David Hayter on his role as Snake: ‘I tried to do something very specific with this character’

In an interview with JoypadAndMe David Hayter talked about the Metal Gear series and the role of Snake, as well as answering questions sent in by fans. The interview is pretty long and also addresses the gaming industry as a whole and other projects Hayter is involved in, but here are some of the more relevant Metal Gear related parts.


On how he got the job and portraying Snake

The first question the host asked was how David Hayter got the job as Snake. He explained that he had done voice work for Captain Planet, and the casting director of this show was Kris Zimmerman, who would later also be the voice over director for Metal Gear Solid (and future Metal Gear games). Jennifer Hale (Naomi Hunter) suggested David to Kris. He added that recording was done in a little house in Hollywood that was converted to a sound studio.

Following this, the host asked if Hayter had any idea in advance how awesome the role was going to be. David said he did, because when he auditioned he saw the illustrations hanging on the wall, and he could see this was a major game that everyone was excited about.

Also, when he was recording with the cutscenes, he could see how groundbreaking it was going to be. This was the first game that went straight from gameplay to cutscenes, and they were very proud of that. One of the first things they showed David was the cutscene of Snake bringing down the Hind D helicopter, and David Hayter thought to himself ‘okay, this is a game changer’.


A question sent in by a listener was if David’s time in Japan helped him understand the role of Snake. Hayter had been in Japan for four years, about 8 years before doing Snake. Aside from the country’s language and the people itself, he also got some understanding of Japanese storytelling. It gave him a greater appreciation and understanding of what they were trying to accomplish with Metal Gear Solid, presenting the US military through Japanese eyes. Hayter is American as well, but having grown up in Japan and Canada gave him a different perspective on American policies and military intervention.

“I tried to do something very specific with this character.” Hayter explained, talking about the voice. This was partially because there was this unique mix of Japanese philosophy and American militarism. David Hayter tried to create a guy who wasn’t necessarily a human being, but a legend. Someone with a different view on the world due to the events in his life.

Of course, a lot has changed since the first Metal Gear Solid came out, and technology has improved significantly. Hayter looks at the MGS series as the ‘Mercedes S Class Sedan’, with technology that isn’t available yet in other cars. Metal Gear has always been ahead of its time and takes a big leap forward with each new installment, using cutting edge technology. Storytelling-wise it has also remained very consistent over the years, but its world has been expanding ever since.

On his input in the games

So as an actor and a writer, how much influence does David Hayter have on the script of the Metal Gear games when he does the voice recording?

It turns out he doesn’t really have any input in the script, and if he does, it is only for very small words in the dialogue (such as changing ‘but’ to ‘and’). But to get these changes approved they would have to contact Tokyo, so most of the time it was too much of a hassle. He also feels he was hired as an actor, and it isn’t his job to rewrite the script. So if changes were made, it was very minimal.

For the live action intro sequence it was somewhat different. Here, Hayter not only had to be on screen as well, he also had to play himself, but at the same time it wasn’t really himself. They didn’t tell him anything in advance, and the entire script was already written. Here, David had to change some of the lines, since in this case he was supposed to play himself. But that was the only time, normally he just does what he is asked to do.


What he does do however, is ask for retakes during recording. This happens all the time. Kris Zimmerman and him have worked together on all the MGS games, so they are very much in tune. “Basically, for every line you ever heard I probably did it three to six times.” Hayter gave away.

Another funny detail from the interview is that like everyone else, Hayter didn’t know that Snake wouldn’t be the lead character for the biggest part of MGS2. Nobody told him that he wasn’t going to be protagonist this time around (because Raiden was obviously not voiced by him, but by Quentin Flynn). Meanwhile, Snake was residing in the Rectum of Arsenal Gear.

On playing the Metal Gear games

Another question asked to David was wether he played all the Metal Gear Solid games himself. He answered he has played through all of them except the two Acid games. Also, he never got around to finishing Peace Walker, although he really enjoyed it, and he story they are telling in that game.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is his favorite. Seeing Big Boss’ story and the way they presented the earlier era in the timeline, for David Hayter it illustrated the cyclical nature of warfare. Metal Gear Solid 4 was also heart-wrenching to play, because Snake was dying in this story. For him it was gutwrenching to play, and sad to see the character go off like this.


However, Hayter won’t be playing Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain, because it would be too painful to hear someone else do the voice.

As to hearing his own voice back when replaying the games, Hayter both loves and hates it. Of course, it’s hard to watch it and not see the mistakes, and wanting to redo it, he explained. But it’s also really cool to hear yourself being a part of it.

Answering to another question, Hayter explained how he prepares for the voice work. He warms up his voice in the car on the way to the job, he does a lot of growling before he gets there. He can do 4 hour recording sessions (which is standard in the industry). Which is good, because it’s exhausting to do.

On his favorite Metal Gear lines and moments

Of course some questions were about David Hayter’s favorite lines and scenes from the Metal Gear games.

Hayter mentioned a line in the very beginning of Metal Gear Solid 1. In a playful manner, Snake says to Mei Ling: “I just didn’t expect a world-class designer of military technology to be so… cute.” Of course, the words were already there, but Hayter added the pause. This is where he started to get an idea of the character, the fun of who he was.

Another one of his favorite scenes is in Metal Gear Solid 1 as well, when Snake is in the prison cell, talking to Naomi about their past. And in Peace Walker, when Big Boss is talking to The Boss AI, and he is asking her why she made him kill her, slamming the device. As a great scene the final boss confrontation in Metal Gear Solid 3, in the field of white flowers, had to be mentioned as well.


When asked about some of his favorite CODEC conversations, or strangest lines from the game, David mentioned the Para-Medic conversations in MGS3, about movies the character had seen. There are a lot of those in the game, and it would be difficult to get to hear them all. He also liked the conversations, again between Snake and Para-Medic, about which animals he could eat. But the strangest conversation would be between SIGINT and Snake, about the dream he had. Hayter also said it took them 9 months to record MGS4, and there is a lot of dialogue in there, adding that there probably isn’t anyone who heard all of them.

Hayter also said that when he is at a convention, people constantly ask him ‘if love can bloom on the battlefield’. But unlike Snake, Hayter thinks the answer is ‘no’.

On the new voice for Big Boss and possible future roles

Some interesting segments of the interviews revolved around the possibility of David Hayter reprising his role as Snake in the future, for a remake of the original Metal Gear games for example.


Hayter feels terrible about being replaced, although he likes Kiefer Sutherland. He just doesn’t like the idea of anybody else playing the role that he originated. As for the argument that Big Boss and Solid Snake should have different voices, Hayter doesn’t really agree, since the two characters are clones. But, he added, at least they got a really exceptional actor to do it.

Earlier, Hayter compared the role of Snake to the role of James Bond earlier, with him being the original Snake like Sean Connery is the original Bond. In response to this, the host asked if David Hayter could see different actors play Snake. Hayter could see this happening. “Snake is iconic. Now that we have a different voice for Snake, I suppose anybody could play him.”

Hayter also expressed his gratitude for the kind response he got from the community when they heard he would be replaced as Snake.”It has been very touching.” Hayter said. Through Twitter, has been getting a lot of response (‘hundreds upon hundreds’) since Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes came out, from people saying that they miss him and that they asked Konami to bring him back.

Some people proposed a fandub (funded by Kickstarter, for example) by David Hayter, but he said he wouldn’t feel comfortable taking money from fans, and he also thinks it would be sort of pathetic for him to do that. Aside from that, he is generally pretty busy (voice over work is just his side job). He did say this: “If Konami wants me to do it, they can come to me and we will work it out, and I would do it.”

Given the direction of the story Peace Walker and MGSV have been following, it does seem a remake of the original two Metal Gear games is kind of the next logical step. Hayter feels the same way. “You’ve got this huge chunk of timeline that you care about and would like to see re-expressed.” he said. He also feels this would make sense thematically, since the Metal Gear series is very much about the cyclical nature of warfare and about history repeating itself.

The question then is, if they would develop such a remake and they would ask David Hayter to voice Solid Snake, would he do it? The answer is yes. “I would do it if they asked me, because I love the character, and I feel very close to him. So I would certainly come back and do it if I were asked.” Hayter assured. But at the same time, he also feels MGS4 ended Solid Snake’s story very well, so if David’s entire run encompassed MGS1 through MGS4, that would be satisfactory as well. He summarized: “I can let it go, if that’s the way it ends up going. Or I guess if there is enough demand I certainly could come back, I’d love it.”

However, some people are worried David Hayter can no longer do the voice of Solid Snake as it was in Metal Gear Solid 1. Those people can rest assured, because according to Hayter, this is not true. The reason people believe this is probably because of the way he acted Snake in Metal Gear Solid 4, but he can do ‘the’ voice any time he wants.


To listen to the interview for yourself, go here (the interview itself starts around 35:00, until about 30 minutes before the end).


Source: JoypadAndMe

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