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'In a world' voiceover master dies at 68

  • Story Highlights
  • Don LaFontaine did voiceovers for thousands of films
  • Voice specialist best known for "In a world ..." lead to trailers
  • LaFontaine also appeared in Geico ad
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(CNN) -- Don LaFontaine, the voiceover king whose "In a world ..." phrase on movie trailers was much copied -- and much parodied -- has died, according to media reports. He was 68.

LaFontaine died Monday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, according to ETOnline, "Entertainment Tonight's" Web site. He died from complications from pneumothorax, a collapsed lung that causes air to build in the pleural cavity, his agent, Vanessa Gilbert, told "ET."

LaFontaine, who was born in Duluth, Minnesota, began as a voice actor in the mid-1960s while working as a recording engineer, according to his Web site. His strong, slightly gravelly voice was featured on trailers for thousands of films, including "The Godfather," "Fatal Attraction" and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." For a time in the late '70s, LaFontaine was the official voice of Paramount Pictures.

His favorite work was one he did for the 1980 film "The Elephant Man," he said in interviews, but whether the film was Oscar-caliber or a bomb waiting to blow, he handled every assignment equally. Video Watch LaFontaine at work »

"My philosophy is that you have to really believe what you're reading, even if you think the film's a piece of junk," he told Swindle magazine. "Even the worst picture is someone's favorite film, and that someone is the fan I am always talking to." iReport: Share your thoughts on "the Voiceover King"

He also provided the voice for hundreds of thousands of commercials, for companies including General Motors, Ford, McDonald's, Coca-Cola and many others, according to his Web site. Slideshow: LaFontaine doing "Godfather II," "Friday the 13th" »

The good-humored LaFontaine was willing to poke fun at himself, particularly in a recent ad for Geico insurance, in which he gave dramatic flair to a woman's story about her car accident. He also voiced the trailer for "The Simpsons Movie," in which his descriptions were mimicked by commentary from the film's characters.

Don't Miss

  • Don LaFontaine's official site

But LaFontaine was most famous for popularizing the phrase "In a world ...," used by seemingly dozens of movies determined to create an otherworldly atmosphere.

LaFontaine told CNN that the scripts gave him the cues for his delivery.

"They dictate how they want to be read," he told "Showbiz Tonight" in 2005. "It's pretty much straightforward stuff because you know the context of the film generally going in. If it's something like 'King Kong,' you have a pretty good idea of how you`re going to say it. It's going to be a big adventure thing. And I let the [script] more or less guide what I'm going to say."

He added that there was no secret to his movie trailer work: "I really think this is one of the few industries where everything is right up there," he told CNN. "What you see is what you get."

Still, he noted, it's not like he could use his movie-trailer voice everywhere.

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"If I tried to use that voice in public," he said, "they'd be calling security."

LaFontaine is survived by his wife, actress and singer Nita Whitaker, and three children, Christine, Skye and Elyse.

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