Movies and Video Games: A Crossover of Actors and Voicework Talent

Sean Bean and his character Emperor Martin Septim in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Guest Post by Matt Phelps

Just recently, Kristin came walking into the room while I was playing the latest iteration in the Elder Scrolls franchise, Elder Scrolls Online (2014). After watching for a couple seconds, she shouted out “that’s Michael Gambon!” in somewhat bewildered disbelief. Sure enough, the aged character with a staff in Elder Scrolls Online was voiced by Dumbledore himself, Michael Gambon. In a marketing ploy to ultimately bring more dollars in, Zenimax Studios hired several well-known screen actors to voice characters inside the video game, including Michael Gambon, Bill Nighy, Kate Beckinsale, Alfred Molina, Malcolm McDowell, and John Cleese. This isn’t the first time an Elder Scrolls game has brought in talent from the big screen: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006) had Sir Patrick Stewart, Sean Bean, and Terrence Stamp while The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) utilized Christopher Plummer and Max von Sydow’s talents. The publisher itself, Bethesda Softworks, has been known to tap screen talent for its games, bringing in Liam Neeson for Fallout 3 (2008) and Ron Perlman as a narrator for the Fallout series’ marketing materials.

Check out this fun video featuring interviews with the cast of Elder Scrolls Online:

 

Why are video game publishers trying to bring in big name movie actors? Is it truly because of talent, or just to bring in more money so they can develop the next installment in the series? Popular consensus seems to suggest that studios should leave the voice acting to the voice talent and leave the screen acting to the screen talent and any crossover is just a money-grabbing scheme by big corporations.

Let me submit that perhaps being a good screen actor and being a good voice actor are not mutually exclusive. Many film and TV actors have found success from lending their voice to a video game character. My opinion is that there is a pool of acting talent out there from which films, TV shows, and video games all draw. One video game character that I find to be pretty cool is Morrigan from Dragon Age: Origins (2009) and Inquisition (2014), who is voiced by Claudia Black, an actress who gained recognition from acting in the sci-fi TV shows Farscape (1999-2003; which I still haven’t been able to bring myself to watch) and Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007). Yvonne Strahovski, who came to prominence as Sarah in Chuck (2007-2012), starred as a main character in the video game Mass Effect 2 (2010), won a Saturn Award for her guest work on Dexter (2006-2013), and most recently, starred alongside Keifer Sutherland on 24: Live Another Day (2014).

Yvonne Strahovski and her character Miranda Lawson in Mass Effect 2

Perhaps in today’s age of interconnected everything, actors at their core transcend just the screen- or voice-talent stereotype. Maybe acting now consists of being more than just a pretty face for the big screen. One of the more brilliant actors I know of, Benedict Cumberbatch, has an extensive resume that covers film, TV, theatre, radio, and video games. Now more than ever before, I believe actors are breaking out of the traditional boxes created for them and showcasing their talent in a variety of ways.

So while I do agree that a lot of big-name hires are done just for attention, I think it does some good as well in breaking down traditional lines drawn for types of media. A future of overlapping and intertwined media is inevitable, so why not start now?

It’s your turn now. Have you noticed any actors’ voices from video games? Do you have any favorite video games that feature big screen actors’ voices? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!

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12 thoughts on “Movies and Video Games: A Crossover of Actors and Voicework Talent

  1. Huh. I can’t believe you would mention Dragon Age and not mention Kate Mulgrew, of Star Trek Voyager and Orange Is the New Black. She was Flemeth! And then Martin Sheen in Mass Effect 2 and 3? Both having some pretty epic characters to play.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for visiting the site, Meredith! I’ll have to pass your comment onto Matt. I actually had no idea that Kate Mulgrew was in Dragon Age! I’m a fan of her work in OitNB, but I know Matt isn’t as much.

      Thanks for the recommendations, Meredith!

      Like

    • I would agree… both Flemeth and the Illusive Man were pretty epic. Bioware seems to have a pretty good knack for storytelling and utilizing the great talent that they have at their disposal.

      When listing characters, I kind of went off of ones I knew prior to playing the game… I haven’t seen many Voyager episodes. :-/ Also, I honestly didn’t realize that Martin Sheen was the Illusive Man! Can’t believe I missed that after all those hours playing the games…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well whenever someone mention voice work right now, naturally I think of Toby 😉 I don’t know about video games but he’s done a bunch of voice work for radio, ebooks, commercials, etc. His voice is simply DIVINE. Here’s an example: http://t.co/V1arjuF2ul

    I really do think voice work is an underrated art form, in fact I was championing Scarlett Johansson to get a nod for her work in Her. A lot of my fave actors usually have talent for acting with their body AND their voice, i.e. Timothy Dalton, Gregory Peck and now Toby 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey! Another Timothy Dalton fan! He is another one of those actors who I think has an impressive resume covering film, TV, and stage.

      I’ll have to check out this Toby guy… Kristin has mentioned him a few times recently; guessing that is because of your recommendations? 😛

      Liked by 1 person

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