While James McCaffrey’s career goes far, far beyond the walls of Max Payne, many gamers admire what he brought to the world of videogames. As Max Payne he is the everyday guy pushed to the edge in extreme circumstances, while in Alan Wake he is the chilling voice of Thomas Zane, a character that is akin to the players subconcious. Personally, I’ve always wanted to interview James, so it was a very genuine thrill and honour to do so. I hope you enjoy…
Retroplayer- Max Payne was the first videogame you were involved in back in 2001, James. Why get into videogames at that point, and why Max Payne in particular?
James- I didn’t choose it. I was doing voice-overs for commercials for awhile, and it was the first videogame I got. I think it was down to between me and Josh Brolin, who didn’t really have the big career he has now. I just thought it would be something to do, because I didn’t know much about videogames. My agent called and told me I got it. But it really wasn’t such a big deal to me at the time. It was just two weeks, six hours a day in the sound-booth with some good guys. It was around a 400 page script. But we had a lot of laughs to break up the monotony of recording. The director was a pretty nice guy. I remember it was a hot summer, and the recording studio was down on 5th Avenue, which was not far from where I lived. So it was an easy gig! I didn’t think much of it until people started telling me how much they liked it. But again, that was at the end of 2001 after 9/11, so I wasn’t really thinking of videogames.
Retroplayer- Would you approach voice over work the same way you would on-screen work?
James- Well, with Max Payne I did because it was a very straight forward detective story, with all the usual archetypal characters. Doing Max Payne 2 was easier though, as I felt I knew the character going into it.
Retroplayer- What attracts you to Max Payne?
James- Well, it’s a great story and tragedy. After what happened to his family, by hook or by crook he was going to get to the bottom of it, which he’s still probably dealing with. Max is a really interesting, well-written, layered character.
Retroplayer- When did you first hear about Max Payne 3?
James- A buddy of mine who is a gamer called me and said, “Hey, did you hear they’re making a Max Payne 3? You should contact your agent”. I hadn’t heard anything at that point, so I did contact my agent and he got in touch with the guys from Rockstar.
Retroplayer- After a nine year hiatus, what was it like getting back into the role of Max Payne?
James- As soon as I met up with Rod Edge- who is a very British guy, and he had me laughing a lot- he got me excited about the game. He gave me his view on who Max was, and though I had my own inbred idea of who Max was, he was more colourful.
James- He’s confused. He doesn’t know much about Passos, or if he can even trust him, but he doesn’t want anything to do with the mob bosses in Newark. Passos made it sound like a cushy gig down in Brazil, but it didn’t turn out that way.
James- They were great! They had a lot of Max Payne one liners; some were hilarious, some were dark. But they did a really good job at capturing some of the nuances of the original games. They studied the original games quite a lot, and it came across like they were showing them respect.
Retroplayer- Before it was out, I was quite worried that the new setting wouldn’t suit a Max Payne title. But I must say, I was blown away by it, and all of those pre-release fears were for nothing.
James- Yeah, I gotta say I wasn’t too sure either. He’s a New York guy, what’s he going to do in São Paulo? But they did it right.
Retroplayer- Plus, I wasn’t sure if Max could get to a darker place in his life. He did!
James- I know, right? Poor Max.
Retroplayer- You also did the Mo-cap this time for Max. What was that like?
James- Before Max Payne 3 I had no wish to do mo-cap at all. When my agent was in talks to get me the role Rockstar said, “Well, we’ll be paying him this amount of money, so we’d like him to do some of the mo-cap”. My agent didn’t know what that was. “It’ll be interesting”, they said, and interesting it was. Rod Edge is one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with, and if I had to work with any other normal human being it might have been boring and a pain in the ass. He has a great sense of humour. If I had to jump off something, or run over something, Rod would do it first. We’re both pretty much the same age, so I’d be thinking if he can do it, I can do it too!
They’d set up the mo-cap room like a real set. Like, “here’s your living room, here’s your car, here’s the boat we need you on”. It was all made with raw materials, but the imagination on these guys was impressive.
Retroplayer- So, you had to record the Mo-cap and dialogue, and then re-record the dialogue again in the booth, right?
James- There were a lot of scenes I didn’t have to re-record. I did all of the voice over scenes in the booth, but they kept a lot of the original mo-cap audio recordings because the quality was so good, as raw as they were.
Retroplayer- Max’s face in Max Payne 3 looks slightly different now compared as to before you were cast. In fact, he kinda of looks like you! Any truth to this?
James- Yeah, they asked me if it was OK to base his face on mine. I’ve seen some pictures where he looks a little too close to me, but in others I can see the Max I remember. It’s like a hybrid.
Retroplayer- So what if Rockstar contacted you tomorrow about a sequel. Interested?
James- Absolutely! I would do it in a heartbeat.
James- Thank you for saying that. It’s my favourite series I’ve worked on. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years now. I’ve worked on a lot of fun stuff, I’ve worked on a lot of garbage, but this was the best. It was really well written by Dennis [Leary] and his guys- mostly Dennis though. The character of Jimmy was actually based on Dennis’ real life cousin and best friend, Jerry Lucy, who died in the Worchester fire in 1999. Dennis was rocked by, absolutely rocked by it, and would have dreams about him, and would think he’d see him in the street. He wanted to get his cousin’s spirit into the show somehow, and I was just overjoyed and honoured that he chose me to do it.
James- Well I asked Dennis that myself. He told me he thought I was pretty similar to Jerry anyway. At that point I wasn’t very close to Dennis- I worked with him before on The Job- but he said, “just keep being you, and that’s a pretty good homage to Jerry.
Dennis was great to work with. It couldn’t have been easier to work with him. He’d make you laugh all day, to the point where you’d just try and get your lines out in a meaningful way, and that’d be good by him.
Retroplayer- Seeing as Rescue Me always wrestled with the idea of religion and belief, was Jimmy a figment of Tommy’s imagination, or was there something more to his appearances?
James- I know what you mean. I think Dennis left it ambiguous on purpose. That was a motivation of Dennis’, so I didn’t think about it too much. Only he knew how it was going to coming out on screen.
Retroplayer- You also had a cameo in the Max Payne movie. How did that come about?
James- Yeah, they called me asking if I’d like to be a part of it. I said yeah, and filmed up in Toronto for about 2 weeks. There were a few decent scenes they cut of me that explained my character a bit more. Not many people realise that.
Retroplayer- I didn’t like the film myself, but while watching it I couldn’t help but wonder why they didn’t use you as Max.
James- I appreciate that. Well, before Mark was on board there was talk of that… but it never went anywhere. Then when the rights were bought, everyone was just happy someone was going to do it.
Retroplayer- I still think they should do a TV series of Max Payne and cast you, at the very least.
James- Hey, that’s a good idea! Are ya writing it right now?
Retroplayer- Absolutely! You’re same age as Max too, so it’s perfect.
James- Yeah, they bumped up his age for Max Payne 3.
Retroplayer- We need an older hero in action films. Too many little shites running around with machines guns.
James- Well, I’ll tell Hollywood you said that! I will.
Retroplayer- Finally, do you have a message for all of your fans on TGL?
James- Thanks for the support!