Voice actor and Hollywood writer David Hayter discusses the differences between movies and games. And politely declines my leading question.
“It might be fun to do a crazy, over-the-top film version of Saint’s Row.”
Yeah, that headline is a bit cheap but you’re reading the work of a man who once asked the maker of The Bourne Conspiracy what Robert Ludlum thought of the game.
“Not much. He’s dead.”
Sometimes we’re offered interesting interview opportunities on VG247 but the PR process gets in the way. Don’t get me wrong, I think PR people are essential in this business. But if you’re not working together closely you’re only going to get something average at best. That’s partly why we rarely do Q&A’s via email on the site.
Anyway. Games journalism. It’s a tedious subject. Let’s move on.
I got the opportunity to send some questions over to David Hayter, who we all know as the voice of Solid Snake. He’s just finished recording the voice of the Winter Soldier in Marvel Heroes 2015, so naturally I ignored that and asked him about the role he’s most famous for.
Given that Hideo Kojima recently said he would like to see the original Metal Gear Solid remade for new consoles, I thought I’d ask Hayter if it was an idea he would get behind.
Perhaps sensing I was trying for an easy headline (“Hayter: count me in for Metal Gear Solid remake” or something) he chose to ignore the question entirely. You can do that when you’re communicating via email, through a PR agency and a personal agent and one of you lives in north Wales and the other in Los Angeles.
I don’t blame him. As this was done via email there’s no way to follow up – he clearly wasn’t interested in the question. I did ask him some other stuff, because I’m not a total hack. Having written screenplays for Brian Singer’s first two X-Men movies and the Watchmen adaptation, how come Hayter hasn’t written a video game script?
“Some games just don’t need to be movies, and I’ve turned down a few that didn’t.”
“The video game world and the film world are very different, and my contacts are primarily in the film world,” he said. “I’d very much love to work on a game as a writer/producer, and I have spoken to a few developers about it here and there, but nothing concrete has come together.”
Considering Hollywood is always looking to adapt game franchises to film, is there any Hayter would like to write himself, if the opportunity ever arises?
“There are so many great titles out there, although a lot of games now are so epic that I don’t really believe they need to be films,” he said. “It might be fun to do a crazy, over-the-top film version of Saint’s Row.”
Hayter sees most video games as being too big to filter down into a movie – a piece of entertainment that’s incredibly short by comparison.
“I think this is the problem with trying to adapt something to film, from an already incredibly rich, visual medium,” he offered. “Plus, in a film, you have only two hours to immerse an audience – of gamers and non-gamers alike – into a world which a video game player may take months to explore.
“So, as I say, some games just don’t need to be movies, and I’ve turned down a few that didn’t.
“I think there are a number of filmmakers out there who do understand video games now because, like me, they’ve been playing them all their lives,” he added. “But you need a whole team of filmmakers, producers and a studio who all understand the title they’re making, and that can still be rare.”
There was a time when comic book movies suffered this same problem. Hollywood’s treatment of some of the biggest characters in comics resulted in terrible movies and disgruntled fans. But now Hollywood’s most successful films of all time are built around the heroes of geekdom, with the highest paid actors taking iconic comic roles.
So surely there’s hope that eventually Hollywood will understand the potential of video games, and create movies that are respectful of the source material and stand as successful movies in their own right?
“That can happen in any genre, sure,” says Hayter. “But it takes a studio and filmmakers who truly understand the project, and who put enough resources behind it to hire only A-level crews and actors.
“It can be done, but until the track record for games adaptation movies gets better, it will be a slow climb.”