—WARNING!!! MAJOR METAL GEAR SOLID SPOILERS AHEAD—
Can you remember the night you finished Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty? I’d like to think your game completion feelings were similar to mine. I mean, MGS2 is a fantastic game. I remember feeling emotional and overwhelmed by the adventure that I had just been through with Raiden and Snake. The only shame was I really didn’t have a clue just what the hell had happened. I had so many unanswered questions. Who were the Patriots? What happened to Ocelot? Why is Raiden such a girl? It wasn’t until the release of MGS4: Guns of The Patriots in June of 2008 that I finally understood what was going on in part 2 all those years previous.
But who’s to blame for all the convoluted storylines, the ridiculous indulgent plot and the fact that MGS2 left me feeling as confused as it did convinced that I had just finished one of the best games ever? Should I blame Hideo Kojima? Probably……but after playing MGS4 I realised that there was only one man to blame, the man whose sect Hideo ordained ‘The Patriots’ kept me awake at night wondering just who and what the hell they were. I blame the founder of the Patriots. I blame you Major Zero.
The man you gave birth to The Patriots was himself given life by writer, producer, actor and voice performer Jim Piddock. TGL recently spoke to Jim about his career, Major Zero, the Patriots and Tooth Fairies. Here’s what Jim had to say.
TGL: Jim, you’re probably best known to gamers for your voice over work in the Metal Gear franchise, but your career actually began in theatres on Broadway. Tell us a little about your early stage work.
JP: Yeah, I spent the first few years of my career pretty much doing nothing but stage work. I started in rep companies in England then did a one-man show in the U.S which led very quickly to doing several Broadway shows. I got very lucky early on. They were fun shows to do. I was in the first ever production of ‘Noises off’ in America and my first ever job in New York was being directed by and appearing with George C. Scott.
TGL: From there your career took you to Hollywood and TV, appearing in everything from Friends, to ER, to Independence Day, to Austin Powers Gold Member and even Lost. Did moving from the stage to TV/film seem like a natural progression for you in terms of your acting career?
JP: I’d always wanted to end up working in film and TV. I guess I could have stayed in New York and probably had a long and fruitful career in the theatre but in the mid-1980’s I felt like it was time to change gears and I’d certainly not been short-changed in terms of getting to perform live. I recently went back to do a show on Broadway and it was great – but I didn’t feel like it was something I’d want to be doing right now on a regular basis.
TGL: What did you make of the ending to Lost? Did you even follow the series over the years? You featured in Season 1 all the way back in 2005, right?
JP: Sorry, I can’t offer an opinion on this one. I don’t watch the show. I liked what I saw in the first season but I just don’t have the time to commit to watching 22 episodes of any show every year. Same reason I’ve never got hooked on 24 – which also looks like a great show. I’ll probably rent DVD’s of every season sometime when I need to chill for a few years and just watch them all at once.
TGL: How did you first get involved in voice acting?
JP: I started doing voice-over commercials when I was working in New York. I was actually one of the first voices of Virgin airlines, believe it or not. Then when I came to L.A, I began doing more animation and video game stuff.
TGL: Tell us a little about your work in Metal Gear Solid? How did you first get involved with the franchise? We’re you aware of how big of a deal Metal Gear was?
JP: To be honest, I had no idea at all. Believe me; if I had I would have negotiated a substantially bigger fee and a cut of the profits! I enjoyed recording it. There were a lot of great actors to work with and we didn’t all work in isolation, recording separately, so that’s always a bonus.
TGL: What kind of a character is Major Zero?
JP: Solid, steady, grounded and guiding. Very no nonsense and definitely an authority figure.
TGL: How does one actually ‘figure out’ out voice for a character and if the voice suits the intended character?
JP: Major Zero is very close to my normal voice, in terms of accent, pitch and range. That’s not always the case. With most animated series for example I often find myself doing much more extreme character voices that are nothing like my own.
TGL: Major Zero is arguably one of the most important characters in MGS because it turns out that he is the eventual founder of The Patriots. Did you have any idea, back when you first started working on MGS3, just how important your character Zero was?
JP: Well, I certainly knew he was one of the main characters. But I didn’t have much idea beyond that.
TGL: Did you enjoy working with Konami on the Metal Gear games? Would you work with them again given the opportunity?
JP: Yeah, they were really good. And I’d be happy to work with them again. I mean, I think everyone who makes video games has to start paying actors their fair share of the pie in terms of upfront fees and residuals, etc. I mean, if I’d played one of the leading roles in a movie that made as much more as the Metal Gear Solid games have made, I could have retired several times over by now!
TGL: Are you doing voice over work for any games at the moment?
JP: I just did a couple more ‘Lord of the Rings’ games earlier this year and something for Disney.
TGL: Of course your videogame voice over work is not limited to just MGS. Tell our audience some of the other games you’ve been involved in.
JP: I’ve done a few over the years. Off the top of my head there’s ‘The Lion King’, ‘Return to Castle Wolfenstein’, the first ‘Lord of the Rings’ games and ‘The Bard’s tale’.
TGL: And now you’ve turned your hand to writing and producing. Earlier this year one could see ‘The Rock’ Dwayne Johnson plastered all over advertising boards and on the sides of buses around Dublin as the ‘Tooth Fairy’. You’re not only the executive producer of the film but you wrote the story. Where do get all the time to do all these projects?
JP: I’ve been around a while, so there’s where the time comes from! I’ve been writing and producing as well as acting for about 20 years now. I haven’t had a problem doing both so far. And If I did, I think it would be a problem I could live with!
TGL: Do you see yourself working more in writing and producing now than acting and performing?
JP: I can’t predict that, to be honest. It tends to be quite cyclical. In the 90’s I put a lot of time and energy into my writing but since then – in the last decade – I’ve split my time more evenly. In the past couple of years the pendulum’s swung back more towards writing and producing.
TGL: Would you ever consider penning the storyline to a video game?
JP: Absolutely. If anyone asked me, I’d definitely be interested.
TGL: And finally Jim, are you a gamer? Have you actually sat down and played the Metal Gear Games like Snake Eater or Portable Ops that you worked on?
JP: I’m not, I confess. Again, spare time is an issue. Then there’s addiction. I did buy a soccer game once, about 15 years ago. I started playing one Saturday morning and the rest of my family went out for the day. When they came back 7 hours later, I was still playing. I must have got up briefly at some point to eat and go to the bathroom but basically I had killed an entire day, just playing. I managed to get my team (Crystal palace) to win the Premier League but the next day I gave the game away to a friend because I thought I’d never stop playing. I have much more of an obsessive personality than an addictive one but in terms of being a gamer I felt like I could easily become an addict.
A huge thank you to Jim for taking the time out of his busy schedule to take our questions. TGL wishes Jim all the best for the future.