• notebookcomputer
  • 09/02/2023

Hitman Actors David Bateson & Jane Perry Talk the Series' Future, Project 007 and More

As it stands, the Hitman series is on an indefinite hiatus. Developer IO Interactive has confirmed it is setting its sights on Project 007, the studio's own take on legendary MI6 agent James Bond. Although IO will likely revisit the Hitman saga at a later date, the series is on the backburner right now. Actors David Bateson (Agent 47) and Jane Perry (Diana Burnwood) recently sat down with ComicBook.com to talk about their work on the series over a year after Hitman 3's release.

In 2021, Perry also voiced Returnal's playable character, Selene, which netted her a BAFTA nomination. In this interview, the two talked about possibly saying goodbye to their roles in the Hitman franchise, how movie studios may have finally cracked the code on live-action adaptations of games, their thoughts on IO taking on James Bond, and much more.

Do you hope to see the Hitman series return with Bateson and Perry in their respective roles? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @Cade_Onder. And keep reading for the full interview with Hitman's David Bateson and Jane Perry.

The following interview was lightly edited for length and clarity.

ComicBook.com: IO is working on Bond now. You guys have worked closely with them for such a long time. I'm a huge Bond fan, also. What do you think of them being handed the keys to such a prestigious franchise? They're very particular about who does what with Bond, so I'm curious what you guys thought of that team getting that privilege?

Jane Perry: I think it's absolutely brilliant. I mean, it's just because Hitman is so sexy. They're so good at capturing the luxuriousness of the world, the worlds, I should say, that are created in Hitman. I think when you think of Bond you think of that sophistication, and the kind of sex appeal of it, and the glamor and everything. And that is just second nature to IO Interactive, they're so well practiced at that.

So I think it's a really good kind of lateral step into something different and bigger. I mean, Hitman has its own massive fan base, and I think 007 also has its own massive fan base, which is going to be slightly different because, of course, 007's been around for a long, long time, and it's not the first 007 game either. So, I think it's going to be great.

David Bateson: Yeah, I think it's not a quantum leap to go from Agent 47 to Agent 007. But what I do think is that it's a massive compliment to IO Interactive for being awarded the franchise. I think they're looking at it as a one-off game. Well, although I believe IO Interactive would be interested in going further with it. I believe they're only contracted for one, but I think they would be definitely interested in a future collaboration, so we are both very happy on behalf of IO Interactive.

JP: I think when you work with a game developer for an extended period, which is in some ways, slightly unusual, you become really attached to them and you want to see them be successful and to [enjoy] all of the success that they deserve. And of course, IOI is incredibly deserving. And so it's just thrilling in the same way that when a friend gets good news, they've been cast in something or they get their dream job, you're just like, 'Yay, that's fantastic.' So I think there's a real sense of that as well for them.

One last Bond question, I just have to ask, have either of you been offered a role, big or small cameo, villain, or hero? I know you played Dr. Goodhead in one of the James Bond games like 10 years ago or so, Jane.

JP: Yeah, I did.

DB: I didn't know that!

JP: Yeah, Holly Goodhead in Moonraker, oh yeah, that was me! Well, no. I mean, no, we haven't heard a single thing. I mean, I think they're deep in the creation of this game, so they're just going about their business and we have no idea. I mean, even if we did, we couldn't disclose anything. I appreciate you asking!

DB: I've played James Bond twice, actually on stage!

Oh, really?

DB: Yeah, in Copenhagen, but no. To confirm, we're in the dark as to the voice acting plan. It's a long journey, so.

JP: It's funny when your voice actor, sometimes you don't really know what's going on until the very last moment anyway. I mean, even in a game that you've been really involved in, you're just like you show up. You're like, 'Oh, this is happening now? Okay, fine.' So we're always the last to know. You'll probably know before we do.

DB: Yeah. I just want to point out, you always see famous actors doing good films, but the bottom line is, no one knows if it's going to be a good film. You take your chances on the script being well written and getting the right crew and casting the right actors, but you get to the editing room and [it's like] 'Oh my goodness, what happened?' So it's a mystery. We wait and see.

Bond is a character that's been iterated upon by many actors and we've all seen that, but I can't imagine someone else playing Agent 47. And I think that's because, for me at least, when you watch a movie, everything changes about the character when they recast, every actor brings something new, the look, everything. With a video game character, the character stays the same, the voice changes, but I think there's something in your brain where you're like, "This doesn't seem right. There's something missing here." And I know this was something that you almost went through with Hitman: Absolution. I'm curious what your thoughts on that are? Can you imagine someone else playing Agent 47?

DB: No, I can't. I'm going to stand here with my silver ballers on the table and say no, I can't. Who knows what the future holds, but yeah, it's unusual to have a franchise last so long with just the same voice actor playing Agent 47, so I think it would be quite a quantum leap to do that, but it's not impossible. You can do the same thing like the Star Wars legacy, do prequels and Agent 47 can be a 19-year-old kid on his first mission or something when they decide to reboot it or it can actually go the other way of being a sort of a wise old Agent 47 as a mentor coming out of retirement, that works just as well. As long as I'm with Jane as Diana Burnwood I'm happy.

JP: Well, I think that's such an interesting question, because I'm not the first Diana, as you know.

DB: No, you're not.

JP: I was just thinking, Cade, when you asked that question, I thought, I would really struggle with that, to be honest. I would really have to sort of manually take myself in hand and go, "Okay, I'm just going to accept this for what this is," but it would be hard, definitely, because David to me is Agent 47. That's the truth, a universal truth. However, David has gone through this experience of having to accept different Dianas and so you have that experience, and what was that like, if I may ask a question?

DB: You're putting me on the spot now because the previous Diana was and still is my theater boss in Copenhagen and a very good friend of mine and it took her a few years to get over the fact that she was not Diana anymore.

JP: Of course.

DB: I think she's got through therapy, she's got over it now, but I must say I really, I had an inbuilt understanding or intimacy with the Diana Burnwood character because she was my theater boss. So there was a kind of a shortcode to knowing her or knowing how to react to her instructions of that sort of dark humor and wry smile or no smile at all. But I have to say, Jane, to your credit, I have found it a total joy when I first worked with you on Absolution to hear this really clean, how do I describe it? This intelligent and sexy voice in my ear telling me what to do! So leave a message on my voicemail anytime you like.

JP: No problem.

You were probably cast prior to David coming back for Absolution, when all that was happening. What was that like from your perspective, watching all of that happen? Were you conflicted? How did you feel?

JP: Well, to be honest, being new to at all, I didn't really know that much about it and as I was saying as a voice artist, sometimes you're kind of at the end of a rather long process and you sort of get the sense that all they expect from you is just to deliver this voice and they give you the script and they want that voice from you. So, in some ways, you're just kind of in the present moment with what your job is, which is just to deliver that character. So to be honest with you, I was somewhat in the dark about everything that was going on and I was just completely naïve about it all.

DB: Well, to be honest, I was too with regard to Absolution because I got benched for a while. So, I thought it was all over and it was to all intents and purposes. And then I had a very intriguing meeting offsite with a creative director from IO Interactive who wanted to talk to me about another project, and I said, "Oh, I'll swing by the office." "No, don't do that, let's meet in a cafe in downtown Copenhagen." And I went, "Okay." And he was going, "Are you okay with that?" I said, "Of course, it's a business decision to go in another direction," So I thought nothing of it, and it was only when he made me write the nondisclaimer and then pushed the script across the table like it was some spy movie thing-

James Bond!

DB: Yeah, totally! And then I opened the page of the script and went, "You bastard, it's Absolution? What? This is the... What's going on? You've made me sign!" And he said, "Ah, you can't say anything now!" And I was back on board, but that was a ballsy decision back at the time from the people at IO Interactive because obviously, they didn't own the franchise anymore. IO Interactive was owned by Square Enix, I think, at that point.

Hitman Actors David Bateson & Jane Perry Talk the Series' Future, Project 007 and More

They decided that they would go behind the backs of their employers because they didn't like the feedback that was coming in and they realized it was just a mistake. Then, in all secrecy, we recorded the whole script over about a month in a sound studio in Copenhagen where we sort of went in and locked the door. Then they sort of took that sort of hard disc, flew over to Montreal and presented it to them and said, "Well, what do you think? Be honest." And then, fortunately, they went, "Yeah, that wasn't right, let's go back to the bald guy."

Well, I think that probably speaks to some of the respect they must have for you guys because you keep coming back now and I have to imagine that's because they respect you as a collaborator. Do you guys bring any to the story or characters that you're like, I know this character, I feel like we should do this instead of that?

DB: The short answer is this, we've grown up together, IO Interactive and myself, and though most of the people weren't there when we started, we've all kind of grown up together. The writers, the creatives, and the level designers for that matter. So there's a real shorthand, which I think has helped. The scripts are really extremely tight and well thought through so there's little to alter there except on recording days, because for me, at least, it happens one level at a time over about a six-month period.

So about every six weeks, I'll go into the studio, do pickups from the previous session and then take on the next level's dialogue. I will do three takes of each line, basically, that's become a routine, and here's the joke, I'd secretly write down the number of the take I thought was the best and then I stopped doing that because it was always the same as the one they chose. Why can't we just do the one take and go "Yeah, that's the one!" So, that was an indication of how well it's gelled. Occasionally I will suggest something in a line or occasionally a writer directing that scene, he may not have been the writer for that level. He would suggest, "Wait a minute, nah, this sounds wrong. Agent 47 just wouldn't say that." That was, for me, always a relief because actually, I was thinking exactly the same thing. So, I had the luxury of that kind of synergy over the years.

JP: Well, yeah, I think it's interesting, isn't it? Because once again, getting back to the sort of unusual nature of playing a character for such a long period of time, I did sort of notice that in the first few years of playing Diana that David is absolutely right, the writing is superb and it's very tight and those scripts are extremely well thought out. So I would just kind of do my thing and work. So when we're in the studio here, we have a performance director who is kind of a liaison between us, the voice actor and the client who is in this case, IO Interactive, and so the director would give me direction and that sort of stuff and we'd kind of create this character together in a way, but as the years went on, I noticed that people were deferring to me like, 'Oh, you know this character much better than we do so please tell us if we feel like we're getting off track here,' in which case I would definitely do that.

Sometimes there are new people at IOI who are also part of the recording sessions and I noticed they're starting to do the same thing like, "You know Diana so much better than we do, so just please tell us." Usually, it comes down actually to small things, they're just really small adjustments like "I think she might not use this word. She's so formal, she might choose a more formal word to express herself than this more colloquial sort of approach," it's usually just that sort of thing. But the story is just really [tight] that there's really not much need to sort of say, "Hey, I don't think this is working too well." I never ever felt like I needed to do that.

DB: Because the script was so tight and well thought through and well written. The only thing I could suggest was a different way of saying the same line and I think that has been the essence of what has been my contribution to the role of Agent 47 is that I could give it some kind of melancholy or just give it a bit of color it in a way, because there wasn't much to go on when you start off with a script that says Agent 47, the silent assassin, and all his dialogue is monologue. Diana has got all the dialogue, but over the years that has developed and matured. So that's where I was hoping to sort of flesh out that character, because there wasn't a lot to go on dealing with a character with no memory of his childhood, doesn't know who he is, what he's done, and an emotionless killer. How do you create some empathy for that kind of guy? So, I think it's hard to quantify now. It feels like the game has become greater than the sum of the parts, to use that quote. I think that's its legacy.

Storytelling in games very early on was not the most advanced or sophisticated, it was more about gameplay than anything else for games as a whole, but as we've gone on, I'd say probably starting with Absolution and then this trilogy, there is an emotional throughline for Agent 47 and his relationship with Diana. I was more emotionally invested in all of that than I ever expected to be by the third game. I was surprised by that because I always pick up these games to do crazy assassins and assassinations, but I found myself really captivated by the story. Was that satisfying for you? What was that like when you heard that they want to really hone in on those characters and their history?

JP: It was great. It's just so wonderful to have the opportunity to play those kinds of emotional highs and lows and to go deeper into this really incredible relationship, professional relationship. There were a couple of moments when I was in the studio, I would be saying some of the lines I had to say, and I'd start to cry and they'll say, "No, no, no, she didn't cry." That's not Diana crying, that's me crying. I just thought that it was wonderful that they were investing in their relationship in such a nuanced way, and I think the feedback for that has been really great and yeah, it's just a fantastic human story. So I really enjoyed it.

DB: I found it fascinating being on a mission with you, and I even danced the tango with you.

It's my favorite part of the whole game.

David Bateson: That is such an amazing level that they just went over the edge there into a feature film. I saw spinoffs and everything coming out of that! And I think that I've found it intriguing that they really let rip and they took that storyline over a three-game arc. I mean, apart from wanting to be in the room when they were just thinking of different ways to kill people, which always worries me [laughs]. I was intrigued by how well they told the story and kept it hanging on a thread right to the end, even with the sort of secret endings. So yeah, no pressure IO Interactive, just do it again with James Bond. I double dare you!

I'm sure they will, it seems like they've been setting themselves up for it. Jane, you recently got to play a video game protagonist in Returnal. What was that like? Is that your first time playing a playable character? And did you ask David about anything or did you go and make it your own?

JP: Well, once again, I didn't really know what I was doing when I was in there. They're just like, "Here's the thing, audition for it." "Okay, I'll audition." "Okay, you've got the part. Great, show up at the studio and then you start doing the lines." This is so great because wow. She goes on such a journey, I don't know if you've played the game, but her journey is immense and it's a physical journey and it's also a mental journey and kind of a spiritual one as well, I suppose, in terms of what she's dealing with personally.

So there was just so much processing that had to go on with that character and I found it really challenging, like going into the mental territory that she goes into was kind of exhausting sometimes. I'd finish a four-hour session and I'd just drag myself out of the studio and had to go somewhere and have a cup of tea and recover. However, Housemarque is, like IO Interactive, such a wonderful developer and they were so great to work with. And they really were there for every step of that process, really setting the scene for me so that I could just imagine what I was going through and just go for it and let it rip. So it was an incredible experience, I really enjoyed it. And I love sort of watching it and seeing her kick some serious ass, she is just great.

I wanted to talk to you guys about live-action adaptations, obviously, Hitman is pretty notorious for all of this, but it seems like more studios are figuring out how to crack the code on adapting a video game like the Last of Us HBO's TV series, which looks great and stuff like that.

DB: Uncharted!

Yeah, absolutely! Even Christopher Nolan's brother, Jonathan Nolan, is working on a Fallout TV series right now, so this medium is getting a lot of attention. Hitman hit some bumps in the road, as I said, but what do you think it takes to translate Hitman, or maybe just any video game to live-action?

DB: Well, firstly, you're dealing with a fanatical fan base, so you really want to respect that, I think. And I think it's not fair in a way to compare a film based on a computer game because they're such different genres. They look the same in some respects, but they are actually very, very different. So I think the films should just be taken for what they are, as an action film. You can have your personal preferences over the actors playing Agent 47, but they're really good action films, but I think that's been a real issue for games being turned into films, generally.

They just never can live up to the expectations of the fan base, the computer game fan base. But I think it's changing, I'm totally intrigued by what Uncharted has done because really that's just a kind of obstacle course with one-liners and it's turned into a fantastic film and with full respect for the characters which good job to Troy Baker and Nolan North for fleshing out those characters to make a feature film. So I think it is changing. I'm looking forward to… was it Chris Nolan?

His brother, Jonathan Nolan, is doing Fallout.

DB: Yeah. I think here's the thing with more sort of Hollywood actors getting themselves performance captured and motion-captured to be ever youthful in the future. Who knows, you're going to have Terminator 25 when we're all in our 70s and be on and it'll just be, hey, there he goes. Arnold Schwarzenegger is still looking buffed and 35 years old and ripped! So, the future is bright in terms of computer technology and synergy. I think it's a case of the computer game audiences' sophistication being met, their taste in gaming being met now in feature films that maybe the writers and the producers are listening more closely to the gamers. This is what they want, don't put in a love interest for Agent 47. Just don't do it! So yeah, I think it's getting there!

I know that at one point you had mentioned that the Hitman TV series was thinking about having you in some kind of role, maybe not the lead protagonist but is that still happening? Do you know anything about that?

David Bateson: I keep an eye on IMDb and things in pre-production and it sort of went dead. I don't know if it's a COVID thing, it could be, but sometimes productions sort of get greenlit, and then others just go away or just get mothballed for a while. And then, someone just dusts off this script again and goes 'We've got to make this film!' And then, it becomes a no-brainer and it gets done. I think it's quite scary sometimes how the machinations of the behind-the-scenes power plays turn out. I remember once reading an autobiography of Michael Caine and the chapter heading was, "The Two Minutes That Changed My Life." It was simply him in a restaurant having dinner with some friends and being called over to another table going, "Hey, we're thinking of doing this film called Alfie." And he's going, "All right then, I think I could do that," that was the perfect launch for him, and the rest is history, so yeah. Who knows, but I would definitely be up for it. To be someone working in the back office, the kind of M figure saying, "Okay Agent 47, careful now, it's loaded," or whatever. I'm open, definitely. But I haven't heard much since it's kind of been put as pre-production.

IO obviously kind of said goodbye and said this is it. This is the last game for probably quite some time and then everyone's like, "We love this game so much!" They're like, "I guess we'll do another year of content!" That's happened repeatedly with all of these games, I'm pretty sure the last three of them they've been like, "All right we're done for now." And then the fans are like, "We want more!" and they just give us more. You don't see that very often. It's again, going back to that connection with the community.

DB: Totally, they've been seriously listening to the fans. Actually, ironically I think since Blood Money was so loudly praised by the fans just going, 'Hey, this is the best open sandbox [game]' and then they went into a more filmic linear storyline with Absolution, which I loved by the way. And they listen to the fans going, 'Hey, what happened? We want our endless possibilities and we want to go back and play this again and again,' and that has led to a trilogy of the biggest replayable set of sandboxes known to mankind! So I think they're good at listening to the fans, all the credit to them for doing just that. Keep listening to the fans.

What were your thoughts when you were maybe told this is probably it and maybe you'll come back later on, but for now, this is "the end?"

JP: I felt really devastated. I've been told that sort of three times in the studio because, as I'm sure you know, the nature of things is that they'll say, "Okay, this is your last session." And you're like, "Oh my God." And then you'll get a call a little while later, "Oh, we have to do some pickups, so you go back and you're like, "Okay, here I am again!" "That's it, Jane, thank you very much. Bye-bye, thank you for everything." And then you get another call. So you have all these sorts of false endings in a way, but actually, I'm devastated to say goodbye to Diana. I mean, she's just really been a part of my life for many years and it's sort of experienced as a kind of loss in a way. So yeah, it's not easy letting go that's for sure.

DB: Well, I live in the world of my own imagination and I'm hanging on his last words: "It's good to be back." So I'll be putting out contracts on people at IO Interactive. No, who knows? But I would still choose to believe, or like to believe that there is a future for us in the franchise.

JP: It's such a beloved game, it's really hard to think that there wouldn't be, but we just don't know.

DB: Yeah. I mean, I'm totally convinced the game is not done, but it's just what they choose to do with us! And who knows the impact of this wonderful 007 franchise and where that will take the company.

JP: Yeah, exactly.

I think they know better than to recast you now.


DB: [laughs] Well, send them a message.

I will, I'll make it known.