Years ago, back in the day, the TGL team booted up a disc labelled “Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars”, and little did we know that we’d still be talking about it even to this day. Introducing some clever mechanics (the virtual theatre), Broken Sword contained some truly memorable and emotional moments. Sixteen years later, TGL finally sat down with the man behind the voice of George Stobbart to talk about his work in movies, games and more…here’s what he had to say.
The Gaming Liberty: Rolf to the gaming world you’d be recognised as the man behind the voice for George Stobbart, can you tell us a bit about yourself? Did you always want to be an actor growing up?
Rolf Saxon: No, I didn’t always want to be an actor. In fact, I really only took my first drama class in high school because a girl I had a crush on suggested I do so. I had assumed that she would be there as well but I was wrong. She was nowhere to be seen and I was pretty disappointed to be honest but I did find what would eventually turn into a career. I still remember her name and I wonder what she is up to these days.
TGL: You’ve an exstensive background in TV. What do you think would be your crowning moment during your early days of acting?
RS: ‘Crowning’ implies to me what was my most ‘successful’ moment. I have been lucky enough to have enjoyed the great majority of the jobs I did in my career. Having said that, there are a couple that stand out early on; I was given an award graduating from my drama school and that was pretty great as was the feeling of getting into the Royal Shakespeare Company for the first time. I did a series, Capital City, which I loved doing and a couple of plays that were very special to me. That kind of thing but I don’t think I could point to any one and say that single job was the best.
TGL: You worked on front of both American and English screens. The two of them have a distinctive difference in humour and drama, but which do you prefer and why?
RS: Although I was born and raised in the States, I have spent most of my life in the UK . So I suppose I am something of a hybrid. There are indeed differences in style with regard to both humour and drama as you correctly point out but, often, what works well in one country also does pretty well in the other.
As for preference, I have none. My business is basically pretty challenging as well as rewarding. Each country offers different challenges as well as rewards. I think I’m pretty lucky in that I am able to work in both countries.
TGL: Moving on to movies, your work covers iconic movies like Mission Impossible, Saving Private Ryan and Tomorrow Never Dies. Do you have any fond memories of working of big budget films like these?
RS: I have great memories from all of them. I was able to actually work with some of the best people in the film business in Stephen Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Brian De Palma. And work with actors I respected then and even more after having met them; Vin Diesel, Barry Pepper, Ed Burns. I don’t think one can work on pictures like these and not enjoy it.
TGL: The transition from TV to movies and then to voice acting must have been a strange experience in some respects. How do you feel each differ from the rest?
RS: It actually wasn’t that straight forward a sequence for me. I started in theatre and then moved into film and TV pretty much at the same time a year or so later. Technically speaking, working in film and TV they are relatively similar. A voice is something an actor works with on pretty much every job so the transition to radio (where I was first hired for my voice) wasn’t that difficult either.
However, the differences between the disciplines are marked. Fundamentally, theatre is a broader canvas on which to work. Film and TV are much more subtle and require a more minimalist approach to expression – both physical and emotional. A voice job on the other hand, can be very daunting because you don’t have your body to help you tell the story and can also be very liberating for exactly the same reason
TGL: Your work in gaming really started with your role as George Stobbart in Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars. How did you find yourself slipping into the shoes of George?
RS: When I started the first game, it took two weeks, working 6 days a week, 10 hours a day to record it (I had originally been booked for one 5 day week). It was the largest game that had been done up to that point. The script (hundreds of pages long) was done for the most part but not all of the art work. In fact I think only about a third that had been completed by the time we started recording.
George’s character had been written but I was allowed to take some liberties with it. The creative team was very good about including me in the formation of George. There were definite boundaries I had to work within but I was given a pretty free hand with the humour aspect. I felt it was important to keep him up beat and joking because the stuff that he was witnessing and experiencing was pretty intense. I think the script had been written with that very much in mind so I just pushed the boundaries a little.
TGL: George is a clever, witty and courageous character. Do you share any of his attributes?
RS: He’s actually a pretty great guy. He has his faults but he has fortitude and he has perseverance. And he can be funny. I suppose I certainly have perseverance and I can – on occasion – be funny. The whole courage thing though, not so much . . .
TGL: Can you tell us about the recording process with Revolution Studios?
RS: Well, as I said, the first game took 2 weeks to record. The studio was small and we were working very closely, literally and metaphorically. The director, Alan Drury, Producer and creator of BS, Charles Cecil. The subsequent games had different directors as well as different Nicos and were much shorter working time frames – usually no more than a week and I think once, even less.
TGL: Revolution Studios created a certain bond between George and Nico that seemed to transend their troubles, arguements and even the subsequent break-up. What are your views on their unique relationship?
RS: I think they were very young when they first got together and I think they were made for each other. They compliment each other well – for the most part. I can’t wait for the next installment!
TGL: The Broken Sword series has had to change gears somewhat during its time in the gaming world: from 2D to 3D. Some fans of the series felt that this move to 3D saw a loss of charm so to speak, what are you views on this evolution?
RS: I think your choice of the word evolution is exactly right. Games and gaming were – and are – evolving. If the game had not evolved, it would have stopped selling. I certainly accept, as does the whole production team, that there were some disappointed fans with the transition. I can only hope that they understand why it was felt it had to be done. Believe me, it was not an easy decision nor was it one that was taken quickly.
TGL: Is there a certain game/franchise/studio you’d like to work on/with?
RS: There are so many these days – and great ones. I suppose I look at it more like what kind of a job would like to do. I would really like to play a bad guy. I have also just recently met with Alexander Schottky, the German George. We are going to try and swing for him to do a small part in the English version and for me to do a small part in the German version of the upcoming number 5. That would be very cool.
TGL: Are you a gamer? Have you played any of the Broken Sword titles?
RS: I hate to admit that I am not really much of a gamer. However, I have played the first two BS games and sections of the others – but not very well. In fact I was crap!
TGL: What’s next for you Rolf?
RS: I have just completed filming on an independent feature film called US and am now doing a play in Palm Desert, California with Linda Gray and Kathleen Noone and then I’ll be heading back to London in the spring. Thanks for the invitation and I love the site. Take care and all the best!
We’d like to thank Rolf for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat to TGL. His work in the Broken Sword franchise still remains some of the finest, and iconic, voice-acting we’ve witnessed to date. We’d also like to take this opportunity to wish him all the best in his future projects, and we can only hope to see him reprise his role as George sometime in the future.