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Actors Who Refused Massive Video Game Roles

Video games have grown so much since the old days of blasting space creatures, gobbling pellets, and hopping on mushrooms. What began as a form of entertainment with simple and fun objectives has evolved into a fully cinematic medium. Emerging as a new form of storytelling right up there with film, video games have become a respectable art, delivering immersive tales in dynamic worlds where gamers can easily lose themselves. And as the divide between cinema and video games has faded, recruiting voice and acting talent for games has become an increasingly big piece of the production pie.

But sometimes things don't always line up when actors are approached for a project. Sometimes these talents are big Hollywood stars who simply have too much going on, or have no interest in video game roles. Other times they're seasoned voice actors who, for one reason or another, aren't interested in taking on the job. Regardless, the show tends to go on, with or without them.

These are the actors who refused massive video game roles.

Troy Baker had to turn down Borderlands 3

Telltale Games is well known for its narrative-driven gaming experiences. Much less action-oriented, it delivers stories that call for compelling and interesting characters. As such, when news broke that Troy Baker, the voice of Rhys from Telltale's Tales from the Borderlands, would not return to portray the character in Borderlands 3, fans were bound to be disappointed.

When questioned why Baker wasn't returning, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford stated in a tweet that he was told the actor declined the part. In an interview with OnlySP, Baker rejected Pitchford's claim that it was entirely his decision. 

According to Kirk McKeand's article documenting an exclusive interview with VG247, Baker confirmed that they initially approached him to voice Rhys in Borderlands 3. Despite his eagerness to revisit the role, he had to turn it down because Gearbox "wouldn't go union" and he is a loyal member of SAG-AFTRA. McKeand's article goes on to explain how Gearbox pinned the decision on Texas' status as a right-to-work state, though this was challenged by SAG-AFTRA. Although Baker said he did not resent the decision, he stressed the importance of bringing back the talent who first voiced these returning characters.

Troy Baker also turned down the role of Joker before ultimately accepting it

Troy Baker is a name that pops up a lot when it comes to video game voice talent. With an impressive resume that includes The Last of Us, BioShock Infinite, Batman: Arkham Knight, and Uncharted 4, he is a veteran of the gaming industry. But even someone with his qualifications would be intimidated to take on such a prestigious part as the Joker.

A character with so much history, so much backstory, such complexity, and portrayals by some of Hollywood's most legendary players, the Joker is a role not for the faint of heart. And according to an interview with GAMINGbible, for this very reason, Baker actually turned down an offer to play the Joker not just once, but twice. Though beyond the intimidation, he elaborates in the interview how he lost a role early in his career because he was unable to nail maniacal laughter to the satisfaction of that project's director. 

Regardless, he eventually accepted the part. He wound up doing it so well, he's since entered the ranks as one of the greatest Joker voice actors, becoming a regular vocal performer for the infamous Batman villain. Even so, he made sure to tell GAMINGbible that Mark Hamill will always have first dibs.

Michael Ironside wanted to back out of playing Sam Fisher

Michael Ironside is a movie actor known for his performances in several hit films, such as Topgun, Starship Troopers, and Total Recall. What you may not know is he was also the voice of Sam Fisher in the Splinter Cell series. In 2014, Ironside participated in a Reddit AMA where he answered eager fans' questions about his career, including his work as Sam Fisher. Following one user's question regarding how he felt about Ubisoft recasting the part, Ironside revealed that he almost rejected the role.

As Ironside told it, he was admittedly not a gamer and initially accepted the job without much thought, figuring he would simply play a host or narrator. But what he found out after receiving the script was that he would be playing a brutal, violent, one-dimensional character. He immediately lost interest and tried to back out, but the team at Ubisoft wouldn't have it. Ubisoft wanted him to play Sam so badly that those behind the game honored his wish to develop a more compelling protagonist. Ironside worked with the creators to bring some depth to Sam Fisher until the actor was satisfied with the part, adding "as much humanity" to the character as possible. More than just a voice, Michael Ironside helped create the Sam Fisher fans know today.

David Eddings didn't come back to play Claptrap

Fans of the Borderlands series might think their ears are deceiving them when they play Borderlands 3, though it's not just Rhys who sounds different. The character of Claptrap was also given a new voice.

David Eddings refused to continue voicing Claptrap in Borderlands 3 because, as he put it, he was never actually paid for any of his previous voice work to begin with. Working as vice president of business development at Gearbox for 12 years, Eddings lent his voice to Claptrap during his tenure without any additional compensation. In a tweet, he implied that Gearbox wanted him to continue playing Claptrap in Borderlands 3 for free even though he no longer worked for the company. Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford rejected this allegation, and in an official statement to IGN, a company spokesperson echoed Pitchford's claim that Eddings was in fact offered a fair rate to reprise the role.

In the comments of his tweet, Eddings said that he'll "continue to do VO work for fun on games [he] and [his] friends make." Whatever really happened behind closed doors, it seems as though Pitchford and Eddings probably don't call each other on the weekends.

Ashly Burch had to let go of Chloe

Sometimes an actor can grow very attached to a character whom they portray. In such cases, it can be quite painful for the performer to say goodbye to said character. Ashly Burch knows how this feels, as she had to move on from a role that was close to her heart.

Burch played Chloe in the highly successful Life is Strange and was asked to reprise the part for the prequel, but there was a hitch — development was happening during the SAG-AFTRA strike that started in 2015. Because Square Enix was not aligned with union interests, she had a very difficult decision to make: uphold her loyalty to SAG-AFTRA, or accept the opportunity to continue voicing Chloe, which, in an interview with Kotaku, she described as "an almost cathartic experience."

Ultimately, Burch had to turn down the chance to voice Chloe for most of Life is Strange: Before the Storm. In her conversation with Kotaku, she compared the decision to putting a child for adoption. Though the experience may have been difficult, she was at least able to continue being a part of Chloe's world through a writing and consulting position, and was able to return for one last hurrah following the strike.

Van Damme said no to what became Mortal Kombat

Since the first Mortal Kombat, Johnny Cage has been gracing gamers with his smug smile and his signature crotch punch. And considering his appearance — his status as an arrogant Hollywood martial arts actor, and his below-the-belt attack that's achieved through a perfect leg split — it may come as no surprise that the character was modeled after real-life action star Jean-Claude Van Damme. But did you know JCVD was actually approached to be in the game that would become Mortal Kombat?

Originally, the creators of Mortal Kombat wanted to make their own version of Street Fighter 2 that featured Jean-Claude Van Damme. Unfortunately, the actor was not interested in working on the project, so they had to shift gears and find a fresh angle to approach this new fighting game, and thus Mortal Kombat was born. 

In a conversation with MEL Magazine, Daniel Pesina, who originally played Johnny Cage, denied that his character was based on JCVD, comparing him to Iron Fist alter ego Danny Rand instead. Even so, the team was not above firing a few shots at the martial arts star. Pesina later recounted how the crotch punch was meant to be a slight jab at JCVD for refusing the Mortal Kombat team's offer.

Kurt Russell had no interest in playing Snake

When playing the Metal Gear Solid series, it's hard not to see similarities between Solid Snake and Escape From New York protagonist Snake Plissken. Despite what you may think, MGS series creator Hideo Kojima has denied any ties between the two characters. When you learn that Kojima at one point wanted Kurt Russell to replace David Hayter in Metal Gear Solid 3, however, you may be inclined to believe otherwise.

News that David Hayter was replaced in Metal Gear Solid 5 came as a shock to many fans, though he revealed in an interview with IGN that it was not the first attempt to give his part away to another actor. Despite his success as the voice for Solid Snake, he had to re-audition for the part of Naked Snake in Metal Gear Solid 3, since Kojima had his eye on Russell instead. The Escape From New York star was not interested, and Hayter was able to continue his legacy in MGS3.

It's quite a shame that such a beloved actor had to fight to keep his part in the game. Though Kojima may have wanted Kurt Russell, even Snake Plissken himself is no substitute for David Hayter.