Marlon Brando on the Democratization of Acting

Steve Hamm

I've been reading the blogosphere chatter about the democratization of journalism. Personally, I welcome non-professional journalists to the table. Blogalism is a powerful way for the truth--in its many flavors--to bypass the media talking heads and government spinners. And that's vital in the era of Fox News Triumphant. But my mind was blown last night when I attended a "premiere" in New York's Little Italy for The Godfather video game. Marlon Brando had been hired to do voice overs, and gamemaker Electronic Arts credited him at this event with "getting" interactivity as few others in Hollywood do. They even quoted him: "It's the audience that's doing the acting." Brando is no longer living, of course, so we have to go on EA's word as to what he said. But it's a remarkable insight--and mighty generous for an old actor.

Indeed, with the latest generation of immersive, narrative video games, we all have the opportunity to be actors in our own movies. I'm not talking about the shoot-em-ups. That's really just fantasizing about being a killer. Not very nice. But a lot of the appeal of the Grand Theft Auto series, as morally repugnant as it may be, is that you're so much in the moment, interacting, and making choices. The Godfather takes the phenomenon even further. As an aspiring member of a New York gang, you work your way up the ladder by robbing, extorting, bribing cops, working over rivals, and negotiating truces. Sounds like a gas, though it's still not very nice. These games will really get interesting when you can bust free from the relatively narrow confines of the canned story line. How about a Godfather game where you can actually go straight and build a legit business--or even skip the crime spree altogether, go to law school, and become a federal prosecutor going after the Don? Now that would be a movie worth acting in.

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