As the ambitions and budgets of video games grow larger each year, so too do their prestige and glamor. One could argue that high capacity storage like CDs, DVDs and multi-terabyte hard drives exist to contain the egos and dreams that make up the modern video game.
That’s why gamers and game developers are no stranger to the famous faces of Hollywood anymore. More and more each year, a big name star embraces the technical challenges of acting for games and the opportunity to transform themselves without the need for ugly makeup and do work in unflattering mocap suits.
But the symbiotic relationship between performance and fame, ambition and prestige can be a strange one. And sometimes it results in some of the oddest relationships between an actor’s image and profile and the game itself. Here are just eight of the strangest times Hollywood actors were in videogames.
Martin Sheen as The Illusive Man in Mass Effect 3
You might remember Martin Sheen’s paternalistic warmth as President Josiah Bartlett in The West Wing, but his ruthless calculating presence in Mass Effect as The Illusive Man is chilling. In a previous life, The Illusive Man was a mercenary named Jack Harper, but in the Shepard Trilogy, he’s an unscrupulous power monger and anti-alien bigot who wants to make humanity great again.
Matthew Perry as Benny in Fallout: New Vegas
The former Friends star has seen some dark days thanks to his struggles with substance abuse, so it’s arguable whether his turn as ambitious con man Benny in Fallout: New Vegas was a new low for him. That being said, there’s good reason why Perry remains an admired performer with excellent comic charm. He imbues Benny with smarm and irony and a touch of craven amorality.
Ellen Page as Jodie in Beyond: Two Souls
In Beyond: Two Souls, Ellen Page portrays Jodie Holmes, a young woman coming to terms with her parapsychic abilities. When promo copy indicated Beyond would be Page’s first videogame role, gamers scratched their heads. Earlier that year, The Last of Us featured Ellie, a young girl who looked so much like Ellen Page, gamers were convinced it was her doing the mocap and voiceover.
Susan Sarandon as Granny Rags in Dishonored
What most people don’t know about Dishonored is how many big names managed to sneak into the recording booth to provide voices. The most amazing among them is Susan Sarandon, who voices Granny Rags, a seemingly crazy old lady with dark secrets and even darker intentions. Equally amazing is how little attention and publicity Dishonored courted for a cast that also included Chloe Moretz, Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey, Mad Men’s John Slattery and even the late Carrie Fisher.
Clive Owen in Privateer: The Darkening
Before Clive Owen was the go to tough guy who clenches his jaw to conceal his British accent, he was a struggling actor. Now while some struggling actors do porn or daytime soaps, others do videogames. Clive played the lead role of Lev Arris in Privateer 2: The Darkening, sharing screen time with a Christopher Walken in mid-career slump.
Gary Busey as The Wildcard in Hitman (2016)
The most recent entry on this list is a marketing stunt that is as weird as it is awesome. In Hitman, players make use of creativity and cunning to kill their targets with a minimum of fuss and chaos. In an online campaign called, “Choose Your Hit,” fans voted to kill Gary Busey over Gary Cole. As one of the extra difficult, time limited Elusive Targets, players were tasked to eliminate the wacky character actor.
Emma Stone in Sleeping Dogs
Where Dishonored made no effort to promote their star studded cast, Sleeping Dogs went for broke. That’s mostly a good thing, giving recognition to many Asian and Asian-American stars like Will Yun Lee, Byron Mann and Kelly Hu, who play pivotal roles. But most odd was the spotlight given to then rising star Emma Stone. She serves as one of the brief love interests of protagonist Wei Shen. Billed as ‘Amanda Cartwright’ she even has a last name, which is a needless detail for a character that is in the game for like ten minutes.
Keith David as Keith David in Saint’s Row IV.
Keith David’s appearance in Saints Row IV is the apotheosis of novelty casting in a videogame. In it he plays Keith David, a successful actor who has done everything. “I’d even done video games,” he says, in reference to his roles in the Mass Effect and Halo franchises. This Keith David exists not just in the Saints’ Row universe but is aware of his place in videogame culture. And so, “having conquered acting,” he signed up with the Third Street Saints to run for the second highest office in the land: Vice President.
Know of any other videogames where Hollywood actors were featured? Share them with us below!