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Voice of Robert de Niro

April 6, 2012

Christian Brückner is the best-known dubbing actor in Germany. For 30 years he has lent his voice to Robert De Niro. He is also an award-winning audio book narrator - but he still finds listening to his own voice weird.

German dubbing star Christian Brückner
Image: picture-alliance/ dpa

He comes across just like his voice: charismatic, distinctive and soft, but also a little bit cool. He fixes his dark brown eyes, which widen mischievously every now and then, avidly on his subject. The longer Christian Brückner speaks, the clearer it becomes. The man is really not that unapproachable. He is simply intently focused on what he says, allowing himself time to ponder how every word should sit.

The 68-year old is most famous as the German voice of Robert de Niro. For more than 30 years he has dubbed the lines of the Hollywood star, from "Taxi Driver" (1976) and the Mafia-trilogy "The Godfather," to "The Good Shepherd" (2006).  It all began with a casting call for the American director Martin Scorsese, who was on the look out for a German voice for De Niro and eventually hand-picked Brückner for the task.

Robert de Niro as a psychopath in the classic fim "Taxi Driver"
Brückner dubbed the lines of Robert de Niro in many films, including "Taxi Driver"Image: picture-alliance/akg-images

'De Niro should find better roles'

Since then, Brückner has met the Hollywood star on a number of occasions. He was nervous the first time, since he'd been told that De Niro was complicated and difficult to deal with, but Brückner couldn't find any evidence of that.

The German actor criticizes him nevertheless: "I will stay with him as long as he continues to make films and as long as we are both alive, but he really should find better roles for himself. He hasn't been very good at that over the last few years."

Christian Brückner can afford to make such a statement. In the past years he has become a star himself - an audio dubbing star.

Christian Brückner is the busiest and most prize-winning audio book narrator in Germany. He has read everything, from Homer's "Odyssey" to the over 900-page "Moby Dick," to children's classics such as "Titsou with the Green Thumbs" by French author Maurice Druon.

Brückner runs a publishing house together with his wife Waltraut. The couple concentrates their work on material that would rarely be used by other publishers. They deal with new publications, but also with classics they both enjoyed reading in their youth. In their latest audio book project, they aim to breathe new life into Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary."

Man of nuances

German dubbing star Christian Brückner
Christian Brückner and his wife have their own publishing houseImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Brückner's gravelly, husky voice, punctuated with sighs and thoughtful pauses, is his trademark. But he is a man of nuanced tones.

"Every role requires its subtle hues and shadows," he explained. "But it should never be a big exaggeration. The text, in its entirety, always stands above the performance, which should compliment and be smaller than the text."

Christian Brückner has lost count of the number of roles he's slipped into over the years. Decades ago, even before the audio book craze began in Germany, he recorded radio dramas and features for large German radio broadcasters and provided numerous readings.

In the ear of a generation

Brückner has won multiple awards for his work over the last 50 years. He has received the Grimme Prize in Gold and was most recently honored with the German Audio Book Prize for Lifetime Achievement, among others.

When he first heard about the lifetime achievement award, he found it a little strange, revealed Brückner. "When I actually received the prize I was incredibly touched," he said with a grin. "I am also a little proud to have found a place in the ear of an entire generation."

To hear his own recordings is still difficult for Christian Brückner, alias "The Voice" - a moniker bestowed on him by the German press. It is difficult for him to watch "Taxi Driver" - even 10 years later - without feeling self-conscious, he said.

He would identify every tiny detail that wasn't perfect and preferably record it all over again.

Author: Jan Bruck / hw
Editor: Kate Bowen