Duke Nukem Doesn't Want Hollywood Stars Taking Video Game Work From Voice Actors

It's hard out there for a voice actor. It doesn't matter if you're Nolan North, Jennifer Hale or Steve Blum, it seems that some companies are always going to look for big name "Hollywood" talent first.

This has been a thorn in the side of one particularly iconic voice actor — Jon St John. You probably know him as the voice of Duke Nukem, but he's a veteran voice actor and radio personality with over 30 years of experience in the industry.

I recently stumbled across a video he'd made in which he blames Hollywood celebrities for the lack of work being given to legitimate voice actors these days.

Seeing that the video was uploaded back in 2010, I decided to reach out to Jon to see if he still felt the same way. As it turns out, he does.

"Film actors do not need voice acting roles in video games, or commercial projects. These roles are for voice actors not Hollywood celebrities, and when you consider the amount of money they make for each and every film project, it is unfair to those of us who struggle to make ends meet in our chosen profession.

I have trained and worked hard for nearly 30 years as a voice actor, and when a film star lands a role in either a game or commercial project they earn far more than I do, even though I am also SAG-AFTRA union member. How is that fair? I don't appreciate them taking work from me and my fellow VA's."

John didn't comment when I asked him what he thought about companies who believed they could use celebrities like Liam Neeson and Patrickl Stewart, who are both talented actors with recognizeable voices, but I've no reason to believe assume he feels any differently.

To Jon, film actors are film actors and voice actors are voice actors and Hollywood needs to stay away from his bread and butter.

What say you? Do you agree with Jon that film actors have no place doing voice work? Or do you think that a talented film actor should be allowed to lend his or her voice to games as well?


    Agreed, because they also end up with the likeness too. If you can create your own character for the game you're making. Why bother with having a hollywood actor ? What is it, beyond? with Ellen Page is it? Arent they using that likeness for the character model as well as her voice? Seems fucking stupid to me. Just a selling point, nothing else.

      It's not just her likeness and voice. They are also using her for motion capture. The point is that they are aiming for a highly cinematic experience that uses all aspects of an actor/actress, hence why they went with an actual film actress with both physical and verbal acting chops. Sure, I definitely agree that a lot of games will grab a film actor or actress and use their name as a selling point, rather than employing somebody who suits the role more, but Beyond seems to be one of the exceptions.

        Beyond is an example of how it should be done, if you're going to use a hollywood actor, then use them for the whole performance, not just the voice. And while it didn't really have any big stars, L.A. Noire did this in the right way as well.

    Bitter much?

      Well they are stealing his livelyhood so... no, I don't need to defend him, you comment was just plain moronic. Try and think about the situation for a while.

    depends on who the celebraty is and what there role is in the game

    I've been working as a theatre actor for several years now after my training and while i obviously don't have the wealth of experience as Mr. Jon here, I'd have to wonder when he finally worked out this industry is just tough. I mean I've worked on a number of shows where we've had several cast members fired just because actors from McCloud's Daughters became available and decided they wanted in. It's easy to just say it's dispicable to take our living away from us but in the end it only matters what the audience wants. Our product is for them and if we aren't making them happy then we aren't really doing our job. Who says actors can't cross over anyway? I'm pretty sure he wouldn't turn down a film role if given the chance.

    I wonder how he feels about John Di Maggio

      DiMaggio has done a tonne more voice work than actual acting, I'd say he'd consider him a colleague

    Imagine one day video games having the last name of the star on the top in bigger letters than the games actual title. It made me think a lot of movies were called "Schwarzenegger" growing up.

      Growing up I thought Tom Clancy made a lot of games.

        I'd play Tom Clancy's Farmville.

    I think having big name actors is kinda cool. What's the alternative? Yuri Lowenthal voicing every brown haired teenager and Vic Mcderpaderp voicing all the blonde ones. Go play two JRPGs, and then tell me there's enough voice actors out there.

      Jake, shut up and play the Arkham games. Or Mass Effect games.
      With the exception of perhaps one or two people who also do TV, the rest are talented as hell and rarely stray from VA.

    Sound's like Jon is having trouble coming to terms with the fact that there are people more talented than him in the world.

    While there certainly are some very talented voice actors out there who are truly gifted in the range and quality of characters they can play (Billy West, Rob Paulsen, Frank Welker, etc), a lot of voice actors seem to be aspiring live-action actors who aren't quite talented enough to reach Hollywood, but then realise that they still have a reasonably appealing voice. This is pretty easy to see when you look at their live-action TV and Film credits - usually just a few bit parts and background characters. I don't see a problem with wanting to hire the best talent you can get - sometimes that talent comes from Hollywood stars.

    What I do have a problem with is going for big names for their star power when they may not be the best choice for the role. Dreamworks is especially guilty of this in their films.

      The other terrible thing about companies doing this is that they pay insane amounts of money on the VA 'star' that they could've spent on QA and bug-fixing.

    It's a bit tough to be black and white about it. Getting a random Holywood celebrity in to do the voice of a lead is rough on full time voice actors, but then there's games like Ghostbusters and Brutal Legend where the names are actually bringing something to the table. In the case of Ghostbusters they're also bringing in Holywood writers but it just makes sense for the game.

    Then we've got people like Mark Hamill who get into VA work later on in their careers. Should he have been blocked from becoming the Joker just because he had his share of the pie as Luke Skywalker? We've also got people like Jack Black who have done a hell of a lot of VA work and are quite skilled at it but aren't interested in nailing their career down to something as specific as a dedicated voice actor.

    I think when it comes to games voice actors should also recognise they're actually quite lucky to have the video game path offering an extra line of work next to TV. Even just fifteen years ago this work didn't really exist. There was the odd Wing Commander situation or adventure game but the tech just couldn't handle having a fully voiced cast like say, Ducktales.
    The lead may go to Mark Wahlberg for no other reason than his fame, but at least the minor video game work is still there and still growing. In a TV animation the background character has to whisper a few things when Superman flies by, in a game they have to record ten times as much dialogue which means ten times as much paid work. They may get Snoop Dogg to play a radio station DJ as a gimmick in the next GTA, but they'll still need actual voice actors to do the other stations.
    Maybe it's not ideal but it's not a bad thing.

      I like that Mark Hamill is doing voice work. I'd also love to hear more people like Peter Weller, Christopher Lambert, Clancy Brown, Bruce Campbell, Michael Bien, Carl Weathers and Sean Young in games. They all have serious geek/cult credentials on their resumes, but aren't really superstars, so they suit the world of videogames.

        The only question you should be asking is do they have interesting voices, and can they act? Geek cred shouldn't matter. It all comes down to whether or primary concern is making the best game you can, or making money.

        That said, I'd still love to see some of those guys do more voice work too.

          Yeah man, they can totes act - remember most VA's are only slightly better than porn stars when it comes to acting, so you don't exactly have to be Michael Fassbender or Cate Blanchett to be in a game.

          Also, I should have added Rutger Hauer, James Marsters, Lucy Lawless and Jason Momoa to that list...c'mon, Jason Momoa NEEDS to play Kratos, goddammit! This must happen. You know it makes sense. :p

      Brutal Legend? Where Jack Black played...Jack Black?
      There are WAY better people out there who can CHANGE their voice sound and voice style.

    How about we stop giving Nolan North a character in every single series? It's getting a little ridiculous.

      We can stop giving him the roles when someone else does a great job.

        He's a good voice actor, yes, but he's hardly the only one. Can I name any others off the top of my head? No, because none are as absurdly famous as Nolan North.

        Clank from Ratchet and Clank comes to mind as a brilliant voice, though.

    Stephen fry and John Cleese were amazing in fable 3.

      But they showed up to play "Stephen Fry" and "John Cleese". There was ZERO difference.

    What a load of sour grapes. John St John needs to realise that it doesn't matter what the job is, it's just acting.

    I'm not sure of his other voice acting roles but I would hardly consider his work in Duke Nukem to be good. Although maybe it shows his acting class not bursting into laughter due to the crappy dialog

      Did you see his video? His main target is the highly paid Hollywood superstars who DON'T need the gig. It's his (and other voice actors') bread and butter, while it's peanuts to the superstar.

    Completely agree with St. Jon here. It's the natural evolution past animated cartoons and films. Like in those films, with the exception of maybe Robin Williams, most 'celebrity' voice acting has been incredibly dull and uninspiring.

    As much as I love Patrick Stewart, and think he is a phenomenal actor, it was nothing but awkward to see a stoic wax doll mumble lines with no real context to the surroundings in Oblivion, and the same with Skyrim. Even Martin Sheen sounded stilted and awkward in Mass Effect 3, as if he was just reading off paper.

    Actors specialise in their movements, motion, range, and generally do alot of research to get into a character. When celebrities are brought into a video or a game, they are generally just picking up a paycheck and are expected 'to be themselves' as they're the selling point. Also since their time is much more money, they pretty much just read the lines in a recording booth, and that's it.

    Good voice actors generally have a huge range of different voices they can call upon, and generally are much more animated vocally (because they're not relying on cameras to pick up their expressions) . They just naturally suit animated mediums more. I can completely get behind someone like John St John (who's done an incredible amount of voice acting, not just Duke Nukem) and Billy West (who's also made this complaint before) being upset about celebrity voice actors, when they have the capability for huge ranges and play thousands of different characters in the same television show/movies, yet one celebrity earns more than they will ever do from one token appearance.

    All american voice actors should perish- the world would be a better place.

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