One of Film's Most Chilling Voices Is Gone

Douglas Rain voiced HAL in '2001: A Space Odyssey'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 12, 2018 10:15 AM CST

Canadian actor Douglas Rain never appeared before the camera in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, but anyone who's seen the movie will vividly remember him anyway. Rain provided the voice for the HAL 9000 computer, which eventually turns against the human astronauts when it realizes they intend to disconnect him. "I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that," Rain informs astronaut Dave Bowman when Bowman famously asks him to open the pod bay doors (see the movie clip here). Rain has died at age 90, reports the BBC. The news was announced by the Stratford Festival, of which Rain was a founding member.

Earlier this year, the New York Times wrote a story about Rain's role in the movie, noting that he wasn't Kubrick's first choice. Kubrick picked Martin Balsam, but he then decided the actor sounded "too colloquially American." He turned instead to Rain after hearing his voice in a 1960 documentary called Universe. "I think he's perfect," Kubrick wrote at the time. "The voice is neither patronizing, nor is it intimidating, nor is it pompous, overly dramatic, or actorish." The article makes the case that Rain's calm cadence has influenced how devices such as Amazon's Alexa and Google Home are heard today—and Anthony Hopkins used it as a model for his Hannibal Lecter. Rain wasn't primarily a voice actor, though: He had a distinguished career on the stage. (See where the movie ranks on a list of sci-fi classics.)

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