Take a peek behind the curtain of the BEYOND: Two Souls premiere in Paris.
"It's so much more than a video game."
David Coburn, the actor who played a colossal 11 roles in BEYOND: Two Souls, is not alone in this sentiment. It's a sentence repeated throughout an incredible day which peeled back the hidden layers of the star studded PlayStation 3 action thriller. The Quantic Dream developed title was given a massive premiere in Paris to celebrate its launch - and it wasn't all just about the red carpet...
While everyone may have been focused on the big event - a glittering premiere at Paris' prestigious Le Grand Rex Theatre - the day starts off in an equally interesting location: the Quantic Dream motion capture studio. It's there the Hollywood stars of Ellen Page, Willem Dafoe and Kadeem Hardison are brought back together for a press conference, the first time they've seen each other since they wrapped up their intense shoot for BEYOND: Two Souls months ago. And it was almost as if they never left.
"It's beautiful to come back," smiled Dafoe, who played Professor Nathan Dawkins. "I had a good time in this studio." With much of BEYOND: Two Souls shot in that same motion capture room it created a relaxed atmosphere for the cast, whose eyes lit up at the familiar sight of multi-coloured strips of tape, colourful furniture and a dazzling number of lights and cameras.
"This is where the magic happened," said David Cage, Quantic Dream's co-founder and writer-director of BEYOND: Two Souls. "We want to tell stories that are told not through cutscenes but by the player's actions, and that can only be done with the technology we use for motion capture right here. But we want to bring an emotional dimension to the experience and this isn't something software programmes can create. You need real human beings. And with all the actors on this project, it quickly became clear they were the characters."
"It's so fulfilling for someone who loves to act."
The technology, which captures an unprecedented amount of each actor's performance, is something much of the cast hadn't worked with before. But for someone like Dafoe, who wasn't familiar with video games until his involvement in BEYOND: Two Souls, it didn't take long to be impressed. "I thought it was a really interesting project. All the elements were attractive to me.
"When I see my character it's as if I'm watching a recording of what we did," said Dafoe. "The process honours the performance through the technology, and it makes a difference."
With the motion capture stage being the main acting space for all of BEYOND: Two Souls' varied scenes - whether that's a cold homeless shanty, a scorching and vast desert or a creepy laboratory - the cast have to rely on their imagination more than a typical film set. "Everything is stripped away and there is just the stage," explained Page, who played the lead character Jodie Holmes. "It's the most pure form of what we do. It's so fulfilling for someone who loves to act and the entire creative process has been a really interesting experience."
Even with the actors working on up to 30 to 40 pages a day from a 2,000 page script, there was a clear sense of their enjoyment, especially for PlayStation fan Hardison, who stepped into the shoes of Professor Dawkins' assistant, Cole Freeman. "I was just excited to be here," laughed Hardison. "I'm a gamer, so to be in a David Cage game... I couldn't contain myself. During the audition I just talked to him for an hour about how much I loved Heavy Rain on PS3."
"And he wouldn't stop smiling!" said Cage. "We had to get them all to do T-shaped poses before they started to help calibrate the motion capture system, and you're supposed to have a neutral expression on your face, but Kadeem constantly just had this big grin on his face!"
A theatre of pure imagination
The cheerful atmosphere continued as the friendly press conference eventually gave way to the red carpet of Le Grand Rex Theatre, where hundreds of fans turned up to get a glimpse of the game's creators and stars. The buzz was immense as Cage, Page, Dafoe and Hardison happily posed for photos and signed autographs.
Inside the theatre the mood was just as electric. Fifteen minutes of the game were shown to the captivated audience, and an exclusive panel session with Page, Dafoe, Cage, Hardison and the game's composer Lorne Balfe was greeted with rapturous applause.
PlayStation 3 systems were set up for people to play BEYOND: Two Souls as well as a giant TV looping an impressive trailer featuring some of the game's other cast members, who were also present for the premiere.
"It's really exciting, it's my first red carpet event, so I'm thrilled!" said Nancy Tate, the actress who played Jodie's foster mother. "I absolutely loved working on this project." Tate is joined by Barbara Scaff, who played a couple of roles which we won't spoil for you here, and David Coburn, who played the homeless stranger Stan, as well as 10 other characters. "It's wonderful", agreed Scaff. "Just a great atmosphere and lovely to be here."
"The event tonight is a lot of fun," said Coburn. "But so was the work, and that's what it's about. That was satisfying and fun. It's so much more than a video game."
Experience it for yourself
You can see more from the day with a special interview over at PlayStation.Blog. And you can experience BEYOND: Two Souls for yourself today by picking up a copy from your local shop or grabbing the demo, exclusive and free to download to your PS3 from PlayStation Store.