Remember how unhappy we all were when we found out Michael Ironside wouldn’t be voicing Sam Fisher in Splinter Cell: Blacklist? If it wasn’t for Ironside’s influence, we would’ve never gotten the chance.
Ironside participated in a Reddit AMA this week and was asked, inevitably, about Sam Fisher and Splinter Cell. It turns out that the complex, intense character we know almost didn’t exist. Ironside was ready to walk away from what was initially a very two-dimensional character. The initial deal was “quite lucrative,” and Ironside thought he’d be simply introducing the game or something like that. He wasn’t ready for what he described as a “very inflexible… very bloody and violent” script.
I didn’t want to do it. And told them I was going to give them back their money. They asked me what would it take to keep me on the project, and I said we would have to change the character, and give him some type of humanity. To their credit, they sat me down with the game creators, and we came up with the present Sam Fisher, who had an empathy and was not just a 2 dimensional killing machine. And we got as much humanity, I think that that format will allow.
Ironside did, however, make sure to give credit to Ubisoft, calling them brave for taking the risk of letting him mold the character for a tentpole game in a risk-averse market.
On the question of Ubisoft’s decision to change actors, Ironside didn’t sound too hurt.
I think it’s a great idea for Ubisoft. They’ve gone to motion capture, and this spring I will be 65 years old. I don’t think anyone wants to pay money seeing a 65 year old Sam Fisher bounce around on set, killing and stumbling while he kills people. I wish them all the luck. I hope that franchise has a long and storied future.
Sam Fisher, like Snake of Metal Gear, was defined by his voice at least as much as the stories he’s taken part in. Splinter Cell: Blacklist might be the best of the series mechanically but, as I said in my review, Ironside’s replacement simply isn’t as memorable a voice and the characters in general fell a bit flat. Ubisoft, it seems, would do well to continue to consult Ironside on Fisher’s development even if they use a different actor to play the character.