Leading up to the release of Halo 4 on November 6, installments of the web series Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn will be released each week on Machinima Prime and Halo Waypoint. Last week, Senador Kooch and I had the pleasure to speak with John-117 himself, Daniel Cudmore! Cudmore is no stranger to playing a hero – he’s Colossus for God’s sake! – and now he is the man under the helmet portraying Master Chief in this anticipated web series.
We had the opportunity to chat with him a bit about what it was like playing the iconic character and what we can expect from the series:
Tyson: Hi Daniel, this is Tyson and Chris with Big Shiny Robot! dot com! How are you doing?
Cudmore: Good Tyson and Chris! How are you guys doing?
Fantastic! We are really excited to talk to you, we are huge Halo fans.
So let’s just jump into things here. Can you tell us a little about Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn and how it’s going to tie into the upcoming release of the game?
Yes, totally. It’s really is a stand alone live-action series that really kind of starts at the beginning with the humans and their surviving, and then also the Covenant are involved. And it’s the story of a young cadet at Corbulo Academy just trying to find himself and who he really truly is and what he wants to be when it comes to the military, and it kind of goes along from there.
So we have to ask the obligatory question; Are you a gamer? Do you play Halo, have you played any of the past Halo games at all?
Yeah, funny enough there are certain games I will play. I bought an Xbox a long time ago and my girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, she bought me a Halo game -I think it was Halo 3- and that was really the only game, it’s funny how this sounds, it’s really the only video game that I actually played front to back. The rest I’d play for half an hour and then I’m kind of bored with it.
In the Halo 4 [series] that’s coming up, the main character from Forward Unto Dawn is Thomas Lasky, the guy who Master Chief interacts with the most. In Halo 3 and all the other games, a lot of how Master Chief is portrayed is by how he interacts with the other characters and the situations around him, can you tell us how Master Chief is defined a little further in Forward Unto Dawn through his interactions with Lasky and the events in the film?
Right, his interactions are very specific. And unbeknownst to Master Chief he really inspires the young Thomas Lasky with his heroism, with Master Chief’s just sheer determination to do his job and unbeknownst to him he just really inspires him. The interactions are really there, they are more or less between Master Chief trying to save these kids really.
Master Chief is obviously, in the video game world, an extremely iconic character. So what was it like getting into the boots of Master Chief?
It’s intimidating man! It’s a funny character in the fact that everyone who plays the gamebecomes Master Chief, so I think each person who plays the game has their own idea of who they think he is besides the fact of what’s been created in these great video games. So, for me it’s just really trying to – I just did research on him, I wanted to research what the fiction was that’s been written about where he kind of came from, and what training he’s had and that kind of development to kind of get and idea of who he is and what he does. And obviously just watching as many different things I can of what has been created, whether it’s been video games or advertising or what not – just kind of get a feel of how he walks, how he moves, how he shoots a gun, and he does all those sorts of things. So, trying to get as much info as possible and not totally screw it up for all the fans.
It’s a lot of pressure!
Yeah, I think it’s more now since I’m done with it. I think at the time I was just kind of “Alright, let’s do this job!” And now I’m like “I hope it’s right!”
Now you’re just waiting for the fan reaction, right?
Yeah, exactly, I mean I’m either going to be beloved or I’m going to be maimed.
So, you mentioned a big part of the video games is that the player takes on the role of Master Chief. So did you kind of get an opportunity to as you were in the Master Chief suit interact and maybe ad-lib a little bit with your interactions with the set and with the people on how you would maybe react if you were Master Chief?
A bit. I mean there was a plethora of experts there all the time, so when I saw something and I thought this could work a different way I always had such a great Halo encyclopedia of guys around me to tell me “No, this probably wouldn’t happen, that would happen, this would happen.” So, yeah I mean there’s always – as an actor you always kind of interact and interpret a scene differently than another person would, so there would be things where I’d be like maybe I can change it or ad-lib, but I didn’t do anything that strayed too far from who he is. I think I just had such a great group around me that knew pretty much everything there is to know about this world so that helped a huge amount.
I bet! Was there anything, I mean you obviously have had many other movie roles previous to this – you were Colossus. Was there anything different that you had to do when you’re in the Master Chief suit? Was there anything you did to prepare differently for this role as you have maybe have for any of your previous roles?
I did take some military firearms training when I was in L.A. which were kind of cool, so I got to shoot live rounds – I think they were the M4 Carbine guns on this sort of obstacle course and got used to really firing the guns properly and moving properly with them. But, besides that it’s tough because you’re in the suit and whenever you’re wearing a suit you’ve kind of got to over act in a way so that it translates better on film because slight movements don’t really work in suits, you have to kind of be larger than life. But then at the same time I’m acting through the mask with these other actors, so that itself has to be just normal acting, you can’t be over the top, you can’t be campy, so I’m kind of counteracting, going against everything, like everything is kind of off and weird because little bits are huge and big, but the acting and the voice and everything is normal, so it was a strange kind of place to be.
So, when you’re in that suit – I mean, we’ve read that the suit was made so that you could obviously move in it and it wasn’t so stiff, but what was it like wearing that suit? How long did it take to get into it, and be perfectly honest when you answer this: Did you feel like a total badass?
[Laughter] You know, 100% of the suit was made over by Legacy in L.A. and it was amazing because it was a 3D model of my body, so it’s to the exact specifications of who I am and my shape. The under suit was a sort of thicker rubber, it sort of felt like you were with a really, really tight wetsuit on and then the pieces all go over the top. It added some weight and some restrictions so you just had to – everything was exaggerated with movement, you just kind of had to push that much harder. So after, you know, five hours is fine, but when you’re on the eight, ten hour sort of mark on a shooting day you really start to feel it, and you’re just sweating constantly. It’s definitely a unique thing, but I mean the first time I put the suit on it was just raw rubber and plastic and it was all black, it was one of those moments whenever I look in the mirror and I’m like “How could you not feel badass?!”
[Laughter] That’s awesome! Aside from the suit, we’ve kind of covered all that, what was production like on a film like this? Was it any different than any other films you’ve been in before?
That’s the thing you start thinking about because right now webisodes and web series are so much in their infancy, but I sort of feel that’s the direction that things are going to go. So everything you kind of see is people doing it in their backyard with a very limited budget, but a big imagination, so you kind of see them and the production value’s not there because they don’t have the money. So, whenever something like this comes along you think “Oh, it’s a webisode, it’s kind of going to be this lower budget thing and it’s just going to be scrambling to get this thing together.” but the production value on this was like any film or TV show I’ve worked on. It was very high, everyone was unbelievable, and from what I’ve seen -image-quality wise- it’s going to be really cool, it’s going to be feature-quality.
Very cool, we are definitely looking forward to it. So you have done some stunt performing roles, did you get to do any of your own stunts in the full get-up, and did any of that help you land this part at all?
Yeah, first part of the question, I did everything, every stunt that the character does in this thing I did. It was definitely – you know you find that landing on your back a lot of times will come close to knocking the wind out of you, when you have sixty pounds extra on top of you you feel like a small child lands on top of you at the same time. So I definitely had some days in the morning when I wasn’t walking quite as as briskly as I was before. And at the same time just the fact that I have done a lot of stunt acting has really helped in me getting the role. Like you said, you needed someone that could do everything in the suit and be the right size and be the right height and I just happened fit into there.
The big thing about Master Chief is that his face is never revealed. Did you have any reservations or anything about just essentially being the guy behind the mask for this whole film?
Yeah, as an actor you always have those feelings, you’re like “I’d rather be playing characters where I am kind of more out there, I’m not hidden.” Especially when you’re trying to move forward because someone is going to want to look at your past work and you’re in a suit, you can’t even see yourself. And then you kind of really think about the character and the universe this is a part of and it’s kind of almost impossible to say no to something like this, it’s just so cool. Like I said, when I got into that suit I was like, “Man, this is awesome!” And yeah, there are some moments where you’re like “If I could only just take the helmet off…” but it really kind of would ruin the project, it would ruin the whole thing because that just never happens, right? There’s a bit of both, but at the end of it I was pumped that I got to play the character.
With Halo 4 we are starting into a new Halo Trilogy as far as the video games go and 343 Industries has taken that over as the new caretakers of the Halo franchise, and part of what they are saying is they want to reach new audiences with the video game and Forward Unto Dawn is definitely them attempting to do that, so do you think this film is going to play a big part in that, and how does it feel to be adding to that to bring Halo to perhaps a new generation and a new realm of fans aside from the hardcore gamers?
When you look at just this project that we were working on, Forward Unto Dawn really is just a full feature that stands on its own, and with that the whole marketing ploy with this is to see how this can look on film, and for fans who just have no idea, they don’t know – well I guess not fans, but people who just really don’t know about the video game, they can sit there and they can watch it and they don’t even need to know the video game, it’s really all self-explanatory and runs just like a great sci-fi movie. And then hopefully that will kind of get them going more “Hey, there’s a whole other background with sci-fi books and also a plethora of great video games.” So if you want to jump in to that then it’s somewhere they can just walk into it, and they don’t feel like they are just going to go into the video game and feel like they have no idea what they’re doing.
Did you get a chance to play Halo 4 at all? Did they let you get hands on with the game to prepare?
When I was down at Comic Con I played sort of like – they had I think just a couple of missions and small pieces for everyone to play and I got linked up with the guys who pretty much play it every day and test the game. So I’m going against these guys, and I was like literally walking two feet and dying and then coming back to life and then dying again, and then coming back to life and dying again and I don’t even know where I’m getting shot from and these guys are just laughing, howling the whole time. So, the quality of the game was amazing.
[Laughter] You have our sympathies! We know how that goes! Chris, who’s helping me with this interview, we have an obligatory question [from his wife] we have to ask. She is a big Twilight fan and we understand that you play Felix who’s from the Volturi in Twilight. So, she wants to know who you think would win in a fight between Felix and Master Chief.
Oh man! This is going to get me hated by one side of fans! I think it’s got to be Master Chief, man. Yeah, I mean, he’s got guns, and he’s got the armor and he’s bigger and stronger, so I mean, I think Felix would be going down pretty quickly.
Awesome! That’s pretty much all we had for you Daniel, we appreciate you joining us. Just to kind of wrap things up, what’s a final thought you’d like to leave with the fans of the Halo series on why they should be excited for Forward Unto Dawn and something you’re the most excited about with the film.
I just think as a stand alone movie with this huge, vast universe that we can kind of pull from, what the two brothers, the Helbing brothers, wrote and what Stewart Hendler directed us on and the young actors we got and the quality of it, it’s just going to be such a cool, exciting project that I know a ton of people have been waiting for and it’s not going to disappoint. And I think that’s the great thing about it, you know, again, just the quality and how cool this is going to be from what I’ve seen, it’s badass, and Master Chief’s in there having a good time.
Well Daniel, thank you so much. We are really looking forward to checking out Forward Unto Dawn, and just best of luck to you and all your endeavors man, I mean, you’re Master Chief now so congratulations!
Well thank you very much, I appreciate it.
Watch for the interview soon on our iTunes feed, and be sure to check out Daniel Cudmore being a badass as Master Chief in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn on Machinima Prime and Halo Waypoint! You can check out our review of the first episode here!