Exclusive Interview with David Hayter!
Many of you will know the name David Hayter, and the rest of you should know it. If you’re into gaming you absolutely know who Solid Snake is. You can also imagine what his voice sounds like right now. David Hayter provides that iconic growl. Not a gamer? That’s ok, Hayter also penned the scripts to X-Men and X2. During Perth Supanova 2019 we got the chance to sit down and chat with the man.
Enjoy the audio or transcribe below!
G-Funk: This is the House of Geekery and we’re at Perth Supanova in 2019…
David Hayter (as Solid Snake): Wait a minute…House of Geekery?! That’s awesome!
GF: You can’t do the voice during the interview, I’m just going to…I’m going to nerd out!
DH: You’ll be all giggly.
GF: I will. I’m known for my giggly voice. As you are as well.
DH: Oh yeah, very giggly. That’s my thing.
GF: We’re sitting with David Hayter, thank you for taking the time to talk to us.
DH: Oh, thank you you having me to the House of Geekery.
GF: I’m really excited because you’ve got this fascinating two-pronged career where you’ve had a lot of success in two particular franchises. Do you think of yourself as a scriptwriter or a voice actor?
DH: Well, both. I think of myself as a writer/director/actor/producer. But I think of my primary career as screenwriting.
GF: The films I know you best for are the original two X-Men movies. How did you get that job, were you really into X-Men?
DH: Yes. How I got into them, I was a broke producer and my friend Bryan Singer gave me a job answering the phones on the first X-Men movie, and then he was complaining about the script and no-one knew anything about X-Men. I had read the comics and I knew the characters very well, so I had suggested a scene to him. “Why don’t you have Wolverine say this and Cyclops say this.” He said, yeah, good, go write that for me. He had me rewrite the script, I worked for 13 months, I got sole writing credit and that was my first writing job.
GF: The X-Men films, a lot of people are now crediting it with starting the current superhero movie trend. Do you feel like you’ve had a big influence over the way cinema has turned in the past two decades?
DH: Uh, yeah…I think I played a part in that. A lot of it was Bryan and his…you know, Bryan didn’t want to make a “comic book movie”, he wanted to make a real movie that just happened to have comic book characters in it and I think that the tone we worked out and the respect for the reality of that world – people liked that. I think it there was a backlash after Batman & Robin, which was so campy and didn’t take itself seriously…
GF: It was a toy commercial.
DH: Yeah, and people were relieved that the X-Men movies did (take itself seriously). A lot of the humour in those movies came from me and my love of X-Men in general came through. So, yeah, I think I played a part in that.
GF: The X-Men franchise, you did just the first two?
GF: Since then it’s been a roller coaster up and down in terms of quality. What makes a good X-Men film?
DH: A compelling story that involves all of the characters that…really, when you have that many characters its about an epochal shift in the world and how the world views mutants. It’s also good to come back to the bigotry metaphor, that the world hates and fears them and that’s why we care about those characters. It’s a difficult balancing act to pull off but I think that’s what makes a good X-Men movie.
GF: Do you start with the comics or do you want to create your own story?
DH: I start with the comics. I always start with Chris Claremont, who was my great inspiration. That was the run that really made me love X-Men. The first movie is mostly just set-up: what is the world. I was mostly adapting it from many, many different comic books. The second movie I started with ‘God Loves Man Kills’, the classic graphic novel and we branched out from there. We took Stryker, who was an evangelical preacher in the book…
GF: Quite a different character in the book, a skinny, older, weak looking man…
DH: Right, we changed him because we needed to tie Wolverine’s story into the whole thing. We made Stryker the guy who put the adamantium into Wolverine and started building the Weapon X storyline.
GF: You worked on the Watchmen film script as well, was that a sole credit?
DH: Shared credit with Alex Tse, who worked with Zack (Snyder) on set.
GF: Is it intimidating taking something as beloved as Alan Moore’s Watchmen and reducing it down to film length?
DH: It’s…no. If the question is ‘am I afraid of upsetting people’, then no. I feel like I am as valid a comic book fan as anyone else and if I am satisfied with the adaptation then other people who care about Watchmen will be satisfied. Not all of them will be and you can’t make everybody happy, so no, I don’t worry about that at all. What was intimidating is if I can fit it into two hours and forty minutes or whatever and not lose the essence of what it was and all of the amazing elements that I wanted to keep for the movie.
GF: I think that capturing the essence is more important than sticking to the giant squid attack, which was a sticking point for some people.
DH: Yeah, yeah that squid attack – I love it in the book – but it would’ve been another half an hour more of exposition figuring out why it’s a squid when we already have a power source there that was woven into the story. It just made more sense filmically for the movie, but that’s not to say that I preferred one to the other. I loved the ending to the book and I was happy with the end to the movie.
GF: Yeah, I was fine with it.
GF: Now, if we can switch gears and talk about Metal Gear Solid…
DH (as Solid Snake): Metal Gear…
GF: That’s the guy! You can really just switch Solid Snake on and off!
DH (as Solid Snake): Oh yeah, anytime. (Normal voice) Well, I’ve been doing it all day, my voice is pretty warmed up for it. In fact, the older I get the more I sound like Solid Snake anyway.
GF: I did always wonder how close that was to your normal voice.
DH: Well my voice is ‘here’, and when I was younger it sounded even younger. The way the voice came about was that I had read the script and I had auditioned with this voice. Then I reread it and he was already retired. He had become a legend and they were dragging him back, and he didn’t want to go back. He was older and more beat down and bitter than I was at the time so that’s where it came from.
GF: Is it hard on your voice, because it’s quite a gravel…
DH: No. (as Solid Snake) No…
GF: You’ve got those long CODEC…
DH: No, I can do it all day and it doesn’t really affect me. It’s sort of like a humming, singing technique. It’s not very hard on the vocal cords. Now, I do King Shark on The Flash…
GF: I only learned that today.
DH: Oh yeah? That voice is (as King Shark) “WHERE’S THE FLASH?!” (Normal voice) If I do that for half an hour I lose my voice. That’s really hard on me.
GF: Fortunately he’s somewhat monosyl…monosylal (tripping over the word).
GF: I know words.
DH: You’ve got the best words. Yeah, he doesn’t speak much, which is very fortunate. I’m thankful for that one.
GF: Can I ask about the Kiefer in the room, the recasting of Solid Snake?
DH: I wish you would. Actually, no I don’t, but that’s fine.
GF: In the more recent Metal Gear Solid game, Kiefer Sutherland took over the role.
DH: That’s true.
GF: Did you know in advance that was happening?
DH: I was informed that they wouldn’t need me for the fifth game. And then I was in the dark as to who was going to play Snake until they announced it.
GF: That must have been very disappointing.
DH: It was very disappointing, yeah.
GF: I mean, Kiefer Sutherland’s cool…
DH: He’s very cool. And I’m a huge fan.
GF: But you were integral to that role, I think everyone had such a clear image of your voice being linked to that character. I think that was a disappointment to fans as well.
DH: It seems to have been, I got a lot of support from fans. I’ve seen people who thought that Kiefer Sutherland was amazing, and he is. Yeah, I just met him, we were hanging out in Dallas about a month ago.
GF: Twin Snakes.
DH: Yeah, Twin Snakes. He couldn’t have been nicer. He didn’t really know what I was talking about. I’m sure he did one day of recording for it and that was that, but he was super nice and it was good. It was nice to get to know him. I was very disappointed that it went that way and I didn’t think it was a great decision but at the same time I had an amazing run of games. To end with Peace Walker and Metal Gear 4, that was pretty great.
GF: It seemed like such a strange choice, we’ve got such a clearly established characters and never mind that, let’s get somebody else!
DH: (Laughs) Well, there’s some strange people involved in Metal Gear!
GF: You have to be a bit strange to come up with that kind of story.
DH: Indeed, it’s an unusual world.
GF: Do you ever get confused trying to follow it all?
DH: Yeah! Quite often I wouldn’t have any clue what I was talking about and they’d have to give me clarification. I follow it pretty well, better than most I think. I said yesterday that I understand it about 78%. Somebody was asking me, “what happened in 2?” and I’m like “I don’t know”. I don’t understand Metal Gear 2 at all…
GF: It’s got Raiden, and it’s a simulation and they crashed into New York…
DH: …there was a vampire…
GF: …the girl who bullets bounced off, and they turned it off…it was a confusing game. Fun though, fun as hell.
DH: The gameplay of it was amazing. They’re all amazing, but I didn’t understand that too well.
GF: Now we always have one final question – you are well known for particular roles, Solid Snake in this case. Is there work that you have done that you wish people would pay more attention to.
DH: Oh yeah, sure. I directed a movie called Wolves with Jason Mamoa.
GF: Oh, Mamoa’s great!
DH: He’s amazing. You can check that out. If you go to my twitter homepage the pinned tweet is a link to the director’s cut of the movie. It’ll be great if more people saw that, and then…you know, I played Lupin in The Castle of Cagliostro, that was the debut of Hayao Miyazaki’s debut and that’s a really amazing movie I was love for people to see. I was in The Devil’s Mile, directed by my friend Jospeh O’Brien in Canada, where I play a mafia psychopath, people check that out. I’ve got a bunch of things that people have ignored.
GF: I’ll go an check Wolves out, what’s that about?
DH: It’s about wolves.
GF: Is Mamoa a wolf?
DH: Oh yeah, he’s the baddest wolf in the woods. It’s a werewolf movie.
GF: I like werewolf films, I’ll check that out.
DH: He’s amazing in it.
GF: He’s very cool.
DH: Very cool.
GF: We were lucky enough to meet him a few years back, he’s just so friendly.
DH: Friendly, but intense. And huge.
GF: Enormous, bigger than me (198cm for reference). That doesn’t happen often.
DH: I’m 6’1″ and about 185 pounds and I introduced him at Comic Con one time. He jumped on stage and lifted me up and went “WONK WONK WONK” and bashed me around like an eight year old child…
GF: Like I said, nice guy! Picks you up and bounces you off the ground!
DH: Really nice guy, just enormous! He’s a powerhouse.
GF: Thanks for taking the time to sit down and talk to us, we know you’ve got a busy booth today, so we appreciate it.
DH: My pleasure. Thank you for having me to the House of Geekery. And to all the geeks out there… (as Solid Snake) you’re pretty good!