ZeniMax Online has revealed the cast of voice actors who will be giving
life to a number of the key characters in the Elder
Scrolls Online, releasing a cool announcement
video featuring interviews with some of the main cast. As one might
expect from this company, they went all-out and got some pretty big names.
I love me some pop culture and Hollywood trivia, so these kinds of
announcements always peak my interest, especially when they come out of
the big-budget studios who can afford to hire movie stars to sit in little
booths and yell things into a microphone.
In the past, ZeniMax has used some huge names. Here's a few examples:
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion featured Patrick Stewart as the
Emperor, and Sean Bean as (ironically enough) his bastard son
- Liam Neeson played "Dad" in Fallout 3, and Ron Perlman reprised his
"War... war never changes" narration from the previous Interplay titles
- Skyrim featured the voices of legendary actors Christopher Plummer and
Max von Sydow, among others
- The voice cast of Fallout: New Vegas looks like it could have come
right off a movie poster from the early 2000's or so.
So going big with the Elder Scrolls Online is pretty much par for the
course. Some of the ESO voice talent is what we might call "the
usual suspects," but others are a pleasant surprise, and there are some
interesting dots to connect.
For instance, it's no shocker that 70s TV goddess Lynda Carter
will be returning to voice the Daedric goddess Azura.
She's done Elder Scrolls voices since Morrowind, and she's married to the
CEO of ZeniMax Media, Robert Altman. It warms my little nerd-boy heart to
think that a guy who makes video games for a living got to marry Wonder
Woman. To be fair, he used to be a lawyer and is super-rich, and she
hasn't worn the costume since the early 80's, but still. It's Wonder
We also get another go-around with our old pal Malcolm McDowell.
The last time he did work for ZeniMax, he voiced President John Henry Eden
in Fallout 3, and this time around he voices the Elder Scrolls Online's
chief antagonist, Molag Bal. Back in the 1970's, he did
such a bang-up job as teenage psychopath Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork
Orange that he has been cast primarily in villain roles ever since.
And he likes it that way. Malcolm McDowell prefers to play "the
heavy," as he puts it, because "a piece is only as good as its villain."
Scan his IMDB profile and you'll see the names of a great many "heavies."
He was even a bad guy on Entourage - Terrance McQuewick was so nasty he
managed to make Ari Gold look sympathetic.
And it's not just the gods getting the star treatment. The three faction
leaders are being voiced by some big-money talent also. It's important to
have quality voice-acting for these roles, because they will set the tone
for the entire faction, and thus play a significant part in the player's
game overall experience. Imagine, for example, that your faction leader
sounded like a high school drama student trying to read lines of
Shakespeare right out of a book - the whole faction would seem like a
joke. But put a proper Shakespearian actor at the helm reading those same
lines and it's a whole different story. You get a fancy-talkin' leader you
can take seriously.
High King Emeric, faction leader of the Daggerfall
Covenant, will be voiced by one of my personal favorite character actors,
Bill Nighy. I really hope they did some face-modelling
and motion capture for the character, because Nighy is a man of great
expression - you can always tell it's him even when his face is hidden by
a swarm of octopus tentacles, as it was when he played Davy Jones in
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, because of the eyes and the
very measured and particular way his mouth forms words. You can see his
expressive face more clearly in Shaun of the Dead, where he plays the part
of Shaun's step-father Phillip, or as the bowtie-wearing museum curator in
the Doctor Who episode, "Vincent and the Doctor," or with his Elder
Scrolls Online co-stars in the Underworld series or Harry Potter and the
Deathly Hallows: Part 1.
Jorunn the Skald-King, leader of the Ebonheart Pact,
will be voiced by Swedish actor, Peter Stormare. Chances
are, you've seen Peter Stormare in something before (though not in the
cast announcement video), and I'm a fan of his work. He rarely plays
leading roles, but he is a fantastic and fairly prolific character actor
who often plays colorful but disturbing secondary characters. He was the
primary nihilist, Uli Kunkel (aka "Karl Hungus"), in the Big Lebowski, one
of the "funny-lookin'" criminals in Fargo, and he played Satan in
Constantine, the movie version of comic book series Hellblazer. He has
done voice work in Icewind Dale II and, more recently, The Secret World.
He also does a lot of work in small indie films, like Small Town Murder
Songs, which was filmed in my neck of the woods in rural Ontario, Canada -
Mennonite country, which features prominently in the plot of that movie.
We don't get a lot of movies filmed around here, so Peter Stormare is
probably a bigger name around these parts than he is most places outside
The third faction leader, Queen Ayrenn, will be voiced
by Kate Beckinsale. This one I find less impressive than
the others. Her biggest roles are characters that I find super-attractive
but ultimately completely despicable in one way or another, even though
everyone else seems to love them. I hated Selene in the Underworld movies
(featuring co-star Bill Nighy) because the character confuses "reckless
and self-centered" for "strong and independent." In fact, that seems to be
kind of a theme among her characters, starting with Pearl Harbor. I guess
it works well for Queen Ayrenn, as well, and the character will be consistent
with the ones she has done in the past. Kate Beckinsale describes Queen
Ayrenn as a "good role-model" in the cast announcement video - I guess she
missed the parts where her character's leadership is built on a platform
of racism and manifest destiny.
These are sort of the top-billed starring roles in the game, but the cast
of secondary characters is no less impressive.
Alfred Molina may not exactly be a household name, but
he has an impressive body of work. He will be voicing Imperial
puppet-master Abnur Tharn, head of the Elder Council in
Cyrodiil (and possibly an ancestor of Jagar Tharn, the Battlemage who takes
center stage as the main antagonist in the very first Elder Scrolls game,
Arena). Most people will probably know him as Doctor Otto Octavius, Doctor
Octopus, from Spider-Man 2. But he has also portrayed revolutionary
Mexican painter Diego Rivera, husband of surrealist Frida Kahlo, in the
movie Frida. As an art-school nerd, this role matters much more to me than
his turn as a comic book villain. Although, as a Marvel/Spider-man
fanboy, Doc Ock is pretty badass, too.
But as a normal, every-day kind of nerd, Molina's involvement doesn't
inspire the same giddiness that John Cleese's does. His
role as "Don Quixote-like" Sir Cadwell the Undaunted, Knight
of the Port of Coldharbor, may not be as central to the story as a Daedric
prince or a faction leader, but it is sure to be memorable. Younger
readers may only recognize John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick from the
first couple of Harry Potter movies, but us older types will surely
recognize our favorite Minister of Silly Walks from his legendary Monty
Python days. What strikes me as funny is, every time you see John Cleese
listed as a cast member for something, he is always credited for A Fish
Called Wanda, as though no American could have possibly heard of Monty
Python's Flying Circus, but surely every one of them knows that one movie
from the mid-80s.
Speaking of Harry Potter characters, Albus Dumbledore himself will be
guiding the player through his journey to recover his stolen soul. Well,
one of them will be, anyway. Michael Gambon, the second
and longer-running Dumbledore, will be voicing the Prophet,
a mysterious blind man who seems to know a thing or two about Molag Bal
and stolen souls. Michael Gambon may come across as a bit cheeky in
the cast announcement video, but his characters tend to be much more
serious and occasionally a bit dour. He had some big shoes to fill
when the original Dumbledore, Richard Harris, passed away, but his sober
performance as the headmaster of Hogwarts proved he was equal to the task.
He is assisted in this task by Lyris Titanborn, a Nord
half-giant voiced by another video game voice-acting legend, Jennifer
Hale. Kevin Michael
Richardson and Jim Ward are two more Elder
Scrolls Online voice actors who may not have familiar faces, but whose
voices you have almost certainly heard before. Richardson plays a
sword-master named Sai Sahan, and Ward
voices the legendary necromancer Mannimarco - a
character who appears in two other games, set hundreds of years later, as
a villain. Between the three of these actors, they've been in just about
everything since the end of the 1990s. Chances are good that if you do an
IMDB search of your favorite cartoon, video game or animated feature in
the past 20 years or so, one or more of their names will be on the cast
list. Certain Star Wars games, in particular, feature all
three. These three actors don't get any screen time in the cast
announcement video, but their contributions will prove significant if
history is any indication.
Got an opinion about the voice cast of the Elder Scrolls Online? Let us
know in our comments!
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