Voice Actor Peter Cullen Reveals the Inspiration Behind Optimus Prime’s Voice
I remember being legitimately surprised in my youth when I first learned that the recently-deceased Casey Kasem did the voices for both Robin on Super Friends and Shaggy from Scooby-Doo (though in hindsight, that voice is pretty recognizable!) When it comes to voice acting, it’s pretty common for a voice actor to have several well-known characters that audiences might not immediately recognize. Peter Cullen is a perfect example of that. Though he has voiced dozens of characters since the 1960s (including the Predator in the 1987 action movie and Winnie-the-Pooh’s frequently-depressed friend Eeyore), he is best known for providing the voice of Optimus Prime for the 1984-1987 Transformers television series and the four live-action Transformers movies. In an interview with NPR, Cullen revealed the inspiration behind the voice he has used for Optimus Prime.
Cullen called returning to voice Optimus Prime — who he calls his favorite character — for each Transformers film “like slipping into an old pair of shoes that you hid in the back of your closet.”
When asked what inspired the voice of Optimus Prime all those years ago, Cullen reveals that he was inspired by his brother. He reveals, “I auditioned like everybody else. I was told it was a hero, and I was told it was a truck. I was living with my brother Larry at the time. He had returned from service as a Marine in Vietnam, and I told him one day I was going out to audition for a truck. And he says, ‘A truck?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, but he’s a hero truck.’ ‘This is really good, Pete, yeah,’ he said … ‘Well, if you’re going to be a hero, be a real hero. Don’t be a Hollywood stereotypical thing with the yelling and screaming.’ He said, ‘Be strong enough to be gentle.’ And Larry was that way. I had no idea what the script was going to be. But in effect, the lines just came out, and I just did my brother, Larry.”