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Published: Wednesday, 3/3/2004

James Earl Jones says 'hi'

As games gain respectability as an art form, actors once locked into more traditional venues are going straight to the smaller screen.

Nothing focuses Hollywood's attention more than money. With video-game sales topping Hollywood box office receipts for two consecutive years (games — $30 billion in global sales, movie industry — $20.4 billion in 2002), Hollywood is in a lather.

If film is driven by star power, then game manufacturers and developers are shopping for the voices behind their little-screen gems.

Renee Zellweger and Charlize Theron may have the floor at the moment, but Snoop Dogg's growl could give them a run for their money.

When Grand Theft Auto III made financial and political shockwaves in its debut, True Crime: Streets of L.A. countered with a soundtrack full of Ice Cube and Mack 10, and voice talent like Snoop Dogg, Christopher Walken and Michael Madsen.

A cast list for a current well-financed game title might look like the VIP list at the Oscars.

Talk of crossover potential is flipped. The financial weight rests with the gaming industry — it appears to be the dog wagging the tail.

You've got a hit CD/movie and millions of screaming fans. What next? Videogame.

Several celebrities have done this with image and without voice work. Those pioneers probably never bothered to play the game they gave their name to. Scary first-generation stuff slapped a star on the box like Shaquille O'Neal (Shaq-Fu), and Michael Jordan (Chaos in the Windy City). Did they mention to Mike about the “flaming basketballs.”

From these baby steps to the current swarm of anticipated games featuring a cavalcade of star voices as heroes and villains. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic stocks awesome sound effects with over 16,000 voiceovers from 50 professional actors.

Actors are increasingly interested in voice work because the hours are short and the pay is good. Two days' voice work — without makeup or wardrobe — can net a moderately famous actor about $75,000. Some actors are gamers themselves. Others such as James Earl Jones (Command & Conquer) do it for young nieces, nephews and grandchildren.

Sounds like fun.

• So if you think all star power is locked into the 2.5 hour movie, 30-minute TV show, and 14-cut CD format consider the worldwide ringtone market was worth $3.5 billion last year, up 40 percent from 2002 and representing about 10 percent of the global music market, according to estimates from U.K.-based research firm ARC Group. Technology research firm International Data Corp. estimates that by 2007 ringtones will be a $1 billion market in the U.S.

• Nothing like having your surfing interrupted by a request for “web site registration.” Amy Gahran's Contentious weblog suggests an alternative. Use the log-in "freethepresses" and password "freethepresses" on many news sites that require registration. For sites that require an e-mail address in addition to a user name, use freethepresses@example.com.

Mister Underhill writing in the Chicago e-zine Teemings suggests what The Lord of the Rings would sound like if it had been written by someone else, like Mark Twain.

“You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Red Book of Westmarch; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Frodo Baggins and his Uncle Bilbo, and they told the truth, mainly. There was things which they stretched, but mostly they told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was the Lady Galadriel, or Elrond, or maybe Gandalf. The Lady Galadriel — the Lady of Lothlorien, she is — and Elrond, and the wizard Gandalf is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.”

www.teemings.com



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