How did you go about signing up the voice talent?
One of the people I met because I had to meet him was Ray Liotta because he was going to be Tommy Vercetti and I remember he demanded to meet me. And so Dan [Houser], a couple of the other guys and I went out for dinner with him and he took us to Peter Luger’s, which is like an olde worlde steakhouse in Brooklyn, just the other side of the Williamsburg Bridge. Now I don’t know if you go to these places in New York but they are always packed and even if you have a table booked for 8:30 you’re going to be sitting down for 9:45 – that’s sort of how it goes. And they’re kind of slightly rude, and people buy into that. So we were in there on our own, and it was packed, and we were like four little kids – the waiters were just walking over us. Then Ray Liotta waltzed in and took us all straight to the best table, and I was so energised that I just flew in on him, explaining what we were about and what the game was about. I remember him saying to Dan the next day, “God, your brother’s a fucking lunatic”.
Did he really get what you were doing? His performance was good, obviously.
Yeah, his performance was very good. He was a very interesting guy to work with because we had to have him in for quite a long time – it was the most time we’ve ever had someone like that around, actually – and in some sessions he was so fired up and he was so into it, but then sometimes it’d be like he was in some kind of a hole, and he was very dark and couldn’t work. He’s a pretty amazing guy, kind of an amazing actor. He’s not been in as many good things as he should have been, I think. He is so good in Goodfellas that he kind of doesn’t need to do anything else, but whatever he’s in he always catches your eye because he’s got something about him, and in the flesh he’s definitely got that about him, too. I think he did get it, to be fair. But he made some comments later on through his agent, something like, “Hey, that game was so big I should have charged them more money”, and I hate that kind of chat. It’s like, be cool. You know? I hate that – it’s so cheesy. Like he’s saying, “Next time I’m really going to pin it to them”. Well, how about we just killed off your character? So he doesn’t exist – there is no next time. That’s how we handle that.
How did your experiences with Vice City affect how you approached San Andreas?
Obviously landing Ray Liotta for Tommy Vercetti was a massive project for us, because at the time actors weren’t doing things like that, and I think we did a lot to introduce actors being involved in games. And I remember playing Vice City and thinking his performance was fantastic, but something in the months afterwards when I was playing it was conflicting in my brain: was I playing Tommy Vercetti or was I playing Ray Liotta? Who was I, what was going on here, what was happening on the screen? And it really sort of caught me off guard, and it kept happening to me. It didn’t happen to me so much with the other characters but it happened to me with my character because he’s an extension of me on the screen. To some extent it left me a bit confused, and it certainly made us resolve for future iterations to dial down the use of famous actors. So if you look at San Andreas, there weren’t as many in that game. I think that Samuel L Jackson gave an absolutely incredible performance as Tenpenny, but he’s the biggest star in that game by a long, long way.
So something happened there and, you know, it’s not something that I say is a final decision forever, but certainly I think with Young Maylay, what he did with CJ [in San Andreas] made him very, very human to me… It’s weird to talk about relationships with videogame characters, but I have them. It wouldn’t be right to say there was doubt between Tommy Vercetti and me, or whatever, it’s just that it sowed a seed, and I think we’ve evolved from that now, and I actually think what we’ve ended up with is stronger. And also, I’ll be honest, it’s easier to work with someone who’s keen and enthusiastic, and not been in hundreds of films. It’s much easier to work with them.
To get good performances in games is very difficult. You know, sometimes you get a famous person in and they literally just read off the script, they want the cheque, and they want to go. I find that insulting and depressing.