. Roubicek continued performing in small roles in the early 1960s. Among them were a cleaning service man in the 1962 British horror film Burn, Witch, Burn!, a Russian sentry in the 1963 British war film The Victors, and the character Lieutenant Berger in the 1965 American Cold War film The Bedford Incident. In 1967, he played Private Arthur James Gardner in the American war film The Dirty Dozen. That year, Roubicek also appeared in the British espionage film Billion Dollar Brain, where he played the small part of Edgar, and as an astronaut in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice.
Roubicek appeared in The Tomb of the Cybermen, a four-part Doctor Who serial that aired in September 1967. He portrayed Captain Hopper, the commander of a rocket that brings an archaeological expedition to the planet Telos to study the Cybermen, a race of cyborgs. Andrew Cartmel, a science fiction writer who served as a Doctor Who script editor in later episodes, strongly criticized Hopper's dialogue in his book, Through Time: An Unauthorised and Unofficial History of Doctor Who. Hopper, who is supposed to be an American, frequently uses the word guy and what Cartmel called "odd fake American idioms" like "It's not exactly peaches." Although Cartmel did not address Roubicek's performance, he asserted that the dialogue was written "in a way that suggests the English writers have never traveled across the Atlantic and have paid precious little attention to the films or books that have flowed the other way." Nicholas J. Cull, a historian who has written about television and culture, wrote that Roubicek's character embraces a common Doctor Who stereotype of American soldiers who act gruff but provide very little actual support. Cull pointed to the fact that Hopper talks tough and repeatedly offers to help but plays little part in the action and declines to follow the Doctor into danger at the end.
Roubicek appeared in two separate episodes of the spy fiction television series The Avengers, playing different characters both times. In "The White Dwarf," an episode that first aired February 9, 1963, he played Luke Richter, the son of a prominent astronomer who was murdered shortly after discovering that a star was going to collide with and destroy the Earth. Roubicek appeared in "Invasion of the Earthmen," which was first broadcast on January 15, 1969. In that episode he played Bernard Grant, a secret agent who is killed by a giant Boa constrictor while investigating a mysterious school called the Alpha Academy. Roubicek made guest appearances in several other television shows in 1968, including The Troubleshooters, The Champions, Detective, and The Wednesday Play.
In 1969, Roubicek appeared in the war film Submarine X-1, where he played the flag officer to a vice admiral played by Rupert Davies, and Battle of Britain, where he played a sergeant pilot. The next year, Roubicek played the supporting role of Karkov in Foreign Exchange, a television film based on a spy mystery novel of the same name by Jimmy Sangster. In 1971, he appeared as a German radio operator in Dad's Army, a film remake of the BBC sitcom of the same name. Roubicek continued performing in supporting roles in various television shows during the late 1970s, including Shades of Greene and Monkey, a cult Japanese action/fantasy television series that ran from 1978 to 1980. He performed a few of the voice acting parts in the English-language dubbing of Monkey, and had a minor role in the technical dubbing aspects.
- "I don't think anyone knew [what Star Wars was], except maybe George Lucas, and I'm not sure he knew all the time! We certainly didn't know."
- ―George Roubicek about Star Wars
In 1976, Roubicek was cast in Star Wars, the first film in the original Star Wars trilogy, where he played the small role of a commander in the Galactic Empire, who was later given the name Nahdonnis Praji. He appeared early in the film, after the Imperial forces seize the Rebel Alliance starship Tantive IV and capture Princess Leia Organa. However, his lines were dubbed by an American actor, so the character's voice did not at all resemble that of Roubicek. He appears in only seventeen seconds of the film, and his role consists of three sentences of dialogue spoken to Darth Vader. Identified in the script only as "Second Officer," the character was not given the name Praji until nearly two decades later with the 1995 release of the Premiere Limited set of Decipher, Inc.'s Star Wars Customizable Card Game. The character's first name, Nahdonnis, was not identified until September 2007, when it was featured in the Star Wars Insider article "The Empire's Finest: Who's Who in the Imperial Military."
Roubicek's scene was filmed over a three-day period in July 1976, around the final days of principal photography. Roubicek did not anticipate at the time that Star Wars would become such a cultural phenomenon—his first impression of the franchise was wondering what it was "all about." During a 2007 interview, Roubicek indicated that he had had no idea of the cultural impact the Star Wars film would eventually have, nor had he believed anyone else involved quite understood it either. In 2007, three decades after the first theatrical release of Star Wars (later renamed A New Hope) in 1977, Roubicek's image was used for a Commander Praji 12-inch action figure issued by Sideshow Collectibles. In a review of the figure, the designer toy website Plastic and Plush noted the sculpt mostly resembled the actor, but that it was difficult to capture his likeness because he did not have a very distinctive look. Roubicek has participated in and signed autographs at several Star Wars conventions, including Celebration IV in Los Angeles, California in 2007, and Celebration V in Orlando, Florida in 2010.
- "It's not a translation, it's an adaptation. It always has to be an adaptation for a whole lot of reasons. The sense of humor, for example, in the country of origin may not be the same sense of humor of the target audience. References which are perfectly obvious to the audience in the country of origin are not at all obvious to the target audience. So it's not a translation, it's always an adaptation."
- ―George Roubicek
In 1977, Roubicek appeared in The Spy Who Loved Me, his second James Bond film. He played a submarine captain working for Karl Stromberg, the villain character played by Curd Jürgens. Roubicek continued some acting throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including small roles in such films as Bad Timing, a 1980 melodrama about a psychology professor seduced into a wild sexual affair, and The Infiltrator, a 1995 film about a Jewish freelance journalist who travels to Germany for a story about Neo-Nazism. However, most of his later career focused on the script adaptation and dubbing of foreign films into English. He wrote the English adaptation of the 1985 Japanese anime Odin: Photon Sailer Starlight, a science fiction film about a spaceship crew embarking on an interstellar test flight. Roubicek followed that film up with several English-language adaptations of anime works, including Project A-Ko (1986), Junk Boy (1987), Demon City Shinjuku (1988), Dominion Tank Police (1988), Lupin III: Bye Bye Liberty Crisis (1989) and Venus Wars (1989).
Roubicek served as the dialogue director for the English-language screenplay of Asterix and the Big Fight, a 1989 French/West German animated film based on the French Asterix comic book series. British motion picture historian Leslie Halliwell was critical of the adaptation, which she called a "dull adaptation of a far wittier comic-book original." He directed the adaptations of Patlabor: The Movie (1989) and Patlabor 2: The Movie (1993), two anime films inspired by the Patlabor franchise about giant robots in a near-future setting. Between those films, he adapted the anime films A.D. Police Files (1990), A Wind Named Amnesia (1990), Tokyo Babylon (1992), and Tokyo Babylon 2 (1993). In 1996, Roubicek handled the English script adaptation of the 1991 comedy science-fiction film Roujin Z. The Japanese anime film by Katushiro Otomo focuses on an elderly invalid man and a futuristic computerized hospital bed, which takes on a life of its own. That year, he also adapted X, a film based on the manga series about a young man who must determine humanity's fate at the turn of the millennium.
In 2004, Roubicek was asked to work again on Monkey, on which he had done some peripheral dubbing work in the late 1970s. He was hired as the director of the English-language dubbing for thirteen previously untelevised episodes of Monkey, which were to be released on DVD that year. The episodes had been included as a bonus feature on past DVD releases, but were only subtitled and had never before been dubbed into English. Roubicek was tasked with adapting the original Japanese scripts into English and directing the original cast in the dialogue for the dubbing. Roubicek stated that both he and the cast enjoyed being brought back together for the project, but that it proved particularly challenging. The recording sessions required what he called a "horrendous" amount of concentration, but he found the script adaptation process even more difficult—Roubicek had to ensure the translation was not only accurate, but that it preserved the humor of the original Japanese scripts. Fabulous Films Ltd., the company handling the DVD releases, originally provided Roubicek only with transcripts of the English subtitles for the thirteen episodes, but Roubicek disregarded them and had to start writing from scratch, as he believed that subtitle transcripts never bore any relation to a dubbing script.
In 2008, Roubicek worked with filmmaker Michel Ocelot to adapt an English-language version of Ocelot's 2006 animated fantasy film, Azur & Asmar: The Princes' Quest, which boasts what The New York Times described as a "flat, storybook-style worlds away from the sculpture digital aesthetic pioneered by Pixar." Azur & Asmar tells a fable-like tale of two young boys in a mythic Middle Eastern setting. Roubicek and Ocelot together wrote and directed the English version of the film, which Roubicek described as "really a very traditional fairy story, Sinbad the Sailor meets Sleeping Beauty." The original film included dialogue in mostly French with small portions in Arabic. During the adaptation, Roubicek and Ocelot chose to translate the French dialogue into English but preserve the Arabic without dubbing or subtitles. Michael Phillips, a film critic with the Chicago Tribune, opined that this was the correct decision because it allows the viewers to share the same "momentary confusion" as characters who do not understand Arabic and are suddenly thrown into "disorienting surroundings."
Notes and referencesEdit
- George Roubicek on Wikipedia