Interview with David Bateson, the voice of Hitman’s Agent 47
David Bateson has acted in many films and stage productions, but the role he is most famous for (among gamers) is the infamous assassin Agent 47 from the Hitman game series by IO Interactive. Most video game characters have their voice actors change throughout a certain period of time, luckily Bateson, born in South Africa and now currently residing in Denmark, has lent his voice to 47 in every game for the past 17 years. We sat down to have a nice little chat about his time voicing 47, his feelings towards the new Hitman‘s episodic nature, and who would be the right person to play Agent 47 in a superb film adaption.
Nerd Reactor: Have you played any of the Hitman games yourself?|
David Bateson: I did, and I do. I’ve played them all a hell of a lot, but last year got really busy, so I played less, unfortunately. What I tried to do when visiting IO Interactive is at least start with walkthroughs and go home and get inspired. I’ve had access to all the games as they’ve been released. So yeah I have, but NOWHERE near as much as I want to! I have a secret ambition now that the games are on disc, which is to lock myself in my studio, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on it, and tell my wife, “I have a lot of work to do, honey!” [laughs]
NR: “I’m researching this part that I’ve been playing for the past 17 years!” Well it’s good that you’re busy!
DB: Yeah, but even if I say to myself that it’s research, I’m somehow sitting there with my PlayStation going, “Come on, Agent 47, you get behind that guy-” [laughs] I’m going to try to do it this summer, but I have a secret ambition that I’m going to do it this spring so we’ll see! One of my favorite levels in the game is Sapienza. That level is just…limitless!
NR: There was an Elusive Target mission where you killed Garey Busey in that level!
DB: [Laughs] Yes! I know! He’s such a crap actor! I was a big fan of his when he was in Point Break! And before that he did- I’m sorry, I’m a surfer- he did Big Wednesday. He was a lot like Michael Caine in the ’70s and ’80s; he did a LOT of skunk movies. [Laughs] He should fire his agent or something.
NR: I mean his character model in the game looked better than him, so…
NR: The new Hitman did something very unexpected in which they went episodic. Meaning that they released every level over the course of a month/month and a half. They’ll be doing this with Season 2 as well. How do you feel about this new format of getting games in increments rather than all at once?
DB: You know, many people out there were suspicious of it, and it came to me as a complete surprise. I was with the guys at an EGX Conference in Birmingham, England, in September 2015. It came up then and I went “What?! Wh- wh- am I in the same game?! I didn’t know! Don’t small games do that? Triple-A games, they don’t need to do that, do they?” I guess it was a real serious philosophy. You know, change of heart. I was actually hooked already from the first one. It feels like an episode of Homeland, where it finishes and then it leaves you hanging on! So I was kind of there when I saw that first episode, but I follow the media attention A LOT, and oh, the jury was out. “Oh, this is terrible. Oh, what have you done?” I think we can say, hand on heart, that it has really proved its success. You know, IO Interactive and Square Enix have listened to the fans. This is a whole new ball game; this is a real one-to-one relationship with the fans from level to level, and I like that! They say what’s coming in on the Hitman forums and say “Okay, you want that? Fine, we’ll give it to you! It may not be in the next level, but the level after, it’s coming.” The fans have really been included in it and I think it’s great!
NR: I agree, and it’s also really fascinating to see how well the Hitman formula just work with the episodic style.
DB: The whole idea from way back when was that you could make your own contracts and put them out there has went up another level. Here comes an Elusive Contract. GO! You only got one shot at this. Garey Busey. Dead! I like that! And it felt like everyone leaned forward into their consoles, “Okay, what’s my mission? Shit, let’s do this!” That made it more live; it made it more interactive. It almost felt like- I did this thing last year, this live-action version of Hitman where there were 22 actors and they took out some of the biggest YouTubers from Los Angeles. We all hooked up live in this huge mansion in the Southwest of England. They got 60 minutes. That’s it. One shot at this. If he gets taken out, it’s OVER! If they go over the time limit, it’s also over! Do it! What’s interesting about this was that there was a camera on the players in their own sort of control room. It was linked up all live, and to see their faces was how it feels like I’m seeing the fans and their faces when they’re playing the actual game!
NR: Did you work on Season 2 already or are you waiting to go back to that recording booth?
DB: I’ll have to kill you. [laughs]
NR: Technology has gotten better. Games have become more cinematic. What it’s like watching this series progress throughout the past 17 years?
DB: Man, this is ridiculous. We’re in the 17th year now. In the gaming industry, that’s like going from Pac-Man to the moon! It’s insane! I was in a studio and they asked me, “Hey, we’re developing this new game and we need a voice, would you have a look?” and I went, “I’ll have a look. Let’s finish this session.” And I just took one look and saw this dark, moody, film noir – kind of had a Blade Runner feel to it- kind of game. This was 16, 17 years ago. It was nearly in black and white! I was hooked on the style right then, “I’m doing it! I want to do this.” So to go from there, which kind of rocked my boat, to see it be reinvented with new engines, new possibilities, and new ways of killing. It started out with a level of detail which I had not seen in games before. I’m not an expert but I gained a lot then. [Laughs] It’s just blown me away. I didn’t think it could go as far as it’s gone so quickly, but it feels a lot like the internet. Hey, when you were a kid there was no internet. Now, what the hell?! Proportionately, it’s increasing faster than we can even imagine technology-wise. I’m excited, just generally speaking, about the gaming industry. You just go to any comic con or gaming conference to plug in to what the future has in store. I’m excited for Hitman. I’ve seen IO Interactive grow from a little cottage industry in a garage to a building with 200 programmers!
NR: We’ve had two Hitman movies so far. Let’s just say they happened [laughs]. If they were to cast the perfect Agent 47 in the perfect Hitman movie, who should it be and why? Obviously not casting you is a big mistake but still. [Laughs]
DB: Nah, I’m not going to get a crack at it because I understand how it works, but I would give my left arm and part of my anatomy to have a shot of that. I would choose someone that’s a mix of Daniel Craig and Gerard Butler. If you clone your own Agent 47, you should take the genes of those two. Craig of course because he’s done the Bond films and he has a kind of vicious coldness to him when he’s killing people which is in the right vein of Agent 47. Butler is…a f***ing hard nut [laughs]. He’s a bloody Scott, you wouldn’t want to mess with him in a dark night downtown. In principle, Rupert Friend (the actor who portrayed 47 in Hitman: Agent 47) I thought was not bad casting although he didn’t look quite right. He’s a very intelligent actor and I liked him in the Homeland series as the CIA. He was just ruthless and he had moments where he was searching for his own humanity. And there’s an element to Agent 47 that I’ve secretly [laughs] tried to slip into the character. I know he’s a clone, I know he’s a killing machine, he’s all those things, but there’s something in there I can’t quite put into words. It’s something melancholy, something like Frankenstein’s Monster. I feel like when they cloned him, there’s some flashes of humanity that are almost there. And he is a human, but it’s more in the sense of “Who am I? Where am I? What’s this all about?” So anyway: Gerard Butler, Daniel Craig, with a little bit of Liam Neeson. Just throw them altogether and they would kick some serious ass as Agent 47.
We then asked David if he had any other projects in the works and he told us to stay tuned in the Spring if it all comes together. If it doesn’t, then he’ll be the guy cleaning your windows!