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Video: Fmr. Marine inspired the voice of Transformers’ Optimus Prime

Marines unfold a Marine Corps flag during the Iwo Jima Memorial Service in Lubbock Sunday. (Jayme Lozano/A-J Media/TNS)
June 12, 2023

Peter Cullen’s iconic voice for Optimus Prime from “Transformers” was inspired by a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.

In a resurfaced 2008 interview with Gizmodo, Cullen revealed that the voice actor’s brother, Larry Cullen, provided the inspiration for the commanding voice of Optimus Prime. Larry Cullen served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.

Peter Cullen has voiced Optimus Prime multiple times since the premiere of “The Transformers” show in 1984. Most recently, Cullen provided the voice of Optimus Prime in “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” which was released to theaters on June 9.

“When I looked at the breakdown of Optimus Prime in the original show, it was a hero,” he said. “My older brother, Larry, was my hero. He had returned from Vietnam. He was with the Marine Corps, and he saw some pretty heavy experience.”

Cullen explained that his brother’s “tone of voice,” “control,” and “delivery as a leader” were three attributes that he applied to the character and voice of Optimus Prime.

“It just rang a bell, and I was cast in that part,” he said. “I guess people somehow picked up on that.”

READ MORE: Watch: New Transformers trailer for ‘Rise of the Beasts’ goes primal

Cullen told Gizmodo that the attributes of Optimus time, such as his calmness, strength, honor, dignity and gentility are “synonymous” with the U.S. Marine Corps.  

According to We Are the Mighty, Larry Cullen, who was a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, served with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, received a Bronze Star with a V device, as well as two Purple Hearts for his service in Operation Hastings in June of 1966.

“He had a lot of influence on me, you know, and especially coming back from Vietnam. I noticed somebody different,” Peter Cullen said. “Going into that audition, Larry was with me. I mean, he was right there beside me. When I read the script, Larry’s voice just came out. He was my hero.”