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INTERVIEW
Charles Martinet

Martinet is a voice actor involved in many cartoons, movies,
television shows and ,of course, games; including many Star Wars titles.
He is best known, however, as the voice of Mario! WeeHee!

MT> You’ve been the voice of Mario for over a dozen years. Before you took control of the role, Mario had never spoken before. How did you decide on his accent and fun-loving spirit?
CM> Well, I crashed the audition 12 years ago!!! Nintendo was going to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Their presence there was incredible! They took up an large part of the big hall, and had a huge tent, larger than a football field, thirty or so Semi's FULL of electronic gear, tons of games, merchandise, and a stage show....That is where I came in. Don James of Nintendo had the idea to create Mario in Real Time (MIRT), so that Mario could do a stage show, LIVE, with a magician, complete with light show, special effects, etc. Mario would also be able to talk to people who came into the Nintendo Booth. We had a hidden microphone, and camera, so Mario could see the audience, and Mario was on the TV Screen. People would be talking to Mario--in real time! SimGraphics Engineering of South Pasadena, California was hired to create the Real Time animation system, and they were looking for the voice of Mario and were auditioning all over the place. Well, my friend called me up and said...go crash the audition. I had never crashed an audition in my life, but thought...OK, here we go! I got there and the producer was putting the camera away! I said "could I please audition", and he looked at his watch and said, "OK. Now, Mario is an Italian Plumber from Brooklyn. You're going to be talking to people all day, so I'll start the camera, and you make up a game or something, and talk until you're done...". I was thinking...let me see...plumber from Brooklyn, sounds kinda mean...and thought of a harsh Brooklyn accent...Hey, Howya doin? Whaddya lookin at?", but I looked at the picture of Mario. SO Fun looking! And I thought, "if Mario is going to be talking to children all day, I don't' want him to be threatening. I want him to have a positive impact...and I want him to be FUN!!!!". I had played Gremio in Taming of the Shrew a few years earlier and had a fun accent for that character, but it was an older man...and I was thinking...hmm hmmm....and thinking about the picture of Mario...and all of a sudden I hear "ACTION!!!!!", and I said "hello, Itsa me, Mario!", just exactly as he sounds today! Then I made up this group participation video game making a Pizza Pie with the viewer. It was all about fun! And I talked and talked with my imaginary gamer, until the tape ran out! The producer told me later that he called the boss at Nintendo that day, and said "I got Mario", and my tape was the only one he sent up there.
So I guess it was meant to be!


MT> You sound like Mario but do you resemble Mario?
CM> HA HA...I wish! Then I could work with Nintendo all the time, fall in love with a Princess, spend all my life rescuing her, be a great role model--Oh, and millions of people would have fun playing with me every day! HA HA! Actually, he's better looking than I am, but I'm taller! 6'3", and have silver hair! My natural speaking voice is a little deeper pitched than Mario's too, and I don't sound nearly as Italian!

MT> Mario is not your only gig at Nintendo. You also portray Baby Mario, Clawgrip, Donkey Kong, Luigi, Mouser, Triclyde, WaLuigi, Wario, Wart, and the Punch Out announcer as well as several of the boxers that appear in the game. Have I missed any Nintendo characters that you depict?
CM> You know it is so fun to play EVERY character! And in the sessions, sometimes the director and producer toss another character out and say..."do a voice for this". So I play around with a few different voices, and we record them. It is totally fun! BUT THEN, I forget about it and don't think about it again until I'm playing the game! I was in Australia promoting Mario Sunshine and the fantastic wireless Wavebird" controller, which I am totally in LOVE with, and I was playing Sunshine in the hotel room waiting for a reporter to come by, and I heard "Weeeelllcome to the Isle Delfino.....melekolukamaka", and I started laughing! It was me! And then I'm listening to the Islanders and I hear myself! It is so fun! I had completely forgotten. I had even played the game a few times and missed it!

MT> Cel Damage, Men in Black and The Sims are among a few of the videogames that you have provided audio samples. What other videogames have you participated by lending you voice talents?
CM> I've done more than a hundred games and more than a hundred talking toys!. Recent games are Mario Sunshine, Mario Party 4, and a NEW game you have to look for starring another great Nintendo character...but it is TOP SECRET....I don't even know what it is called!!!!! Also recently I recorded voices for Shinobi, House of the Dead, Liberty Kids, and a game Gladius for LucasArts. I've done several of the Star Wars games. Love them! I've also provided voices for more than 100 toys! FUN!

I have enjoyed every game I've recorded voices for! Of course my favorite games are the Mario Games! It feels so good to play a character that has great values, has total fun, and is involved in adventure and discovery!

MT> Since you are so heavily involved with portraying Mario, you have certainly met with Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto, the games creator. We all recognize his genius, but what is your impression of the man behind the Donkey Kong franchise?
CM> Genius just barely begins to describe Mr. Miyamoto! The way he has created Mario games is incredible! As you play the game, you really get to look into the creative genius of the man, AND you also get to see the sense of fun and joy and adventure that are a part of him and his creative team! He has revolutionized video games, created fun for hundreds of millions of people!, and yet he is so humble, so dignified, and so nice! He's a great roll model for me!

MT> At what stage of the game development are you called in to lend your talents? Do you see previews of titles in advance or are you pulled in at the final phase to complete the work?
CM> That depends a lot on the game. It takes YEARS to make a great game, because there are so many levels in the creation! And to me, the more levels there are, the more the creativity of the inventor comes out, and the more FUN it is for me as a gamer. From the plotline to the characters, the environments, the adventures. SO MANY levels! And after those years of work, they call me in to put the icing on the cake! Nintendo sends me movies and sketches of the characters in actions, with a script on the actions that are taking place, so that I get a sense of what kind of words and sounds will go in. Then I fly up to Seattle and spend a day recording voice. Sometimes I do what is called "Looping", where I put the voice into the action as I watch the movie of the action taking place. I also just get a script for other actions and we record an assortment of takes. THEN I get to improvise, which is totally fun! I always try to come up with things that will be fun for the gamer to hear!

MT> You have appeared publicly as Mario for years. I first encountered your talents at the summer Consumer Electronic Show in Chicago in the mid-nineties. Please describe how the system works and how you interact with trade-show attendees.
CM> Well originally the guys at SimGraphics of Pasadena California, who created the Mario In Real Time (MIRT) system created a 20 pound plaster cast of my head (now a door stopper at my house), so that they could custom make a head piece with sensors and rollers on it. Attached to these sensors were wires with pads on the end that were glued to places on my face that had movement...above, below and to the sides of my eyes, mouth, etc. SO, when I moved my face the sensors would pick up the motion (Motion Capture) and relay that to a supercomputer that would take the massive amounts of calculations, crunch the numbers, and make the cartoon head of Mario do what my face was doing. Well the helmet weighed 20 pounds. The glue was not water soluble and needed tape to back it up. The helmet had no nsulation so my brain roasted and my neck crunched... BUT since then the system has been SO upgraded by the folks at SimGraphics, that now, I just speak into a microphone that is attached to a PC, and Mario moves better than ever...In fact, In Australia we had the whole system on a laptop. The old supercomputer is now a coffee table.

Anyway...we hid a camera and microphone so I could see the audience and the could see Mario on screen but not me! So it blew their minds when Mario said... Hello, Itsa Me, Mario! and then hold this conversation with them....Of course I'd always talk about what they were wearing, or something they were carrying, because when people first heard Mario talking with them, they couldn't believe it wasn't a pre-recording!


MT> You’re more than a voice! Within what television and theatrical movies have you physically made an appearance?
CM> I was in The Game with Michael Douglas and Sean Penn. Nine Months with Tom Arnold and Hugh Grant and Robin Williams, Ishi with John Voight and Dead Pool with Clint Eastwood, along with a few other roles. In TV I did several episodes of Nash Bridges and Midnight Caller and a few other things. Basically, I audition for anything that comes into town if it has a nice role in it for me. But I live near San Francisco near my family and friends, so I don't' get the shots at the big roles. It's a tradeoff. I'd love to play in big movies, but don't want to live in Los Angeles and leave the wonderful life I have here!

MT> While the rest of the world seems to have forgotten the short-lived television show Starman, we garner fond memories. Popular or not, what is your personal favorite character that you have represented?
CM> Well, my favorite, of course, is Mario! I LOVE Mario! I love that he is this wonderful everyman character! An Italian plumber from Brooklyn who falls in love with a Princess, and who dedicates his life to loving her and rescuing her! I love the character because he looks at life as an adventure, and faces every challenge with joy and courage. He's just a wonderful man in an ocean of adventure! I wish I was more like Mario!

MT> You’ve worked beside Michael Douglas in The Game, Hugh Grant in Nine Months and Ron Howard in American Graffiti, as well as other celebrities. Which actor or actress have you been cast beside that you found particular engaging?
CM> Hmm...Gee I missed the Ron Howard movie....What role did I play? Was I good?

hehehe...I wasn't in American Graffiti...but if the remake comes along...I'm there baby! My favorite Star/Celebrity is Robin Williams. I think he is the funniest man alive, and he is a genuinely nice man. He also is very active in helping the world! I so respect people who are involved in charitable events and in helping humanity. I believe that we are all responsible for our world and that we can do SO MUCH to help. I believe in living in integrity and honesty that I have impact. I believe that it is my responsibility to help where I can. Robin Williams uses his celebrity to help humanity. I think that is awesome!

I do the AIDS Lifecycle ride, which is a bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles (7 days, 575 miles). Participants raise a ton of money, and that goes to the AIDS Foundations to help provide services to People With AIDS and to AIDS Prevention efforts. I also do some volunteer work. It is incredibly fulfilling to help people!

MT> While some of our readers may be aware that you were the voice of an Imperial Officer in Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast and Admiral Holtz in Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance, many do not realize that you were actually involved in the original Star Wars film. Please recite the famous line that you boldly stated on planet Tatooine?
CM> WHOOPS!!!!!! I wasn't in the film! LOL I do however, remember distinctly that I ate an entire EXTRA LARGE bag of popcorn all by myself in the film, during which my lines were "mmfm mmrrmm mffffleffrrr mmmm". At the conclusion of the fim my line was the nforgettable "uuuuuuu oooooohhhh irrrg... HIC!". Scary, but often quoted I believe...and perhaps was the motivation for the creation of the character Jabba the HUT.


MT> As well as live-action performing, you have voiced dozens of cartoons. You have spoken as Moses, King Arthur and the jungle swinging Tarzan. What other animated characters and shows that have featured your voice acting?
CM> OHH that's a tuff one. You know? I've done a lot of cartoons that are broadcast overseas, and sold in stores. I just did JOJO, a Japanimation. And I did some voices in a pilot for Saturday Morning TV called "Iron Boy". I HOPE that flies! I'd LOVE to do a weekly show!!!!! I love all my voice and acting work! It is so FUN.


MT> As a voice actor, you often have all-day sessions. How do you keep your sound solid and fresh without wearing down?
CM> Well, you have to have a lot of energy to be a voice actor! You need skill to know the character and be able to always have access to the KEY to that character. And you need to know how to hit the same level of energy and intensity. That's the "work" part. You need to be able to have FUN. It's all about letting go and having fun! And...you need WATER!!!! Lots of Water! It lubes the throat so that you can keep your vocal folds moist and able to perform. It also helps to have a great client like Nintendo! When I fly up to Seattle to do a session, we EAT SUSHI! YUM! I'll tell you, a happy actor is a GOOD actor! And when they feed me, I'm a happy actor! WeeHee!


MT> What advice would you offer to those interested in becoming a voice actor for videogames or other medium?
CM> It takes a certain level of training and skill to know how to discover a good voice for a character. And then it takes the confidence to let go of the training and the skill, to let go and fly with it...Acting is NOT about watching yourself. It is about being in the fun and joy of the moment and of the character (who comes from you!). Like a dog chasing a ball on the beach...focus is singular, and fun is complete. I think life is about having fun. Do what you love in life, and happiness will come to you. Maybe money too...But life is too short to be spent doing things you don't love to do, or being anyone but yourself. So have FUN! Be nice! Know that you have an impact on your world, and choose to direct that impact to good and to making yourself and others happy!

Good Deal Games has always recognized the importance that audio contributes to
good gameplay, and we thank Charles Martinet for helping make the Mario franchise,
among others, so much fun and full of life and character! WooHoo!

Visit Charles Martinet's Website
e-mail Charles

 

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