Ben Affleck has gotten all the press, but there's another new Batman: Roger Craig Smith, the veteran voice actor who will play the Caped Crusader in the forthcoming video game Batman: Arkham Origins. Smith has major game voice acting chops: He's played Sonic the Hedgehog, Chris Redfield from the Resident Evil games, and the beloved Ezio Auditore, libertine hero of Assassin's Creed 2. (He's also, in a different vein, the narrator of Say Yes to the Dress.)
We chatted with Smith about the pressure of playing the Dark Knight, the history of the character, and, oh, Batman underpants.
Who is the best Batman ever and why?
Roger Craig Smith: Oh boy. Not that my opinion matters, but I really enjoyed Christian Bale's performance. I always thought it was really cool. You know, even the voice, it made sense to me. I think it's funny that people thought it was a bad choice in terms of the growl and the hiss. Coming from the perspective of someone like Bruce Wayne, who is trying to mask his identity using this cowl; if he really wanted to affect his voice in a way that might throw people off – it makes good sense to me. I don't see what the hubbub was all about.
Oh, and obviously the Adam West version.
And you think Bale was the best Bruce Wayne, too?
RCS: I like that sort of like unhinged arrogant playboy kind of thing that he was able to do. He can pull off that cocky element exceptionally well. Even when he played around with it when he wanted to conveniently make Bruce Wayne a dislikable character, those little subtleties made sense to me in terms of what that character involved.
You know the "Batman" voice? How do you make the Batman voice? Like, what do you actually do with your throat and mouth?
RCS: It's a weird thing. It comes from a place of attitude and character. It's where I lean very heavily on a director and the writers and everyone that is involved in this process. It's inherently collaborative. I work in my lower register a lot and we try to get a more controlled way of delivering things so it feels like someone who is in control and confident and capable. Beyond that I don't think there's one thing I do to sort of modify my mouth. Or I might not be aware of it. You're trying to emulate a bunch of physicality but the only thing you can work with is your voice. That's why we're always pointing and moving our arms. I wonder if I maybe stick my chest out a little bit more, maybe look down a little bit more.
Be honest, is playing Batman really fun?
RCS: It's fun, and I'm hoping its going to be a blast on October 25, but it's also work and it's pressure. We have a really good time when we work but at the end of the day you're keeping it fun to create an energy that you want so that it's not grinding. But it's a tremendous amount of pressure to know you're going to try to deliver a performance of a character that is so beloved by so many people. I try not to think about that. Everybody from the background artist to the writers to the motion capture guys gets to have their say on what this character will look feel and sound like. Of course, when I sit down and play the game I'm going to be as giddy as anyone else. I'll be super, hyper critical as well.
Still, I get to add my name to a list of actors and I can't believe my name is up there with theirs. What a huge honor and at the end of the day, what a blast.
What do you bring to the role?
RCS: I have no idea. I don't try to think about that sort of thing. I don't know really, I mean, we'll have to find out on October 25th. I hope, if nothing else, that we hear a passionate Batman who is at a different time in his life than what we're used to.
As far as like "bringing something" to it, I think that would sound inherently arrogant. You go in and you bark out your lines for four hours and you birth this vocal baby and then you hand it over to the audio engineers and they plug it into the game and I don't know what the finished product is going to be. I have to lean really heavily on the creative director to help me create the character. There is nothing that I can take credit for because so many people are responsible for creating the character.
Why do you think the character of Batman is so durable?
RCS: From a male perspective, it's awesome to think that he's a playboy, but it's not good enough to just be Bruce Wayne during the day. He's got a heart of gold or at least a conviction over right and wrong that is so solid. He uses all his gifts for good. I think that's why it resonates with so many people. He's like a Robin Hood in that he goes out and does things for all these people who can't do it for themselves.
What was your reaction when you heard Ben Affleck was going to play Batman in the new Zack Snyder movie?
RCS: I'm excited. I'm amazed at the blowback. Let's not forget when Heath Ledger was announced as the Joker, people were outraged. And he delivered maybe the greatest performance ever from that character.
That being said, you have to wait and just see it out. I don't think he's an incapable actor under any circumstances. He's a good actor and I think he's more than capable of portraying both Bruce Wayne and Batman. I don't see why people are so up in arms. I would hope we all have bigger fish to fry in life.
Lighting round. Tell me the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the following.
RCS: Maniacally lovable.
Frightening as all get up.
The ideal woman.
Did you get to wear the Batsuit?
RCS: I wish. Someone as a joke sent me a link for a pair of batman boxer shorts that have a cape attached to the back. I'm not going to say whether or not I bought those.
Joe Bernstein is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bernstein reports on and writes about the gaming industry and web culture.
Contact Joseph Bernstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.