David Hayter Interview - Part 1

Updated: Jan 28

Back in October, when I first started the podcast, Josh and I were presented with an amazing opportunity to speak with David Hayter. We touched on a lot of topics of which mostly involved the Metal Gear franchise. We also did manage to get a few X-Men questions in. Those questions led us to some great insight on some of the things that went on behind the scenes. I decided to transcribe the interview and broke it down into 3 parts.


In part 1 we discussed his early nerd days when he was a kid, his casting as Solid Snake, and the amazing fans of Metal Gear.


You can listen to the entire interview on Audioboom, Google Play Music, or Apple Podcasts.


DISCLAIMER: This was transcribed manually and is not a 100 percent exact match to the audio. The way people talk just doesn't match perfectly to text.


Peter

So I think we should just have you do spoken word as snakes voice. Just kidding!


David

Of course.


Peter

We’re just going to jump into some questions, mostly about metal gear and then hopefully we can get some X2 questions in and a little bit of what you're doing currently. If that’s ok with you?


David

That all sounds great.


Peter

The podcast is called Nerds Adulting. We’re all grown ups now and we all grew up nerding out. I think a lot of us still struggle trying to be a nerd dealing with everyday stuff.


David

Me too.


Josh and Peter

(Laughs)


Peter

I want to lead it off with you, are you a nerd? Growing up were you a nerd? What are you into now? Do you collect stuff? How do you relate to nerd culture?


David

Well I started out as a nerd. We traveled a lot when I was a kid and moved a lot. I was an only child so I read a lot of comic books, I mean I still have boxes and boxes of comic books going back to like Archie and Richie Rich and stuff and then through DC and Marvel and Frank Miller and all that which really was very pivotal in my career later. I've been playing video games and acting in video games since they were invented and that remains a big thing in my life. I mean now I get sent video games to adapt as movies so you know it's kind of my job that I have to have a number of different gaming consoles. So you know I just tried to deal with that as best I can and I don’t collect things anymore. I used to collect comic books and this and that but I get so many toys and things given to me so I don't don't get too obsessive about collecting things. I’ve got 5 original animation cels up on my walls and you know all sorts of geek culture. Plus now I’m lord of the nerds so.


Josh and Peter

(Laughs)


Josh

Yes! Absolutely!


David

I can’t escape it, you know?


Peter

That’s awesome. I think that as you get older, you get married you have kids, you run out of space, and you just can’t keep collecting things. That's kind of like what happens I suppose. Thank you for sharing that, we’re going to jump into some Metal Gear stuff with you. The thing we were talking about and really interested in knowing about is how did you end up in the role as solid snake? How were you introduced to Metal Gear and Kojima? How did it start?


David

(Snake Voice) Metal Gear Well let's see. Well in 1993 or so I got cast as to play the Russian brother of the Russian planeteer in Captain Planet and the casting director on that was a woman named Kris Zimmerman who five years later was attached to direct the English language voice script for Metal Gear and so I got called in. I'm also told that my friend Jennifer Hale, who is one of the greatest voice actresses in the world, also recommended and reminded Kris about me. So they both share some of the blame. I went in and I auditioned. It was this weird little house in Hollywood that had been converted into a sound studio and office and things like that. All of the Yoji Shinkawa art was up on the walls and I saw that and it looked really cool. I just went in, I did an audition and then I got a call a couple days later from actually Jennifer Hale telling me that I got the part. That’s how it happened.


Peter

Wow, that’s awesome.


David

Yeah! I certainly didn’t think we’d be talking about it 21 years later.


Josh

Did they have a standard that they wanted you to meet with voice? How did you develop it? Did you have different versions that you propose to them? How did that work?


David

No, no, actually I auditioned with my voice, which I mean obviously I was 21 years younger and I sounded like this. Then I got the script and I read that he was already retired, he was already a legend, he really didn't want to come back, he had been through a lot, and everybody knew who he was. I was like, I think this guy is older than me. He's got just the weight of the world on his shoulders like literally, like this is the guy you call when the world needs to be saved. He doesn't want to come back and do it so just sort of doing the voice, it got grittier and it got heavier and more weighted. So that was the voice I developed in like the week between I got cast then and when I started. We got halfway through the day and then Kris Zimmerman said “Hey I can play you the voice you auditioned with?” So she played it for me and of course it was totally different. I was like “I know I kind of felt he should be like this do you want to change it?” and everybody talked about in the room and we agreed that we should stick with the gruffer voice, so that's how it happened. I just sort of came up with it.


Peter

I remember I played the demo when it first came out and I heard your voice. I said “Oh my God. That's snake.” You just see the picture and hear the voice, it was spot on. We had never heard his voice before.


David

Aww thanks. That was what I tried to do. I tried to look at the pictures. You know (Snake’s voice) what does this guy sound like? What has he been through. Obviously this guy is a serious badass who’s got history. Thank you for saying that, it’s very kind of you.


Peter

No problem, we love the game and the work you did was great. Did you know how big this was going to be at the time? Did you have any idea? There was a lot of hype about it coming out. I remember reading about it in magazines.


David

Well I had an Idea because the artwork was so amazing and they actually showed me, in the booth, the cut scene where he takes down the Hind D helicopter where it crashes into the tower. Then they told me this is the first video game in history where the actual characters will be the same in the gameplay and cutscenes. Which is why he had that polygonal face. Because in gameplay, it was as good as you could get. Cut scenes were better but they wanted it all to be uniform so that the player felt like they literally were in a movie. They were passing through gameplay and cutscene flawlessly. That happens all the time now but this was the first. I knew there was going to be a big push behind it and I knew this was going to be handled as an ‘A’ level game from Playstation. I did not know that it would occupy my life the way it has. I’m appearing at a comicon in Syracuse next month to sign autographs as Snake. I did 9 games and it just was a MUCH bigger deal than I thought it would be when I first got the part.


Peter

It is crazy how big the game is and how it’s grown. I would say you are pretty iconic amongst Metal Gear nerds. I say your name and people know who you are.


David

(Snake’s Voice) Give them my best.


Peter

I definitely will! When you were doing the voiceover work for the game, do you have any interesting stories you could tell. I’ve watched some of your con interviews and I know you’ve had some interesting stories. I’m curious if you could share any of those with us today.


David

Well, there was a time during Metal Gear 4 where Dr. Naomi wanted to examine Snake’s body because he was going through accelerated aging. Snake takes of his clothes and Jennifer Hale is like “Oh my God... “ and she starts crying and I’m like (Snake’s voice) Hey hey hey… what the hell. It’s not bad.” Then she said “But Snake…. You’re so… so SHRIVELED!” And that almost ended up on the actual game because we would joke. Then the recordings would go to Japan and they wouldn’t know that we were joking. There were a number of times like that where we had said things like Raiden called Rose a bitch and that almost ended up in the game. We had to be careful about those things.


Peter

Wow, I didn’t know about that, that’s pretty cool. Preparing for this interview I watched some of your cons and you mentioned that you would do a shot of whiskey sometimes before you actually did your voiceover work. Is that true?


David

Well I made a joke about that back in the day. Probably for Game Informer or some big thing. I made a joke that Snake’s voice comes from whiskey and cigarettes which is not true. I was not drinking whiskey at the time, even though I’ve since developed a taste for it, I never smoked. But I did do a game called République done by Ryan Payton who was the producer on Metal Gear 3. In that one I played a sort of out of control revolutionary sort of “podcaster” I guess who was making these revolutionary tapes. For a few of those they wanted me really drunk. They did give me whiskey and I would take a couple of shots but I mean I never got wasted or anything like that. You know I had the whiskey with me to sort of give me that feeling of getting drunk and podcasting. You probably can relate.


Peter

(Laughing) Yeah, today I think I had to have a few shots so I’m not screaming like a little school girl every time you do Snake’s voice.


David

(Snake’s voice) So you can remain calm…


Peter

(Laughing) Yes, exactly! Ok, moving on, I have a whole list of questions I’m trying to get through the ones I think people find the most interesting because it’s stuff I’ve never heard you talk about before. Have you ever pranked anyone before like prank call or messed with somebody in some form of way as Snake.


David

I mean everytime I go to a comicon somebody comes up to me and has me call their brother or something and I’ll be like (Snake’s voice) Jimmy, this is Solid Snake. It’s always sort of awkward because they don’t know it’s coming and they don’t know what to say. I’ve done that quite a bit. The only time I really used it in life specifically was when my wife and I and a couple of others went to see Death of a Salesman with Brian Dennehy. It was this amazing production and there were these two people making out in front of us. It was just lip smacking like they are at a drive in and my wife notices and she starts to get really annoyed and when she gets annoyed I get annoyed. At one point, I lean down and just put my lips like a half an inch from this guys ear and I said (Snake’s voice) GET A ROOM! and he just about leaped out of his seat. Later the lady was like let’s make out some more and he said no, no, no. I then spent the rest of the play waiting for him to turn around and give me a hassle but he never did. That was the most satisfying time that I sort of startled someone with Snake’s voice. It was very, very effective.


Peter

Oh man, that’s so great. I can only imagine having that voice whispering in my ear. I probably would have jumped up and said Snake!? That’s great. I love that story. It’s hilarious. What would you say is your favorite thing about being Big Boss/Solid Snake? What is your favorite thing about being him?


David

There is a number of lovable aspects. It’s such an amazing character to play. The stories are so rich and complex and strange. There’s so much love and brilliance that goes into each of the games. I love playing the games and just being a part of that world. It’s very cool and beyond that, the purity of the fan love is really startling to me. Everybody gets hassled online by jerks and so do I sometimes. Overwhelmingly, the Snake fans are so nice and are so excited to meet me or to talk about Metal Gear. I mean it’s a really, remarkably respectful community. I always say it’s kind of like Dan Castelleneta who does homer’s voice feels the same way. (Home Simpson Impression)


Peter

(Laughs)

That’s pretty good!


David

(Homer’s voice) Thanks hehehehe. (Snake’s voice) You just break it down with your voice. Suddenly it makes people happy and gives them this amazing feeling. It’s like having a super power. It’s so lovely, in terms of being Snake, there really is no downside. It’s quite a remarkable journey this has been.


Peter

That’s really good to hear, I know today’s age it seems like a lot of game communities can end up being pretty toxic at times. I was a big Destiny 2 fan and that game went through ups and downs as far as the community is concerned. I’m really happy to hear that and I’m glad to hear that Metal Gear Solid fans are proper fans.


David

Well they are. You know there will be some controversies and people will hassle Kojima or Konami but they really kind of keep me out of it. I always joke that they are so respectful because they’ve seen me kill so many people but to a certain extent I think they’re like that because we are all Snake. If you’ve played a lot of Metal Gear, you’re Snake as much as I’m Snake. It’s you. You feel like you’re the character and you just happen to have my voice in your head as you do it. It’s really strange sort of telepathic connection between me and people who have put in thousands of hours playing Snake.

Peter

Yeah, full confession on my part. I’m not going to want to talk about it too much regarding Metal Gear Solid 5 but I have yet to play through that game. I tried playing and in my opinion, I just feel like something is missing. I know this is going to sound cheesy but I just couldn’t play it. I felt it was missing something.


David

Oh yea, I’m not familiar with that title.


Peter

(Laughs)


David

No, I know what it is. I haven’t played it either. I wouldn’t want to


Peter

Oh really?


David

I don’t wanna hear somebody else being Snake, I heard it on the trailers but it’s too painful to sort of go through but I appreciate that. It’s a nice show of solidarity.