The Faces and Voices of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
May 25, 2007
In the wake of one of the more technical topics -- the ever-important VFX -- and the fact that Celebration IV is going on right now, I thought talk about the process of hiring some of the actors we've signed for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. The idea of using hired actors to voice a character in a game is nothing new, and neither is capturing an actor's likeness and using it in-game, which has been happening for years on the current-gen platforms. But because of improving motion-capture technology the results are becoming even more stunning and life-like, and casting the right actor for any given part is even more critical.
So, how do we go about deciding who the actors will be in our game? Well, like a lot of things on Star Wars: The Force Unleashed it begins with concept art. As noted a few entries ago the character exploration process happened early on in the project. Many months ago the concept artists sat down and began character designs, with direction from Project Lead Haden Blackman and Art Director Matt Omernick. And after hundreds of explorations the team began to hone in on a look that was appropriate for the character in question. Once the look was established it was time to begin looking into casting an actor for the part.
For Star Wars: The Force Unleashed the onus of finding the perfect candidates rested on the shoulders of Senior Manager of Voice and Audio, Darragh O'Farrell. Firstly, Darragh and his team began by contacting a few talent agencies and giving them information and concept art about each character. Once the agencies provided the team with who they thought would fit the role, Darragh and Haden then went through hundreds of head shots. As previously noted, the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed team wanted to find an actor that matched, or came as close as possible, to the concept art. So out of all those head shots the list of candidates was whittled down to those that fit the look. Of course, if an actor was discovered that fit the role perfectly but didn't necessarily look like the concept art the team would be amenable to tailoring the character to fit the actor's look.
Next up was the audition process. The voice team, headed up by Darragh, flew down to Los Angeles, California to meet the handpicked candidates. During the auditions the actors read opposite David Collins, LucasArts' sound designer extraordinaire, while Darragh directed. All the auditions were consequently taped so that they could be viewed by Haden and other members of the team at a later date. From the initial LA auditions the team had very strong candidates to fill the roles of three high-profile characters: The Apprentice, Juno Eclipse, and Maris Brood. In fact, the roles for both the Apprentice and Maris Brood were filled from the first LA auditions -- Sam Witwer, a prolific television and screen actor who has appeared most recently in Battlestar Galactica and Dexter, and Adrienne Wilkinson, who played the role of Xena's daughter Eve on Xena: Warrior Princess.
As for Juno Eclipse, the team decided they wanted an actress with a British accent, which given Star Wars movie history was no big surprise. The next stop for Darragh and the gang was London, England. This time, however, Darragh's team didn't go through a talent agency, but rather casting director Kate Saxson, who was given information about Juno's character, as well as a few pieces of concept art, prior to the trip. From there a number of candidates were selected and called in for auditions. From out of the pack, model/actress Nathalie Cox, who appeared in Kingdom of Heaven as Orlando Bloom's wife and has recently appeared in a huge Banana Republic ad campaign, was chosen to fill the role of Juno. And so concluded an almost four-month journey to find actors for some of the major actors who you will see and hear in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
Before signing off for this installment I wanted to let all of you readers know that if you're attending Celebration IV this weekend you will have the opportunity to meet all of the actors mentioned. If you've been keeping up with the schedule of events for the convention you will know we mentioned Sam and Nathalie as being attendants, but I'm here to break the news that Adrienne will be there as well and will be part of the meet-and-greet in the Star Wars Fan Club Lounge. Click here to find out the complete schedule of events surrounding Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.