A new interview in the Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts book reveals that Nintendo was using a “world-famous Hollywood actor” as inspiration for the design of Link from Ocarina of Time. Naturally, artists Yusuke Nakano, Satoru Takizawa, and Yoshiki Haruhana stopped short of name-dropping the person, and the Internet is out in force to uncover who they are talking about.
So, what did you end up drawing?
NAKANO: It was this picture [top of page 157]. I created it as a design proposal for Link’s facial features, as an attempt to realize Koizumi’s desire for a “handsome, cool Link.” When it got a thumbs-up, I raised my hand and said, “OK then, I’ll do all the art just like this!”
Not just Link, you said you would do all the artwork, right?
NAKANO: That’s right.
So when you were illustrating Link, was there an inspiration for the character?
NAKANO: Yes. A rather world- famous Hollywood actor . . .
TAKIZAWA: Huh? You mean that actor?
HARUHANA: He is one good- looking guy.
NAKANO: Yeah. At that time, if you were to talk about a really good- looking actor, people immediately thought of this guy. So I recall keeping in mind the point of his nose and that strong-willed look in his eyes when I was drawing.
TAKIZAWA: Actually, I remember Koizumi saying something similar as well. When the watercolor version was being worked on, that actor’s name also came up.
NAKANO: Is that so? When I was presenting this piece, I did mention how I incorporated a little bit of that actor, but that tidbit didn’t seem to win or lose me any points. In actuality, maybe it was just an unspoken approval of how I “got it” back then. [laughs]
DiCaprio? Kevin Bacon? Fabio? Brad Pitt? Your guess is as good as mine
Given the 1997 timing, Leonard DiCaprio is most people’s first conclusion since he was king of the world with the successful box-office run of Titanic. However, Ocarina of Time came out exactly one year after Titanic, and the game was already well into development and delayed several times by that point. My guess is that Link was already drawn before DiCaprio became a household name.
But seriously, it’s probably DiCaprio. The bigger mystery is who did Phillips turn to when it was drawing Link from the CD-i games?