PARIS - “It was an intense challenge but absolutely awesome!” says actress Ellen Page (Juno, Inception) about the new PlayStation game Beyond: Two Souls. Page interprets every scene using the same performance-capture technology as Avatar, which records movement and voice.
The game, created by French developer Quantic Dream, and to be released in October, pushes the boundaries between movies and video games. In the 1970’s, video games were first considered as a new opportunity for merchandising. Many movies had video game versions, which were sometimes very unimaginative. Later, the opposite happened, with video games being made adapted for the silver screen, like Tomb Raider or Resident Evil.
French video game giant Ubisoft contributed to blur the boundaries between the two worlds – going as far as to open their own film studio. They are working on adaptations of their biggest successes, Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell, with Michael Fassbender for the former and Tom Hardy for the latter.
“We don’t want to make pop-corn movies, but to create new adventures, which respect the games’ DNA,” explains Jean-Julien Baronnet, the studio’s director.
Beyond: Two Souls is a perfect example of the enthusiasm of actors for video games. From Samuel L. Jackson to Gary Oldman and Michelle Rodriguez, the number of Hollywood stars appearing in video games is growing. Most of the time, they are just lending their voice to their virtual avatar.
“I loved immersing myself in this codified universe to make it come alive,” says French actress Virginie Ledoyen, who lent her voice to Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
But not everyone likes the experience. Actor Michael Lonsdale isn’t as enthusiastic after dubbing a character for the French version of 007 Legends. “It was totally foreign to me… I had never seen a video game before. It’s very violent; it doesn’t stop shooting, killing and exploding,” he says.
“Dubbing video games is a very difficult exercise,” says Stephane Gonizzi, who heads the sound department for the Around the World studio. “Ninety-five percent of the time we have to do the recordings without any visual elements, we have to try and follow the rhythm of the English text,” he says.
More and more editors want French versions of their games, and these have to be done quickly, to be ready for the international release of the game. It takes two to four weeks to dub an action game like Call of Duty, but other role-play games can take up to six months to dub.
Silver screen stars aren’t put off by video games – they see there an opportunity to reach a larger public. “It’s a fact, today there are more gamers than there are spectators in movie theatres,” says Virginie Ledoyen. She dubbed Chloe Lynch, a soldier in the French version of Black Ops II, which sold over a million copies in France.
There are 28 million gamers in France, netting three billion euros in revenue. Movie theaters only rake in 450 million euros in revenue, and attendance has decreased by 6%. This motivates actors to make the move to an industry that is not as affected by the crisis.
“Is it worth it financially? Yes” says Michael Lonsdale. An actor is paid from 600 to 1000 euros for a day of dubbing. “Official” voices, like the French voice of Al Pacino are the best paid – they can get around 3000 euros a day. Famous actors, on the other hand, who on top of lending their voice also promote the video games, can earn tens of thousands of euros.
Watch the trailer for Beyond: Two Souls.