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(Credit: Alamy)


Ray Liotta voiced two video game characters

Sometimes, an actor’s best work is neither on the stage nor in the big screen, but in the recording booth. Look at Mark Hamill, who transformed from jedi extraordinaire into Batman’s ultimate nemesis by virtue of his work as a recording artist; look at Timothy Dalton, who is better known to a generation of children as Mr Pricklepants instead of James Bond; and look at Ben Whishaw, who brought tremendous truth and pathos to the role of Paddington Bear.

Sometimes, it’s less about the presence and more about the voice in question, and in Ray Liotta’s case, he singlehandedly managed to create two of the most inspiring characters in the realm of video game. Indeed, the artist claimed that in the case of GTA: Vice City, he didn’t expect it to be such a success.

“Totally. I had no idea,” he exclaimed.”I’m not a game player… I was never into that stuff at all.” And yet his portrait of Tommy Vercetti rippled with truth, taut emotional coiled drama and great vigour. And the game was an incredible success, going on to become the fastest-selling video game in history at the time, selling 1.4 million copies in the first five days.

And then there’s The Mob of the Dead, which features an impressive nod of the head to Goodfellas, the film for which Liotta is best known for. “They say a man is defined by the company he keeps,” Liotta intones, “I guess that’s why they call me a mobster”.

The portrait is very different to the vulnerable Henry Hill that steered audiences through Goodfellas, but the parallels are striking, not least because it’s the type of blistering nonsense that belongs in the realm of video games, particularly a probing, a pulsating hybrid that melds angular apocalypse with everyday mafia dramas.

“He was so uniquely gifted, so adventurous, so courageous as an actor,” Martin Scorsese said in a statement. He’s referring to the work they did together in Goodfellas, but the statement could easily apply to GTA: Vice City or The Mob of the Dead, which showcase a bravura, bravado and bold, far reaching qualities to the demonstration in question. Such is the work in question it shows that an actor can truly be an actor, even in the vicinity of an audio booth.

There are many ways to play the part of an actor, and video games is just one angle. It also helps actors who are losing their good looks, and like Dalton and Hamill, voice-over acting offered Liotta a chance to demonstrate a new side to himself when he was losing some of his good looks (the jury’s still out on Whishaw- he’s got a lot of time before those cheekbones weather away.)

And by virtue of his presence, he brought a sense of credibility to the the medium of video games that was being pencilled as a form of lesser type of entertainment. Instead, it’s the performance of a life, breathing new life into the work in question.