Ten Hollywood Actors You’ve Forgotten Were in Games
While the ubiquitous Nolan North and a host of other voice actors regularly crop up in most major game franchises, there is a growing trend of hiring top Hollywood actors to voice characters in video games. Whether it’s a push towards vindication in the eyes of patronising game-haters or genuinely because the actor suits the role it’s always a surprise when a famous name scrolls up in the credits. Occasionally the inclusion of an A-list celebrity merits a press release announcing their involvement in a manner it would be generous to call gloating. Other developers might quietly namedrop their main actor as a complement to the real star – the gameplay. Either way, a year in the games industry is worth ten in the spotlight and most of these brief forays into virtual worlds have seen actors’ performances forgotten. These aren’t quite the memorable turns like Samuel L. Jackson’s Officer Tenpenny in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas or the shoe-horned cameos in Call of Duty DLC. Neither are they the blatantly obvious contract obligations like Daniel Craig in a Bond game. These are ten of the roles you’d likely forgotten about or were unaware of to begin with...
Michael Fassbender – “Logan” from Fable III
Sandwiched somewhere between nailing it in the scene-stealing Inglourious Basterds and his mainstream acceptance as (a slightly ‘oirish’) Magneto, Michael Fassbender voiced the villainous Logan in all-round Brit-fest Fable III. Although other bastions of English treasure-ness feature as well – *Sir* Ben Kingsley, Stephen Fry – it’s the fact that this occurs on his ascent to Hollywood stardom that makes this a bit of an anomaly on Fassbender’s CV. Playing a creep with an indiscernible magnetism doesn’t stray far from his typical character type – David in Prometheus fits the same bill – but, given that it’s Fassbender’s one and only video game credit, it deserves a second thought. He’s lined up to headline the Assassin’s Creed movie and whether he’ll be playing Desmond, a distant ancestor or a wholly different character is yet to be discovered. Either way, we probably won’t see as much as we did of him in Shame. Shame (?)
BONUS TRIVIA: Nicholas Hoult also voices a character in Fable III – he’d later star with Fassbender in X-Men: First Class.
Robert Davi – “Spec Ops Commander” from Halo 2
“It’s like Vietnam, slick!” Well, attacking a station plummeting out of the orbit of a turbulent gas giant certainly isn’t the same as Agent Johnson’s Vietnam ventures, especially when the elite squad of mercenaries are Covenant Elites. Elites under the command of the Arbiter and Robert Davi’s spec ops San Shyuum, a secondary yet vital role in Halo 2. Famous for starring in Die Hard and as Bond drug baron Franz Sanchez, Davi was no stranger to games having appeared in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City in 2002. Playing a drug baron is less of a stretch than an alien commander so it’s his inclusion in Bungie’s epic space opera that earns him a place in this Top Ten. He appeared again in Halo 3 and the lacklustre Scarface game and hasn’t cropped up since. Perhaps his vocal talents could return, given the beginning of a new Halo trilogy.
Willem Dafoe – “Nikolai Diavolo” from James Bond: Everything or Nothing
He may be appearing in all his craggy-faced glory in the upcoming Beyond: Two Souls but it’s worth remembering that this won’t be Willem Dafoe’s first foray into the world of videogames. The star-studded cast of Everything or Nothing was unmatched in a licensed game not based on an existing Bond movie and it’s a pleasantly surprising concoction of action, over-the-top villainy and franchise tributes. Serving as the final outing for Pierce Brosnan’s Bond, Everything or Nothing cast Dafoe in the big bad role of Nikolai Diavolo alongside Heidi Klum, Richard Kiel (returning as Jaws) and franchise stalwarts John Cleese and Judi Dench. Metal suits, ridiculous schemes and that damned invisible car meant this was the last hurrah of the juvenile pastiche the Bond franchise had become pre-reboot. Taken as a game, Everything or Nothing is arguably the best Bond game since the genre-defining Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo 64 and easily the best game centred around an original story. A lot of this goes to the actors hamming it up and Dafoe can chew the digital scenery like he’s hungry for polygons. He’s adorned a pair of glasses and dialled back the crazy for his role in Beyond: Two Souls but it’s great to see such a gifted actor return to games.
Misaki Ito – “Miss Nagai” from James Bond: Everything or Nothing
Another pick from Everything or Nothing, but an interesting choice for a few reasons. Firstly, this is Misaki Ito’s only game role to date and one of her only English roles in her entire career. She’s probably best known from her performances in Ju-on: The Grudge – the seminal J-Horror film released soon after the classic Ringu – and in Densha Otoko, a Japanese TV drama where an otaku falls in love with a woman he meets on the train. Both franchises were huge blockbuster hits in Japan and developed a following overseas. Despite Densha Otoko following Everything or Nothing, her casting in a Bond game was a sly move, attracting both Japanese and Western followers and appealing to a specific section of the gaming community. The second reason that her inclusion is so interesting is the fact she plays an assistant to Q. Had the movies not been rebooted there would be every chance this was laying the groundwork for an appearance in a future Brosnan Bond. Unfortunately it didn’t come to pass, making this single appearance such a curiosity for fans of gaming, Japanese culture and the Bond franchise.
Idris Elba – “Truck” from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
His gradual takeover of Hollywood is nearly complete, featuring in both the Thor movies and forthcoming geekgasm Pacific Rim, but Idris Elba has already helped to ‘CANCEL THE APOCALYPSE!’ in the juggernaut Call of Duty franchise. The military bro-fest has already featured some top-tier talent thanks to the likes of charismatic Gary Oldman and charisma black-hole Sam Worthington but Idris Elba is one of those names that wasn’t hugely famous at the time. “Stringer” Bell from The Wire had made him a household name amongst discerning television viewers and boxset devourers but his movie credits were still largely few and far between. Injecting Modern Warfare 3 with a bit of British gravitas – well, there’ was already plenty but anything more to drown out the ‘oo-rah’ American campaign can’t hurt – works wonders amidst all the explosions. It may be brief but Idris Elba makes everything better. Even COD.
Half the cast of Firefly – Halo 3: ODST
Cheating a bit here but when you include three of the most prominent members of defunct show Firefly in a game it can’t be ignored. Halo 3: ODST wasn’t the best of the Bungie-developed franchise – save that for Halo: Reach – but casting Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk and Adam Baldwin as the ODST squad members lost in New Mombasa was a genius idea. Firefly had been and gone by this point but hearing and seeing these actors reunited on-screen was a treat, even if the game wasn’t quite the usual Halo brand of awesomeness. They even look like their real-life counterparts, especially in Nathan Fillion’s case. ODST didn’t set the precedent though; Halo 3 featured Adam Baldwin and Alan Tudyk as non-descript marines gifted with Whedon-esque dialogue. Let’s hope there’s a Firefly game where the whole crew can reunite in the future.
Chloe Moretz – “Emily Kaldwin” from Dishonored
Dishonored is a treasure-trove of well-known actors wholly unrecognisable but for their name in the credits. Susan Sarandon, Michael Madsen, Lena Headey and John Slattery (Roger Sterling from Mad Men) all feature in meaty roles but it was the inclusion of Chloe Moretz that was intriguing. Playing the young Empress Emily Kaldwin, Moretz doesn’t have a lot to say compared to other parts. It’s the fact that her star is in the ascendant that makes it an odd bit of casting – she’s soon to be featured in all sorts of films, including Kick-Ass 2 and the Carrie remake, but wasn’t particularly well-known during the making of Dishonored. Moretz was most famous for saying the C-word and working with Scorsese – having picked Dishonored as her sole video-game credit shows she has good taste in games too.
Gary Busey – “Phil Cassidy” from GTA Vice City
Rockstar Dev 1: “We need someone to play a crazed explosives expert in GTA! Someone who fits right in with that crazy 80s vibe!”
Rockstar Dev 2: “And they can blow their own arm off on one of the missions! Damn, no actor’s that crazy…”
Slowly their gaze meets, right at the moment they simultaneously think of the right man for the job. A man so awesomely crazy that GTA: Vice City would remain the only game worthy of his presence. A man known only as…
Rockstar Devs: “GARY BUSEY!”
And thus a legend was immortalised in history…
Ray Winstone – “Admiral Orlock” from Killzone 3
It’s strange to think that aside from certain fantasy franchises one of the places to find a smorgasbord of British thespian talent is Sony’s Killzone series. (O Lucky) Malcolm McDowell and (not that) Brian Cox join “Cockney King” Ray Winstone as a sinister triad of Helghast councillors. The game may look pretty but the pugnacious commanders are the very definition of unlikable. The designers have sneakily matched their appearances to the actors – twisting their real-world likenesses into accentuated grotesques. There’s no confirmation that this is what happened (and there’s no scene where Orlock sprawls about in his underpants for comparison) but given McDowell’s character has a shock of white hair and Orlock is slightly bigger-boned it’s not a totally wild deduction. Winstone’s effusive remonstrations grounded Killzone 3 after the swear-fest of the second game, contrasting well with McDowell’s icy delivery. Winstone has appeared in a few other games but it is the surprising depth of character in Killzone which makes it a touchstone in his game career.
Jason Isaacs – “Lucifel” from El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
Hello to Jason Isaacs! And hello to a rather leftfield choice of game for an actor who had previously voiced characters in Castlevania and Total War titles. El Shaddai is a bizarre game with astounding art direction but certainly not one to shoot atop sales charts on release. Isaacs voices Lucifel, a beguiling enigma of a character who appears throughout the story, often seen discussing matters with a mystery third party on a mobile phone. A mobile phone. In an adaptation of the Book of Enoch. Believe it. Peter Serafinowicz praised the voice acting in the title and it’s true that you’d never think it was Isaacs, so seamlessly does his delivery mesh with everything else. It’s a beautiful game and a rare one at that – one that, thanks to Jason Isaacs, gets some true acting clout. Check it out.
So those are ten or so of the most unexpected Hollywood forays into video-game roles. Have we missed any or are there even weirder cameos that we’ve overlooked? Comment below!