Demon Hunters just don’t get any cooler than Devil May Cry’s Dante. TGL had the honour of catching up with the man behind the voice and moves of everyone’s favourite white haired ebony and ivory wielding demon slayer, Reuben Langdon.
We spoke to Reuben about how he got started in the industry, his production company, his work on James Cameron’s Avatar, how he landed the role of Dante and his take on the forthcoming DMC reboot.
Fingers on your devil trigger folks. Let’s rock, baby…..
TGL: Hi Reuben. It’s a pleasure to finally speak with you. How are you doing today?
Reuben Langdon: I’m great thanks. It’s great to finally speak with you guys.
TGL: Why don’t you start off by telling us how you started out in the industry?
EB: Sure. Well, I guess if I’m going to mention how I got to where I am today, I should trace it back to when I actually did some work as a model. At the start I wasn’t so sure about acting or the modelling thing but after a couple of attempts and realising that it wasn’t going to be as bad as I thought it was going to be, I started to make some decent side money and from there that led to an interest in acting and taking acting classes in Japan in Japanese. Then I landed a role on a TV show called B-Fighter Kabuto. That’s where it all started for me in terms of knowing what I wanted to do. I wanted to do action and acting and stunts. That show was kind of like a Power Ranger-esque show. I landed that role and appeared on that show as a regular for about a half a year. Since then I’ve been very much involved in the business. It has its ups and downs but I would say that in the last 10 years I’ve really been focused on my company “Just Cause” where we are doing bigger and better things every year. The main goal of the company is to produce films and videogame content.
TGL: Did “Just Cause” start out as a company that just worked on film and did you just find yourself dabbling more and more in the realm of games?
RL: When I started the company with my partner, Takuya Shibata, who is based in Japan, our goal and our intent was to create our own content and produce our own content. The idea at the start was that it would be mostly for film. Because of my experience doing acting shows and what not, I had worked on Resident Evil: Code Veronica doing motion capture and during that experience I was the only white guy on the cast and they had both a Japanese and English script. The way they had been doing motion capture up to that point was that they would usually have Japanese actors act out everything and then they would go in and localise it with English because they knew the ultimate final project was going to be in English. They asked me to do my part in English but it was awkward for them to ask the Japanese actors to act out in English. It was what I call the “Gun Head” effect. It’s like an old 80/90s Japanese film based on the manga where the lead heroine is speaking English and then there are a couple of actors who perform their dialogue in English but then the rest of the actors were speaking in Japanese and it was just weird. So when I was doing Code Veronica, I felt that weirdness. It didn’t feel right. There had to be a better way.
So a few years later, me and my partner formed the company and we were basically just looking for projects. We needed to get some experience under our belts and get or company off the ground. So we came up with a proposal to basically coordinate between the two of us and we started working on Power Rangers in the States. We wanted to audition talent in the States, cast them and then fly them over to Japan to do the motion capture. We thought it wasn’t going to be that big of a deal. Our company would help get the scripts and help localise them and take care of those aspects. We first started off with Resident Evil Outbreak. And then Devil May Cry came on board. Capcom were very happy with the results from our Resident Evil stuff. They decided to hand everything over to us for Devil May Cry and handle the script localisation and getting the talent. We actually recommended the director too. So that’s kind of what got our company started on the games side. We wanted to work on any kind of story telling media and the game thing just sort of kicked off around this time with Capcom. We work with Capcom pretty regularly. We have a very good relationship with them.
TGL: Sounds like “Just Cause” is quite a layered service…
RL: Yes it is but I do have to audition for parts in games even if my company is involved like with Chris Redfield or Dante. Actually I had to audition for Dante both times, both for Devil May Cry 3 and Devil May Cry 4 and both times for the voice too. I do both the voice and mo-cap for Dante and just the mo-cap for Chris. I actually auditioned four times for Dante, more if you count call-backs. It’s kind of like a double sided sword with Capcom. It’s great because these projects are coming in the door to my company but then I still have to go through all the motions and hoops and huddles on the auditioning side. Sometimes even more than the other actors because Capcom know I’m the owner of the company and think “how can he act?” I’ve decided now though that I won’t be auditioning for any more roles that come through my company, unless it’s a reoccurring role, because it can be too much of a headache on the producer side and the actor side. I’m separating my careers a little bit more.
TGL: But before we talk about games and the parts you’ve played in more detail, not many people probably know this but you were significantly involved in James Cameron’s Avatar, weren’t you? You did the mo-cap for Jake Sully. That’s amazing. Congratulations.
RL: Thank you. That was an amazing project and I would have to say that its probably one of the, if not the, best project I’ve ever worked on. And knock on wood; I hope I’ll be coming back for Avatar 2 and 3. Basically I had heard about the project because originally it was going to be Battle Angel. I had done some testing for Battle Angel at House of Moves which is one of the more prestige mo-cap studios here in L.A. Cameron didn’t actually make it to any of those tests but some of the other key technical people were there. So I did the test and Battle Angel which for me was my dream project. I’m a huge Battle Angel fan. I really had to get on this project especially when I heard that Cameron had the rights to the franchise. After I did that test I didn’t hear anything. At this time mo-cap in movies was still pretty new. This was about 2005-2006. A friend of mine who was on the project was always submitting my name because I was known for my mo-cap. There were only a couple of Mo-cap films out there at that time like Beowulf and Polar Express. So anyway, I had heard nothing and then all of a sudden I got a call asking me to fill in for a friend on the set. We were the same height so that helped and there I was on the set of Avatar, not Battle Angel. It was cool. Jim seemed to like what I was doing and they kept asking me back and it was on and off for about three years. It’s a super honour to have been a part of it. I’m really crossing my fingers that I get invited back for the next two movies. Thank you for mentioning Avatar because I find that usually when I go to conventions and if I mention Avatar then people usually start falling asleep. I’m like “you don’t have any Avatar questions? It was the highest grossing film of all time!” But that’s ok. People usually just want to talk about games, which is cool.
TGL: So can I ask you about games and your involvement in Devil May Cry? You are Dante after all. Did you have any idea when you got involved just how big the DMC franchise actually was?
RL: I had played the first DMC. I guess I didn’t know it had such a cult following at that stage. I didn’t really realise until after we had done the capture and the first trailer came out. It was then that I started to get a lot of hate mail from fans telling me that I wasn’t Dante and that the voice was different and I wasn’t the right character anymore. It was only then that I realised that WOW there’s a huge fan base for this. From the DMC 3 trailer that the fans saw at this time, they were not happy with the change and Dante’s new look. I would definitely say that there were more negative emails and negative posts about it on blogs and stuff. But then the game came out and everybody loved it. Then all of a sudden I’m Dante and everybody forgot about the other guy so it’s cool now.
RL: With regards to the new one, I don’t have any part in it, I haven’t been asked and I do believe that’s it probably too late in the game for me to come on board, even if they did ask me to voice or do any motion capture or anything like that. I believe that it’s a whole other different take on the character and casting and everything else just like 3. I’m not involved so I can’t say much but because I was involved in 3 and 4 I do know the history and that 3 was a reboot of the series. The new game is that as well. It may be a little more extreme or maybe not. I think people at the time when 3 came out were afraid of the changes and it proved to work in the end. What I would say about the new one is that maybe history might repeat itself.
TGL: A lot of fans are quite concerned with what they’ve seen of the new game so far.
RL: Yeah, I’ve been getting a lot of Facebook messages and emails about it and yes, I suppose I’m not that much of a fan of the direction it is going but also that’s the feeling a lot of Devil May Cry 1 fans had going into Devil May Cry 3. We won’t mention Devil May Cry 2, Capcom don’t like to talk about it that much!
TGL: For obvious reasons…
RL: Yeah, I think we’ll skip over that one. But looking back, who knows? This could be something very different and revolutionary.
TGL: We should just put our faith in Capcom and Ninja-Theory…
RL: Yes. I know that Ninja-Theory are doing the bulk of the work but I was talking to Hideaki Itsuno who was the director on DMC 2, 3 and 4 and he has been taking lots of trips over and back to and from Ninja-Theory. He seems to be involved quite a bit. So they still have one of the key team members with him working on the game.
RL: Well I have to say that it was one of the most difficult, frustrating and yet rewarding character of anyone I’ve ever played. For starters he was already established, that and they were looking for a different spin so it would have been easy to just copy the previous guy. There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen so to say. They all wanted a different spin. So on set it was very challenging and difficult because I might have had over twenty directors but really it was the relationship I had with the main director that allowed us to create that newer Dante. But I was getting notes from everybody. I remember my first motion capture scene; I thought my head was going to explode. “Do this, do that, too much of this, do this more”. I was just really being over directed and I felt like I had no creativity in the character at all. But I think what helped me in the end because I had so much over direction that I ultimately just got so frustrated and I just didn’t listen to anybody. I was just like “Screw all of you, I’m going to do what I want to do because my head just exploded in that last scene and I felt like a robot”. I basically just did my own rendition of it and even though I would still get notes after that Id still shut people down and people would start to see that I was shutting myself off. It’s a testament to any actor that even when you get direction from your director and you take it in, 90% of it has to be listening to yourself and making the choices as the performer. If you end up doing what everyone is telling you and you don’t listen to yourself then they might as well just animate the guy.
TGL: So how much does the character of Dante mean to you? Are you protective of him? Is he a real high point in your career?
RL: O yes absolutely. That’s what I meant by saying it was one of the most frustrating and rewarding. It was frustrating the first few days but then everyone would realise that this is me and this is the way Dante is being portrayed this time out. It was rewarding because the team that worked on it were great and I was a producer on it so I had a say in casting and stuff like that. Ultimately Capcom had the final say on everything but being able to bring in certain actors to audition, being able to recommend the director and being able to work with a team that was really passionate about the project was great because there were no egos involved. Any project I’ve ever worked with that has a team like that is usually successful. Avatar is a good example. That team was tight and everyone was there to do the project and it all shows in the end. Devil May Cry was rewarding because apart from playing this awesome character I got to be involved in so much more, like production or the script or whatever. I was wearing many hats. So when it came out it was more than just me being the actor. It was the same with DMC 4 and the team. 4 allowed me to bond with the character even more.
RL: The performance. Most projects ask you to do voice first and mo-cap second. With Capcom and with my team, we insist that we do the body first and then the voice over second. When you have a recorded voice that you try and put movement to, the timing is already set. You basically become a puppet. We did one project that way. I won’t name it, but it was disastrous. We were locked into other performances. We had to follow something that was pre-recorded so it was hard. The voice is one tool. The body has so much more happening, arms, legs face and facial expression. You have so many tools to express emotion. The voice is just one tool. You have a lot more freedom with doing the body first. But I love doing both voice and mo-cap. There are plus’ and minus’ to both. I have a one tonal voice. I have Dante’s voice, I have Ken Masters voice, It’s Reuben Langdon’s voice. The way I see voices is that it’s an extra layer. Maybe the body is one, special effects, stunts etc. The voice is another layer on top of that. The motion capture is a basic foundation and it allows for more creativity and more freedom. There’s more room to play around and it’s not a set layer.
TGL: So what are you working on at the moment moving forward Reuben?
RL: I’m working on a few projects at the moment that I can’t really talk about.
TGL: We love non-disclosure agreements….
RL: Yes, the game world is a very secret world. I’m working on four different very cool high profile videogame projects. I’m performing in them. Once they are announced, you will know about them.
TGL: Sounds great. Thanks Reuben. It was great catching up like this…
RL: Likewise. All the best.