In the world of video games, there has been a lot of buzz around the new PS3 title Beyond: Two Souls because it stars Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe. But this isn’t the first time a famous actor has lent his vocal chords to a pixelated character.
In no particular order, here’s a rundown of some of tinseltown’s finest playing a role in video games. A few are easy to recognize, but a few others will make you go, “Whoa, that was him?”
Psst, you can learn to become a voice-over artist with your PC too.
Film Fame: Luke Skywalker in Star Wars
Game Fame: The Joker in Batman: Arkham Asylum
In the past few years, no video game character has been voiced as amazingly as The Joker in the Arkham series of games. It’s got a lot to do with Mark Hamill having already voiced The Joker in the Batman animated series, but he really brought out his best performance in the game. Hamill’s Joker is creepy, funny, scary and just the kind of psychotic persona that made him one of the best villains in gaming. And man, that manic laugh…
Film Fame: Henry Hill in Goodfellas
Game Fame: Tommy Vercetti in GTA: Vice City
In the Grand Theft Auto games, you are essentially a bad guy. And even as you do immoral things, you have to want to root for your character. Ray Liotta’s performance as Tommy Vercetti in GTA: Vice City is the best example of how to pull that off. Tommy’s a bad guy, but you want him to win because he’s taking out bigger evil guys! Liotta’s mafioso accent brought Tommy alive in those cut scenes, and the throwaway lines in the gameplay only made him all the more endearing.
Samuel L. Jackson
Film Fame: Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, and others
Game Fame: Officer Frank Tenpenny in GTA: San Andreas
While it’s important to make the protagonist a “bad guy you love” in GTA like Ray Liotta did in Vice City, Samuel L. Jackson managed the impossible in GTA: San Andreas — he made the antagonist someone you loved more than your character! Officer Frank Tenpenny is a bent cop, but you can’t help want more of him in the game. Jackson has one of the most recognizable voices among actors, and it helps that the character is modelled after him. And that’s what makes you imagine him pulling off epic lines like, “I can **** on you from such a height, you’ll think God himself took a crap on you!”
Film Fame: Cpt. Ben Willard in Apocalypse Now, President Bartlet in West Wing
Game Fame: Illusive Man in Mass Effect
With a star in the Hollywood Walk Of Fame and plenty of awards in his cabinet, Martin Sheen is one of the heavyweights in the film industry. But as a gamer, you probably know him better as Illusive Man, the leader of Cerberus and the first man to speak up and rally against the Alliance in the Mass Effect series. Sheen really got under the skin of the character, “smoking” pens because he doesn’t smoke, and being confounded that someone would want to backtalk his powerful character in the game. But Sheen has one request when you’re watching the Illusive Man the next time, “He’s such a horrible man. Please don’t think I’m like that, that’s just my voice.”
Film Fame: Veronica Mars in Veronica Mars
Game Fame: Lucy Stillman in Assassin’s Creed
When you first played Assassin’s Creed, if you said to yourself, “Hey, that looks like Kristen Bell,” then there’s a reason for that. The character of Lucy Stillman — a Templar who was the operator of the Animus — is voiced by and modelled on the star of Veronica Mars. Bell managed to take the character beyond the “pretty thing to look at” that the developers seemed to be going for and brought out her complexity as a double agent. Her back story is a bit confusing if you play just the games, so pick up the Lost Archive DLC in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations to find out why her character did everything she did.
Film Fame: Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings series
Game Fame: King Bohan in Heavenly Sword
Perhaps the finest voice-acting performance in movies has been that of Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings series. It’s impossible to forget that lisping snarl of “My precious…” Serkis has been in several other big-budget films like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but his greatest performance, in my books, is as the evil King Bohan in Heavenly Sword. Serkis “effectively played” the character, according to Giant Bomb, which notes that apart from the voice, Bohan’s body language is based on motion captures from Serkis. Perhaps he hams it up a bit as the King Raven at the end of the game, but we can forgive that small transgression for all the minutes of stellar acting before that.
Film Fame: Sirius Black in Harry Potter series, Commissioner Gordon in Batman series
Game Fame: Viktor Reznov in Call of Duty: Black Ops
He is Sirius Black to Harry Potter fans. He is Commissioner Gordon to Batman fans. But to every Call of Duty fan, Gary Oldman will always be Viktor Reznov, that mean, tough Russian soldier who guides you through the worst of times World At War, Black Ops and Black Ops 2. Whether it’s rallying the troops through a rousing speech, sharing the most intimate details of his personal life, or just enjoying being in a battle, Reznov’s character has immense depth and Oldman rises to the challenge perfectly. And to pull it all off in a foreign accent? This is one of the best performances in voice acting, video game or otherwise.
Who’s Your Favourite?
There are plenty of other fine actors who have lent their voices to video games, in roles small and big. Which ones do you know of? Which is the one voice you have always remembered?