If You Like Splinter Cell, Thank The Guy Who Played Sam Fisher

If You Like Splinter Cell, Thank The Guy Who Played Sam Fisher

Fun fact: actor Michael Ironside, who voiced Tom Clancy stealth juggernaut Splinter Cell‘s main character, super spy murder dad Sam Fisher, nearly quit before the series even got off the ground.

As part of a Reddit AMA, Ironside talked about Splinter Cell‘s early days and how he basically didn’t want anything to do with it because good ol’ Sam was a “two-dimensional killing machine.” He nearly walked out entirely:

“I have to confess I’m not a gamer. And when they sent me the contract for the very first game, it was quite lucrative, and I said ‘absolutely, I will do this.’ I thought it was going to be like PONG, and I would just have to introduce it.”

“When I got the script, it was very stiff, very inflexible, and very blood and violent. And I didn’t want to do it. And told them I was going to give them back their money. They asked me what would it take to keep me on the project, and I said we would have to change the character, and give him some type of humanity. To their credit, they sat me down with the game creators, and we came up with the present Sam Fisher, who had an empathy and was not just a 2 dimensional killing machine. And we got as much humanity, I think that that format will allow.”

He also espoused the virtues of being able to act alongside the game’s other actors, rather than talking into the wall of some cold, sterile booth. He said he refused to do it any other way. “On the first two games, we brought the cast in, and we all did it together, so we had a sense of humanity,” he said. “That was one of my stipulations.”

So then, why didn’t he reprise his now-iconic role in Splinter Cell: Blacklist, the series’ most recent entry? Because, as it turns out, real decades-old men aren’t so great at the whole super spy gig:

“I think it’s a great idea for Ubisoft. They have gone to motion capture, and this spring I will be 65 years old. I don’t think anyone wants to pay money seeing a 65 year old Sam Fisher bounce around on set, killing and stumbling while he kills people. I wish them all the luck. I hope that franchise has a long and storied future.”

Which is totally understandable. It’s kind of a shame, though, given that — as Kirk pointed out in his review of Blacklist — Sam’s actually a pretty generic dude without Ironside manning his gravel-spackled pipes.

Ironside certainly had a big hand in making the series what it is, though. Bravo to that. Thanks, Michael Ironside. Thmichaelirons — [trips over his own tongue and down a flight of stairs].

To contact the author of this post, write to nathan.grayson@kotaku.com or find him on Twitter @vahn16.


  • Whoa, I didn’t know he was that old. Chaos Theory is one of my favorite games of all time, the suspense in this game was unlike anything I’ve ever felt in a videogame before, and I loved every moment of it.

  • Also the 2nd best Batman.

    I don’t get why he couldn’t be the voice while the other guy does the motion capture. The other guy was just bland and made no sense why and old Sam Fisher sounded like a guy in his 30s. His daughter has to be at least 25-30.

    • You’ve got a good point there. Maybe they are motion capturing even the speaking motions? And to cut costs, they’re both capturing and recording at the same time.

    • The dev’s reasons for this made me irritated upon seeing the final product. In the cutscenes Sam just stands around for the most part when talking, plus he now sounds awful. It’s a real shame that any soul left in the Splinter Cell franchise machine is gone.

  • It is such a bloody shame. Blacklist was well enough made, no challenge though (which is usually fine coz I am a casual player (casual as in I don’t usually care about challenges)), but even the hardest difficulty was easy. But the combat was sound.

    Michael Ironside was 60% of the game though, the story, voice acting (and voices themselves) in Blacklist were just awful. We really needed to keep that quirky feeling we get from a good script and voice actors. I pray to God that they can recover Ironside for the next game.

    I was surprised about his “violence” comment after seeing his performance in Total Recall. Maybe it was his ugly death? lol.

    Additionally, no one thinks “Tom Clancy” when you say Splinter Cell, they think “Michael Ironside” that guy who kept getting yelled at along the lines of “DAMMIT FISHER! YOU FAILED THE MISSION!”.

  • Splinter cell: 2nd best spy video game series, (no. 1 is metal gear), michael ironside as sam fisher is as iconic as david hayter as solid snake. Which makes you remind yourself that splinter cell started out as a book series

    • Nope, Splinter Cell started out as a game. It was made in 2002. Tom Clancy then went on to release the book ‘Splinter Cell’ in 2004. It was one of the first Clancy properties to go the backwards route, game –> book rather than book –> game.

        • Yep it sure was. MS was looking for its own mgs like franchise. imho Chaos theory was an almost perfect game and outdid mgs2 in terms of gameplay.

    • I think Splinter Cell is a better spy game, at least in terms of the spy milieu. Metal Gear is it’s own gonzo thing.

      And as @weresmurf said, it was a game first, then a book series

  • Unfortunately, I couldn’t actually get into Blacklist purely because the guy they got the voice Fisher was as Kirk said, awfully generic. They could’ve at least FAKED the iconic voice but they didn’t and that really just spoiled everything for me. It’s an odd thing not to like a game for but for whatever reason, it took away from the experience for me.

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