This is What Max von Sydow is Doing in Ghostbusters
Earlier in the week I made a post expressing surprise that Max von Sydow had been cast in the new Ghostbusters video game. Soon after I was contacted (via Twitter) by a representative of Proton Charging -- a comprehensive Ghostbusters fan site. They told me that there's long been speculation that von Sydow performed uncredited ADR for Ghostbusters II (though IMDB hasn't been hipped to the rumor). I spoke to John Melchior, former Executive Producer on Ghostbusters: The Video Game to find out a little more. "Yes," he told me when I asked him to confirm that the casting of von Sydow in the game was a direct result of the actor's involvement in the 1989 sequel to Ghostbusters. "That was our understanding and what we were told." Melchior added, "We were trying to make this game as authentic as possible. This was a promise I made to the talent and to Sony: where we could we would go to the actors that played those roles, the ones that fans grew up with and know."
While I had his ear I pressed Melchior for more details about casting and recording von Sydow. Here's what he had to say:
Gus Mastrapa: How did you come to cast Max von Sydow for the Ghostbusters game?
John Melchior: We got the green light from Sony Pictures Consumer Products, we began to prototype the game and worked actively on recruiting the talent. In fact, Sony made it a near requirement that any game we pursued had to include the talent from the film(s). After sitting down with the team at Terminal Reality it became clear that they had the same passion for this game as we all did-- we were fully ready to get as much of the authentic talent for the project that we could persuade. We put together the budgets and went after everyone we could. Vigo was a must, we talked to Harold and Dan and got their input on how we could use the painting and whether we should and it was easy for them to say yes, it was the most iconic piece of the second movie. Max was in a small town outside of Paris and we sent him the script and told him what we were doing and he signed on. We had a lot of high fives during production as each of the guys agreed to be in the game, other than the hallway dog pile when Bill Murray accepted (true story). Max garnered one of the bigger cheers.
GM: Do you have any anecdotes about working with the actor?
JM: He and his wife live in a small town in France, once we agreed finding time between his filming schedule and the train schedule to Paris to record was a chess game, it was frustrating but in the end worth every minute, I remember when he got to the set and we got him online and he just spoke through the line with that deep legendary voice just to say hello it was powerful and we all jumped a bit. I think we actually used that as a line. It was a pleasure every second and he was great, doing lines that only make sense to a video game and doing them without any visuals is hard but he was incredible and nailed it. He was one of the few that we didn't have to work back into character. It was funny to hear him talk about his career and mention in one breath a line from Exorcist and in the very next talk about Strange Brew.
GM: Was the painting always meant to be an easy to find Easter Egg?
JM: We knew we wanted to include aspects of Ghostbusters 2 and he was always on the top of the list. Originally he was going to be in the end credits making fun of all the names scrolling by, but once Max von Sydow signed on to the project we felt it important to get the painting into the game so fans could hear Vigo speak once more. At first we thought to put Vigo in the museum behind a force field created by Egon. But in the end it was a fitting choice by the designers to put him in the fire house and just laying around like junk mail. Sony was key in driving home the notion with the development team that the firehouse experience should be a space of exploration between missions to discover lots of hidden goodies, including of course the Vigo painting and its seemingly unending comments. In early stages, we had versions of the game where the player was auto-loaded into the next mission, negating the chance to walk around, etc. We changed it so that the player had to hit a button prompt in order to trigger the next mission, etc. Overall, the choices made RE: Vigo and Mr. Von Sydow turned out extremely well, I think.
For further reading, check out my review of Ghostbusters: The Video Game.