Command & Conquer's Joe Kucan
22nd Mar 2010 | 17:18
Joe Kucan is officially the longest running actor in a videogame - and he's got a Guinness World Records certificate to prove it.
The man behind one of gaming's most recognisable villains, Kane has been integral to the Command & Conquer series since he directed the first part (and subsequent three) in 1994.
By his own admission he didn't expect to be doing this for another 15 years, but here he is in the fourth and supposedly last instalment, Command & Conquer 4.
We caught up with Joe to discuss his memories from the series and where he's going next. Oh, and in case you didn't notice he's not a very serious man. At all.
So, It's been 15 years...
Since I met you? No - you just walked in the room. It feels like it's been 15 years between us, but...
... since C&C kicked off, we mean. How does it feel wrapping it up after this long?
I'm actually highly medicated right now because the depression hit me so hard. I've actually tried to kill myself four different ways. I tried hanging myself, - my maid cut me down, the bitch - I tried jumping off a bridge, - but I was attached to a bungee cord - I stuck my head in an oven and turned it on - but it was an electric oven, so that was f***ing pointless - and I tried a gun and I just missed - three shots and I missed.
The depths of my depression knows absolutely no bottom. That's why I'm speaking nonsense now because I'm actually on Zoloft. Zoloft and Viagra.
So I guess to answer your question, the answer is really, really, really depressed and sad. Thanks for bringing up such a really sore subject, Andy. The medicine was really working.
So you got in the Guinness World Records for the longest serving actor in a videogame...
I know! How cool is that? Tick it off on your goals in life; buy a new Porsche, have children, Guinness World Records... it's lovely.
Are you surprised you stuck around this long?
I'm absolutely amazed. When we did the very first game I thought it was going to be a one off. Command & Conquer, maybe an expansion disc and then move on to another Command & Conquer-like game. I didn't realise that we were creating a franchise.
Games hadn't really begun to franchise then. Adventure games like Police Quest had franchises, but the idea of a franchised game never really occurred to me - I didn't have that sort of vision. It's just mind boggling.
And then I made the mistake ten years ago of putting on 300 pounds. So I was just a big fat yob, a monster. When they came back and said they wanted to do C&C3 and interviewed me I weighed 420 pounds. They actually had a crane come to my house, knock down the wall and pull me out to drive me to the liposuction where they sucked out all this fat. They actually used that fat to feed starving kids in Ethiopia, so not only did C&C3 revitalise my career and make me healthy again - and beautiful - it actually saved a village in Ethiopia from certain starvation.
What do you think it is about C&C that's kept the series so popular for so long?
Me. It's all me. It's 100% me. Because let's face it, the game's rubbish. The gameplay is just hot, stinking crap. In fact nobody actually plays online, they just turn the game on to see videos of me over and over again.
I don't take credit for it but I think as a game Command & Conquer really decided what real-time strategy was. It feels to me like it was a genre-creating game. Sure, Dune 2000 was around but Command & Conquer really was the precedent for real-time strategy.
When I watched these kids playing today it was remarkably fun to see how their minds work in building strategies and how they use their own sneaky strategies. I just think the complexity in the level of strategy itself makes it fun.
But I do take a little bit of credit; I do think that the fully-realised sides in the game are a lot of fun. When I talk to players who are firmly in the camp of GDI it's not just because of the units or the gameplay, a lot of it has to do with the philosophy of GDI and that story. When I talk to people who play as Nod it's not just the units and the stealth, it's also about the tenants of Nod and I think that's part of what keeps the fantasy alive.
Apart from events like today, do you ever get recognised?
Yeah, I get recognised. My mom still knows who I am. She comes in and says, 'hey you're my eldest son... John, Jacob, Jerry... Joe!' My dad not so much - he's kind of half retarded. So yeah, I get recognised all the time.
And the C&C fans?...
Well what I tend to do to make sure I get recognised is... actually I've got to wrap this interview up in a couple of minutes, because there are people coming in and I'm going to go stand by the box.
From time to time I do get recognised. It's usually when I travel - I don't get recognised much in The States. Every once in a while I'll be sitting at the Poker table and one of the players will say, 'hey wait a minute, are you... ?' And I'll say, 'yeah, I get that a lot, who is that guy? A lot of people say I look like this guy from Command & Conquer, he must be really cool.' And then they tell me the whole story of the game and I'll just say, 'oh yeah, us bald guys all look alike'. My voice is different from the one in the game so they never put two and two together.
More often than not it's over here [in the UK], in Germany, in France. I'm huge in Germany - I can't walk down the street without getting mobbed. It's a freak show whenever I go there; they meet me at the airport with throngs of signs, posters and 18-year-old girls in bikinis - it's frightening. I think actually March 25 is Joe Kucan Day in Germany. It's national.
Will you carry on performing in games after this?
Yeah, I did StarCraft. Did you know I did StarCraft? No I'm joking, that'd be terrible. A horrible joke. I'm nowhere near that because I'd be sued immediately.
Will I still be performing in games? I'd love to. I'd love to do more voice work in games. I do firmly believe that the videogame experience is a brand new way of telling stories, it's immersive in a different way to film and TV.
I would love to do it. It's tough because I'm quite recognised for this one role that I did.
Do you think you'll be typecast from now on then?
What, as Brandon from Legend of Kyrandia? Yeah, Brandon from Legend of Kyrandia has continued to haunt me.
You know what? I would to be typecast because work is work and I love to work. I love feeling enthusiastic about a project, I love the adrenaline that comes from being in production. Absolutely love it. I can't imagine complaining about being typecast because all that's saying is, 'oh, why do people keep hiring me to do stuff?!'
It's absurd. Typecast the crap out of me, I don't care. Can you really imagine me playing a kindergarten teacher?
We couldn't imagine Schwarzenegger playing a teacher, but...
And he became Governor of California so I'm thinking of becoming Governor of Nevada. Actually I would like to take this opportunity to announce my candidacy for the Governorship for the state of Nevada, because our Governor Jim Gibbons is just a f*** up. So I'm here to take you on Jim, you bastard.
What have been your favourite scenes in the C&C series over the years?
They do these mash-ups on YouTube now of Kane's speeches with disco hits on in the background - I'm serious: that bald guy's cool, you can really dance to him - and I'll come across that very first scene from Command & Conquer and I still kind of go, 'yeah, that's cool'. And when Kane reappears in Tiberian Sun and they're all shouting "Kane lives!" And he appears on the big screen... that still brings a tear to my eye.
I've had a lot of fun filming. I don't know if you can tell but I'm not always serious and that's the sort of attitude I try to bring to a set. Even as a director I try to keep things fun - I think you get the best work out of people when they're comfortable and having fun.
So I've had a really lucky career as a director in having a lot of fun with a lot of talented actors. Nicholas Worth played the Russian Premier in Red Alert 2 and he died about a year ago. Every day I miss him; he was a great guy, a great actor and a legend in the sci-fi world. But we had great fun together.
Ray Wise was in Red Alert 2 and he was frickin' brilliant. His career's shot off and I'd like to take responsibility for that, I think it's because of Red Alert 2. He was just marvellous.
Even with Tiberian Sun, James Earl Jones was a little dubious about the whole thing. I think I was actually the first director to put him on a green screen. I think that's true and he was a little taken back but at the end of the day just a champ.
Oh thank god, sweet Jesus! It's just been going on forever. Argh!
... What can you tell us about C&C that nobody else knows?
We don't like to admit this but we made it all up as we went along. The truth about Command & Conquer is that we never really planned on a giant, sweeping arc of a story that would create canon from one game to the other. We knew we'd created holes that we needed to fill, so we just made it up as we went along. There was really no grand, sweeping plan and I think that's what made it so much fun.
We've left a lot of unanswered questions that the players can go back and fill in themselves. Whenever I kind of wink and nod and say, 'yeah, I know what's going on', I'm lying through my teeth. I don't have the slightest idea. I don't know who Kane is, where Kane came from, what he wants or where he's going. We just make it up as we go along and let the players sort it all out.
But don't tell anybody that! This is just between us, right?