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Man of many voices

THEN: Michael Winslow as Sgt Jones in Police Academy

A MEETING with Michael Winslow is truly a unique experience. The US funnyman, best known for his role as Sgt Larvelle ‘Motor Mouth’ Jones in the hugely successful Police Academy, Winslow’s character is well-remembered for causing mischief with the thousands of sounds and voices he could imitate. In real life, he’s just as kooky.

Meeting him for breakfast in a London coffee shop, ahead of his stint at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Winslow couldn’t resist the urge to demonstrate his numerous sound effects as often as possible.

From imitating the ‘plop plop’ sound of ketchup pouring out of a bottle and landing on his plate; to beatboxing into my dictaphone; to chasing a pigeon down the street whilst making the sound of a barking dog (yes, really), Winslow was certainly in fine sound-making form.

Also well remembered for imitating the sound of Jimmy Hendrix playing the guitar during one of his famed live shows, does Winslow never tire of being a human sound-making machine?

“When little kids keep demanding voices, it can get a bit tiring,” he admits. “Kids never get tired! So when they’re like, ‘do it again, do it again!’, it can get a bit much. But I love what I do and wherever I go, the reactions have been wonderful. Sound has no language barrier so what I do connects with people everywhere, which is great.”

Having performed numerous live shows, hosted his own TV show Way Back Wednesday with Winslow and debuted his own iPhone and iPod Touch sound-driven apps last year, Winslow has done plenty since starring in the Police Academy film franchise, which began in 1984.

Still, the 52-year-old remains best known for his role as Sgt Jones, who frequently used his ability to make noises to play pranks and deceive both criminals and authority figures. Thankfully, Winslow doesn’t mind forever being associated with the hit film.

“It’s always better to have work than not, and Police Academy was a wonderful opportunity for me,” he says. “I wanted to be part of something special and that certainly was. And now, it looks like Police Academy 8 is on the way. I think it’s gonna happen. We’re hoping to have that out in 2012.”

It’s worth noting that our interview took place before the untimely death of Police Academy actor Bubba Smith, who played Moses Hightower in the film franchise. The 66-year-old died last week (August 3), after which, Winslow paid tribute via US website TMZ, saying: "I'm devastated. He was a very good friend, we've known each other for 25 years.”


SOUND MASTER: Michael Winslow

Having starred in all seven of the previous Police Academy films (part seven was released in 1994), did Winslow not think it might be time to hang up his sergeant’s hat and give part eight a miss?

“Somebody has to train the new generation of misfits,” he laughs. “It’s been over 10 years since the last Police Academy and since then, The A-Team had a film remake, as did The Dukes of Hazzard, so why not Police Academy? I don’t know how many original folks are coming back [for part eight] but it is set to go ahead.”

In the meantime, Winslow has more in the pipeline…

“I’m getting into production now. Bill Cosby was nice enough to finance a project I’m working on – a children’s TV programme. He rang me up one day but I didn’t believe it was him – I thought it was one of my friends joking around. But when I realised it was him, he gave me this idea about using my sounds in a show for kids and we’re working on that now. So I’m pretty excited about that.

“There’s still so much I’d love to do. I’d like to think there are more better days ahead of me than behind me.”

* Michael Winslow performs at Udderbelly at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival throughout August. For tickets, call 0844 545 8252 or visit www.underbelly.co.uk

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