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The Original Version Hal 9000 Didn't Have a Calm Voice At All

The preternaturally calm voice of HAL 9000 the supercomputer in Stanley Kubrick's epic "2001: A Space Odyssey" wasn't always so. In fact, at first, HAL - to be played by Martin Balsam - was supposed to have a voice embued with human emotion.

Adam Balsam, the actor’s son, told [Gerry Flahive] that “Kubrick had him record it very realistically and humanly, complete with crying during the scene when HAL’s memory is being removed.”

But that just didn't work for Kubrick:

We had some difficulty deciding exactly what HAL should sound like, and Marty just sounded a little bit too colloquially American,” Kubrick said in the 1969 interview. Mr. Rain recalls Kubrick telling him, “I’m having trouble with what I’ve got in the can. Would you play the computer?”

Kubrick had heard Mr. Rain’s voice in the 1960 documentary “Universe,” a film he watched at least 95 times, according to the actor. “I think he’s perfect,” Kubrick wrote to a colleague in a letter preserved in the director’s archive. “The voice is neither patronizing, nor is it intimidating, nor is it pompous, overly dramatic or actorish. Despite this, it is interesting.”

Gerry Flahive writes this interesting piece for The New York Times about the origin of HAL 9000's voice, including why it sounds so ... Canadian.


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