Sometimes games need that extra cinematic touch.
Keanu Reeves appearing in Cyberpunk 2077 is just the latest example of Hollywood and the world of AAA games merging. Games companies are constantly trying to push the envelope when it comes to immersive, lifelike graphics, and on occasion developers need a little extra help. Sometimes the only way to truly bring a video game character to life is to hire a famous Hollywood actor to play the part.
We’re seeing this trend more and more lately, with actors not just lending their voices to big-budget games, but their digitized likenesses as well. Here are 12 major movie stars (plus Keanu!) who have made the jump from film to games…
Celebrity Travel: Bruce Willis in Apocalypse
Activision’s PlayStation shooter Apocalypse is an early example of a famous actor being digitized for the personal enjoyment of gamers. But while all the talk of 3D scanning and motion-capturing Bruce Willis’ performance sounded impressive, it eventually became apparent that the PlayStation hardware wasn’t really cut out for such a graphically intensive process. These days, Apocalypse is best remembered as the game that made developer Neversoft’s Tony Hawk games possible.
Celebrity Travel: Jet Li in Rise to Honor
Martial arts movie icon Jet Li lent his likeness and his devastating moves to this 2004 PlayStation 2 game. Li plays Kit Yun, an undercover cop tasked with protecting a crime boss’ daughter. The game was criticized for being more of an interactive movie than a deep brawler, but we imagine plenty of Li fans were perfectly happy about that trade-off.
Celebrity Travel: Jean Reno in Onimusha 3: Demon Siege
The third entry in the Onimusha series threw a major curve ball at players, adding in a time travel element as series protagonist Hidemitsu Samanosuke Akechi swapped places with modern-day police officer Jacques Blanc. The Blanc role was performed by none other than French action star Jean Reno.
Celebrity Travel: Chow Yun-fat in John Woo’s Stranglehold
Stranglehold is an especially interesting example of a game using a celebrity’s likeness, as the game acts as a direct sequel to John Woo’s 1992 film Hard Boiled. Chow Yun-fat returned to portray iconic action hero Inspector “Tequila” Yuen. The game was reported to be due for a film adaptation, though the project has been dormant for years at this point.
Celebrity Travel: Nathan Fillion in Halo
Nathan Fillion made his Halo franchise debut in 2007’s Halo 3, voicing a character named Gunnery Sergeant Reynolds. However, Fillion went the extra mile in the 2009 spinoff Halo 3: ODST (a game that also features the voices of celebrities like Tricia Helfer and Alan Tudyk), lending both his voice and likeness to a different character named Gunnery Sergeant Edward Buck. Buck later returned in 2015’s Halo 5: Guardians, receiving a massive visual upgrade in the process.
Celebrity Travel: Kristen Bell in Assassin’s Creed
Kristen Bell has played a recurring role in the Assassin’s Creed series, with her voice and likeness being applied to the character Lucy Stillman. Lucy is introduced in the original game as an assistant to Dr. Warren Vidic, helping Desmond access his genetic memories of his assassin ancestor, Altair. Bell reprised the role for several Assassin’s Creed sequels.
Celebrity Travel: Sam Witwer in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
While Sam Witwer may be best known to Star Wars fans as the voice of Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Solo: A Star Wars Story, he first cut his teeth playing a very different sort of Star Wars character. Witwer portrays Darth Vader’s secret assassin Starkiller in both Force Unleashed games, showing fans that there are some powers too great for even the Dark Lord of the Sith to control.
Celebrity Travel: Aaron Staton in L.A. Noire
L.A. Noire was a true technological showcase when it was released in 2011. The game’s “MotionScan” technology was used to capture actors’ facial movements from a variety of angles, allowing players to detect subtle changes in mood and emotion during interrogation scenes. Mad Men’s Aaron Staton served as the face of the game’s protagonist, Detective Cole Phelps.
Celebrity Travel: Ellen Page in Beyond: Two Souls
2013’s Beyond: Two Souls is a cinematic adventure that casts Ellen Page as a woman psychically bonded to an incorporeal entity named Aiden. Page and her co-stars (including Willem Dafoe) performed extensive motion capture work in addition to voice-over duties. Many gamers noted the similarities between Page’s character model and the very Page-esque character Ellie from The Last of Us. Even Page was a little bemused by the visual similarities.
Celebrity Travel: Kevin Spacey in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
The Call of Duty franchise has a long history of using famous Hollywood actors for key voice roles. But no game banked more heavily on its celebrity cast than 2014’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Actor Kevin Spacey became the face of the game, portraying antagonist Jonathan Irons in a conflict exploring the nature of war in the mid-21st century.
Celebrity Travel: Hayden Panettiere in Until Dawn
It’s only fitting that survival horror game Until Dawn would feature a celebrity cast when it draws so heavily from classic slasher movies like Friday the 13th and The Evil Dead. Hayden Panettiere is one of several Hollywood stars to play a role in the game. The cast also includes Rami Malek, Brett Dalton and Peter Stormare.
Celebrity Travel: Norman Reedus in Death Stranding
The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus is set to star in the long-gestating Death Stranding. Reedus plays protagonist Sam Bridges, a character who helps forge connections between isolated people in a post-apocalyptic US. While Reedus has become the face of the game ever since that bizarre first trailer, the game features the likenesses of many famous actors, including Mads Mikkelsen, Léa Seydoux, Lindsay Wagner and even directors Guillermo del Toro and Nicolas Winding Refn.
Celebrity Travel: Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077
Perhaps the biggest and most welcome surprise of E3 2019 came when Keanu Reeves walked onstage during Microsoft’s conference to announce he’ll be appearing in the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077. Reeves is playing a character called Johnny Silverhands. Basically, picture John Wick with a cybernetic arm and you have some idea of what to expect from his latest role.
Check out IGN’s E3 hub for all the big news and previews from the show floor.