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Charles Martinet Down Under

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Charles Martinet Down Under

By now, most of you will already know who Charles Martinet is. His list of credits is as extensive as it is varied; you will have seen Mr. Martinet in movies such as The Game (Michael Douglas' father), Nine Months (Arnie the Dinosaur) and Ishi (the assistant museum curator). Martinet has also been involved in television, with roles in shows such as Nash Bridges, Deadline, Midnight Caller, Starman and Brotherhood.

Charles Martinet studied acting at the Drama School of London and apprenticed at Berkely Repertory Theatre. Subsequent to his studies, Martinet performed in more than seventy five plays, before turning his attention to the corporate and entertainment fields.

This is truly where Martinet's career flourished. So far, he has performed in over five hundred corporate videos from companies such as Sun Microsystems, IBM, Apple, SGI and many more. Martinet has also won awards for his portrayal of various characters, as well as for his work as a host at various corporate events.

Despite Charles Martinet's extensive history in the field of acting, he has become most noteable over the last few years for his work with Nintendo. Martinet voices a number of Nintendo characters including Mario, Luigi, Wario, Donkey Kong and Baby Mario among others. Without doubt, Martinet's voice work has been instrumental to Nintendo. Mario is the world's most recognizable video game character, and clearly, it was essential that Nintendo select an appropriate actor to fill such a challenging role.

Obviously Nintendo made a wise decision. Ever since Super Mario 64, Mario's voice has been instantly recognizable the world over. And games such as Super Mario Sunshine and the Mario Party series continually remind us of Mr. Martinet's impressive talents.

Recently, Charles Martinet visited Australia to promote the local release of Super Mario Sunshine. And myself, Mark Medina, Will Stevenson and Tim Knowles were lucky enough to sit down in Mr. Martinet's hotel room and speak to the man himself.

The first thing I noticed about Charles is the way he put everyone at ease; his lighthearted nature made him instantly accessible and easy to talk to. And during the interview, I found myself hanging on his every word. Martinet is highly engaging and always seems to have something interesting and entertaining to say. I definitely came away with the feeling that his incredible voice talent is perhaps matched only by his fun sense of humor and engaging personality. You can read a transcript of our interview below.

Note: Parts of this interview have been edited for clarity.

James: First and foremost, how are you enjoying Australia so far?

Charles: I love Australia. Its fantastic. My favourite thing is the Australian people. Theyre really terrific; everybodys been really nice and gracious.

James: Mario is the worlds most recognized video game character. What does your family think about your role as Marios voice?

Charles: Oh gosh, they love it. Im lucky because my parents have always been incredibly supportive; they put me through college, then left college and then they put me through drama school. They helped me get started and its been nothing but love and support.

Will: Do they play games themselves?

Charles: You know, Im still trying to get my mother and father into games. Im on email right now, but my dad is like so I can really check stocks? Well maybe Ill play with it one day!

Mark: Can your parents actually tell that its you?

Charles: Oh yeah, they recognize their son. [laughs]

Tim: Do they boast to their friends that their son is the voice of Mario?

Charles: Yes they do! You know, of courseproud parents. Mom tells everybody and they go And whats that, dear?. [laughs]

Will: My sons a plumber!

Charles: Thats right, yeah. Oh thats wonderful! Mines a doctor! [laughs]

Mark: Do you ever feel that youve reached a limit with Mario? I mean, for the last 22 years Mario has been doing nothing but saving the Princess. In terms of your voice, do you feel that there isnt much more to do with Mario as a character?

Charles: You mean is it a restriction that it has a limited plot?

Mark: Yeah, pretty much.

Charles: No, to me its an absolute joy. I think one of the many ingenious parts of Mario, is that here you have this every man hero. I mean, hes a plumber in love with a Princess! His life is dedicated to loving this person and rescuing this person [as well as] doing good on this island [Isle Delfino] and making his name right. So you know, [these are] universal principles and values that are almost archetypal. So I can never get tired of playing the hero who is this incredible person!

Will: What is your opinion on Mr. Miyamoto?

Charles: Hes a terrific guy. You see this incredible genius that has absolutely created a world of entertainment for people; many worlds of entertainment for millions and millions of people. You know, obviously hes employing us all, isnt he? [laughs]

Hes a genius. And yet heres a man who is genuinely humble and accessible and kind as anyone alive. You know, hes like Mario.

James: Yeah, were all his followers.

Charles: Yeah! [laughs]

Mark: Does Mr. Miyamoto ever place any restrictions on you when it comes to the Mario character?

Charles: No, hes very generous in his praise and his freedom for me to do [voices]. But of course, you know, no matter what I do, hes the one that selects it. So he doesnt have to say Dont do that. He can just listen to the freeform [voice work] and say Oh I like that and that or I dont like that. So its the most professional way of doing it.

James: Youve also done recording for cartoons in the past. Is the process for recording cartoon voices any different than with video games?

Charles: Its very similar. And it really depends on the project. One of the great things about the Nintendo projects is that they are so brilliantly planned out, you know. The making of a video game is a lot like making a movie or a cartoon, but with a lot more dimensions and a lot more possibilities to it. So its more complex, in that there are more possibilities, more dimensions, more depth and more things that are happening throughout the game. So I think the game creator plans for so many more possibilities. And plus, [the game creator] has to plan for the repetition. So they have to be a lot more intricate in their sound design.

I get these tapes in the mail that are top secret tapes that show some of the action were going to be putting sound to, as well as some scripts. So I look at those and think Okay, Ive got this many seconds and then I fly up to Seattle and we do a session. Some of it is called looping, which is where I see the action and I have so much time to put in whatever sound or word were going to use in that phase. Its a little bit more intricate to record that way, but then Ill also do a lot of free flowing things and a lot of improvisation.

James: A lot of people have said that theyd like to see Mario talking more often in Super Mario Sunshine. Is that something you would like to have done?

Charles: You know, thats the sort of thing where I leave it to the genius of Mr. Miyamoto. He has very clearly defined ideas on what he wants to hear and see. So if he thinks that its the right amount, then its the right about.

Whereas Mario Party 4, which comes out in November here, has a lot more speech in it. But you know, its a different style of game. Ill be doing Mario, Wario, Luigi, Waluigi. So, its a different game. Whereas this game is really the flagship game, so it just focuses on that one character. But of course Im an actor, so I always want to speak more! [laughs]

James: Have you played Mario Sunshine? What are your impressions?

Charles: Non-stop, Ive been doing a lot of product research since Ive been here! [laughs] Its amazing. Its just astonishing. Im okay; I can wander around and discover new things every half an hour or so. But we had a guy come in that was just brilliant at this game. Hed played the Japanese version a little bit and of course he didnt understand anything. But he was showing us levels in this game that would take me six months to get to! When someone is that good, you get to see that they are uncovering the genius and the creative mind of Mr. Miyamoto.

James: Other than Mario, what games do you enjoy playing?

Charles: Ive got Luigis Mansion at home that Im trying to master! Maaario!.

Mark: Are there ever situations where you hear Mario say something and you think I should have said that a bit better?

Charles: You know, you always think of new ideas when you see your stuff. But mostly what happens to me is that I go Oh I remember doing that.

James: Changing gears a little; Nintendo has always had a history of producing family oriented games. What is your opinion on video game violence?

Charles: My personal feeling is that I believe in freedom. I believe that people have the right to do whatever they want. I think that video games do not promote violence. I think that if anybody plays video games they see the incredible amount of intricacy that goes into it. And its very clear that its not the world of reality were in here. Thats another world that is fascinating and intriguing and full of incredible adventure.

I personally love the GameCube because they can develop so many games for it. So you can have something for absolutely everybody. For example: Resident Evil. Thats an incredible game. I can play for about thirty seconds and Im like Okay, okay, if Im going to be eaten five times in thirty seconds, I dont want to do that. But you know, thats me. Other people just absolutely love it. So Im like Yeah, go for it, enjoy it. But I dont ride roller coasters or go to horror movies either! [laughs]

James: Are there any games that you would choose not to work on because of their content?

Charles: Yeah, there definitely are. With Mario, I crashed the audition, I went in there and I could have done Hey, how ya doin? Im Mario alright, so shut up!. And I dont want to do a voice like that. I chose a character that would be friendly and personable in an every man sort of way, so that people could relate to him at any age.

And all the characters that I like to create are characters that have a positive impact. Even if theyre bad boys like Wario or Waluigi, theyre going to still have a sense of humanity about them. So if somebody wants me to create a character that is just, you know, evilIll do that for fun, if I believe that the game has merits. But I suppose there are circumstances where possibly I wouldnt. My preference is to create characters that have a lot of depth and a lot of humanity. I do believe that as an artist you have responsibility.

James: In terms of sound, games now utilize hundreds or thousands of lines of dialogue. How do you feel about the evolution of sound in video games?

Charles: I think its great. Thats one of the great things about GameCube; you watch this Mario Sunshine and you look at the glimmering on the water and the shadow of the boat on the sand underneath. And its unbelievable, the quality of the video. And then you listen to the music, which is always ingeniously created. So I think its great. And then to be able to hear the sound more clearly is awesome. The GameCube is so easily to develop for; I mean, there are more than 100 games coming out before Christmas.

Kate: 120 in Australia.

Charles: 120 in Australia? Thats unbelievable! So you guys have a lot of playing ahead of you just to catch up!

Will: Too much. Im too poor!

[laughter]

James: Do you feel that games have become much more accepted as a legitimate entertainment medium (like movies or music)?

Charles: Yeah, I do. You know, I think there are a lot of combined factors to that. First of all, you know, the guys that started with Mario 21 years ago are grown up! And everybody loves technology. Just look at the WaveBird. You can play with a freight train between you and the TV set and youll still be playing the game 30 meters away. Its incredible. So the technology brings on people [as well as] the age of people growing up and playing games. And hopefully parents get more aware. First theres a shock; Oh my god! Videogames! Bad, bad!, and then Oh, my kids really enjoy that. They really have a way of thinking thats very interesting.

If parents mind what their children are doing and listen and watch how they evolve inside the game, [with the] creative process and investigation and discovering things, theyll see that theres a lot more than meets the eye.

James: As someone who has been involved in movies, theatre and voiceover, what is it about video games that interests you professionally?

Charles: Its just fun. The great thing about video games is that its kind of like the new frontier of entertainment, especially with games by Mr. Miyamoto and the Nintendo people. Because their dedication to creating games that are adventure-based, complex, multi-level [and] multi-dimensional means for me as an actor that I get to play in this world that is so much deeper and richer.

Plus, you know, its a cartoony world. Just like mine! [laughs]

James: What do you think about the creative potential that games might offer in the future?

Charles: It just means more fun. Better technology means more fun for me as an actor, me as a gamer and me as a person who marvels at the incredible dimensions of games. And for everybody I think.

James: What do you think of online gaming? Does online gaming present any new possibilities in terms of using voice/sound?

Charles: Yeah, I think it does. Australia is built for fibre optics. You know, theres a tremendous pipeline there that, at some point, someones going to go Oh, we can put voice through here easy. We can have everybody sharing the same voice or whatever.

You know, thats the great thing about technology. It just opens up the possibilities.

James: What other projects do you have coming up in the near future?

Charles: Well, the most exciting thing is Mario Party 4. And Yoshis Island [is] coming out too! So those are two of the most exciting things for me. And Im going back to Sydney to do some more interviews and stuff like that.

Im loving Melbourne, loving Australia. So thats my near future. So, just having more fun here in Australia and then the incredible launch of Mario Party 4 and Yoshis Island!

Mario's In-Store Appearance

After our interview with Charles, we decided to head over to Myer Melbourne for the Super Mario Sunshine in-store event.

The event essentially consisted of a large monitor with the top half of Mario's body being displayed. Charles met with some of the crowd briefly and proceeded to make his way behind the scenes, where he used a special mask-type device to remotely take control of Mario.

Within moments, Mario came to life on the big screen. And as Mr. Martinet spoke, Mario realistically moved his mouth and eyes in unison. This demonstration has been shown at E3 previously, but I'd never seen it until now. And being a huge Mario fan myself, I found it very impressive. Mario addressed the crowd and then took questions from specific people.

The entire event was worth watching, particularly due to some of the entertaining answers that Mario had for people in the crowd. When asked what his parents names are, Mario responded by saying "Mama and Papa". He also briefly mentioned his younger brother Luigi, by commenting that even though he is a little jealous of Mario, he's the best brother in the world. And Mario is quite proud of his first solo video game, Luigi's Mansion.

The Myer Melbourne event also highlighted the diversity of Mario's fans; everyone from young children to adults in their twenties were in attendance. And the adults were just as excited about talking to Mario as the children.

I ended up leaving just before the other three staff. Just as I was leaving, it was Will's turn to ask Mario a question. I leaned over and told Will to ask Mario "what he thinks of PlayStation", to which a nearby female security guard cackled and exclaimed "Yeah! That's a great one!". I have yet to find out exactly what Will asked. But on the next page, you'll be able to read Mark, Will and Tim's impressions of the day.

Finally, I would just like to thank Charles Martinet and Kate Wright from Nintendo. Mr. Martinet was a gracious host and we had a great deal of fun with him. Kate took time from her busy schedule to help us score some very cool exclusive pictures (which you'll also see in the following pages), so a big thanks to her too.

Click here to read Mark, Will and Tim's impressions of the day...

James Burns

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