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Anthony Head

Anthony Stewart Head - "Destroy All Humans 2" Video Game - Forteantimes.com Interview

Friday 27 October 2006, by Webmaster

Beyond Buffy: Anthony Head and Destroy All Humans 2

Anthony Head is probably best known to forteans for his long-running role of Rupert Giles in Joss Whedon’s cult series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. He has also appeared in Doctor Who and fronted True Horror, a series looking at the facts behind a number of supernatural mysteries, and his latest departure is his debut in the irreverent, alien-themed game sequel Destroy All Humans 2, in which he plays Ponsonby, a 1960s MI5 Cold Warrior forced to deal with extraterrestrials as well as the KGB.

Nick Cirkovic talked to him about the challenges of acting for a game you haven’t even seen, interviewing a zombie and more... Ponsonby

Nick Cirkovic: Tell us little bit about the recording process of doing the voice over for the character of Ponsonby in Destroy All Humans 2. Were you given a set script to work from?

Anthony Head: Yes, I was given a script about 30-40 pages long and it involved any number of eventualities; you’re given a number of options, and each time you take an option it’s going to change the course of the action - so therefore you have to record what happens in every and any eventuality. Coincidentally, I recorded it in the same studio where I did my ADR for Doctor Who. ADR [Automated Dialogue Replacement] is basically when the original sound is screwed up, and I recorded the entire conversation between me (Dr Finch) and Doctor Who across the swimming pool like that. Anyway, I digress! And I was in the little booth, talking to myself, basically.

NC: So you never actually had any animations to watch during the recording process?

AH: I didn’t see any animation at all. But I was talked through it and saw drawings of Crypto and the Head of the KGB, and a couple of things from the first game. At that point, I don’t think they had finished the graphics of DAH2. But I saw a sketch of what they were thinking about with Ponsonby.

NC: This game is set in the ’60s and the first game was set in the ’50s. Did you tailor Ponsonby’s character with anybody you had in mind from spy films and spoofs at all?

AH: I think he’s a mixture of Roger Moore as Bond and Steed from The Avengers. He’s very much The Avengers and not The New Avengers! He’s very much that classic, British Spy.

NC: You have a background of playing very ‘English’ characters but you are also building up a repertoire of characters with an element of deceit in them; they are not all that they seem...

AH: I think any character has a back-story and an underbelly of some sort. It’s nice to play something that has got an edge to it. This particular character, Ponsonby, you don’t know what’s going on with him. When I did Spooks I did some research on it and the thing that is hardest to comprehend is someone leading not just a double life, but actually not telling their loved ones exactly what they do. That must be totally bizarre! This was nothing as deep as that; it was a very light-hearted spoof. It was rather like doing a radio play but without anyone else in it!

NC: Is it difficult to get across that double-side to somebody just by using your voice, rather than being on screen and using your facial expressions.

AH: Not really, because it’s just innuendo isn’t it? A suggestion there that any statement may be two-handed.

NC: You couldn’t raise your eyebrow, like Roger Moore, could you?

AH: Well, I probably did! That’s why, quite often, one shouldn’t have a meaningful conversation on the telephone, because you read all sorts of things into what is being said! In writing, if you send an email or text to somebody you can’t put the stress into things. So, therefore, people read all sorts of disparate things into it.

NC: DAH2 and DAH1 are set in periods of paranoia, and really, we are in one now, aren’t we?

AH: Yes!

NC: What would you say to people who come over all politically correct about the contents and the premise behind the game? Because it’s very irreverent. Basically, it’s just fun, isn’t it?

AH: I personally prefer its irreverence and its fun, that’s why I was taken with it. I love the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

NC: I’m looking forward to playing it.

AH: I have to say that I’m crap at it! It’s going to take me a long time to actually meet my character, because he doesn’t appear until Level 2!

NC: Moving on to something else you have been involved in recently: that’s the True Horror series on the Discovery Channel. It was aired in 2004 but it is on DVD now. You investigated the fact behind the fiction of vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches and demons.

AH: Yes. It’s actually one of those series that when they pitch it to you, you go: okay I get why they are coming to me with it, I was in Buffy etc.- do I want to do it? "We want you to interview people as well as front it on TV. We’ll give you the questions all you have to do is ask them." Of course, as soon as you get into conversation with the ex-Head of the Vatican’s Exorcism Division you can’t help yourself asking questions. When you are talking to someone who is offering to take you to a graveyard in Haiti and dig up the body of a zombie - literally, quite seriously, saying to you not to worry about security because: "We’ll have police there". And you say "What!?" And you ask them how they are going to restrain this person or thing and they tell you: “We’ll have a rope around its neck, don’t worry about that.” Then, that you can only interview the zombie for 10 minutes and then they will have to call a halt to it... I can’t believe I’m actually talking about it! I found myself in some extraordinary situations. It’s a fascinating series.

NC: There is one episode in which you deal with vampires...

AH: For me that is the weakest of the series. There are some interesting parts - like going into the morgue to witness an autopsy. Just after we had shot the whole sequence of the autopsy in the morgue I was interviewing a pathologist, who was telling me what basically happens to the body after death and why, in the past, people might have misinterpreted things: like the skin tightening across the face, so therefore the teeth show more and seem to grow and there actually seems to be torpor; various things that might have been misinterpreted and might explain why the myth, the folklore of vampirism, might have originated. Unfortunately, we actually had to cut out the scene of me holding and touching the body, because the morgue had just been sued for inadvertently showing a body with a tattoo on it, and the relatives recognised it.

NC: Was that the most disturbing thing you had to do during that series... or were there worse things?

AH: For me, the worst thing of all was witnessing the induction of a - I can’t remember what they call it now - a white witch - and there was an animal sacrifice inside this tiny hut, and I found that really difficult. I asked them on camera why did this had to be so stressful for the animals, could they not surely bring it in at the last minute and use a sharp knife and make it clean and quick? And they said: "No. The whole point is to make the animal suffer, because then you get more ‘in the gods’ here". There were a few things like that I found very difficult. My conclusion from the series is that what humans do to each other and to things around them - animals - is far worse than anything Hollywood can ever concoct.

NC: That’s the true horror?

AH: Yes, that is the true horror.

NC: Obviously you had to enter into something like that with an open mind.

AH: Yes.

NC: Did you come away from it with all your questions answered?

AH: Yes, I think so. There are always more questions to be had but I found it a fascinating voyage and I was very grateful for having done it - and someday I might do something like it again. I found the whole aspect of being in front of the camera and interviewing an interesting experience. I like challenges and I like doing things you wouldn’t normally otherwise do.

NC: A question about Doctor Who now. You gave a memorable performance as Dr Finch the Headmaster in the School Reunion episode. I don’t think that is your first involvement with Doctor Who, is it?

AH: No. I’ve done a couple of books on tape. There was for a while a conversation going backwards and forwards whether I wanted to do it [play the character of DoctorWho] or not. I’m not sure whether Russell T Davies was ever involved. It was probably just between me and my agent! No, it has been talked about. But I was very glad that I finally did get involved. My initial reaction when I saw the script and I saw ‘Headmaster’ was: "Oh, no! That’s a bit obvious!" But when I read the script, I loved it and thought: "This is fun and I have to do this". David Tennant is a wonderful actor to work with, and Billy Piper is adorable. The whole thing was just a really nice job. I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve generally been able to work with really nice, talented, open-minded people.

NC: I’m going to inevitably ask you one question about Buffy! Is there any kind of news at all about the proposed spin-off series Ripper?

AH: Well, there is truth to the rumour that there was going to be a series; whether there will be one I don’t know. Time moves on apace. I don’t know whether people will still be interested. The idea that Joss Whedon had: it was absolutely wonderful, a beautiful story. And my suggestion to him that sometime that we might do it independently of Buffy - if it’s too late to attach it to Buffy - then I would say it would be lovely to shoot it as a little independent work because it is a fabulous little ghost story. At the moment, he is tied up with making movies, which works for me. I thought Serenity was a beautiful film. He is still involved in writing some of the prep for Wonder Woman. I don’t know when that will be made. And somewhere down the line, if he has time and he asked me, I’d do it [Ripper] like a shot.

NC: And at the moment you are on stage in Little Britain aren’t you?

AH: Yes. It’s immense fun! It’s a really, really good show. Very, very tight. And very funny. It’s been very well-thought through. When they originally talked about it I thought "How can they possibly do that?" And I think they pulled it off brilliantly, absolutely brilliantly.

Destroy All Humans 2 is released by THQ for Xbox and PS2, priced 34.99