There's been trouble a'brewing in the foggy town of Silent Hill - or more accurately, the cold husk that remains after everyone involved in the original games up and left - specifically, with the upcoming Silent Hill HD Collection. The controversy surrounds Silent Hill 2's voice acting. For reasons that will be disclosed shortly, the updated SH2 will feature a new cast of voice actors.
Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, best known for singing some of Silent Hill's more memorable (and "listenable," according to my atmospheric noise-averse friends) songs, will be lending her voice to the roles of Mary and Maria. She recently addressed the controversy, stating that the conflict was due to Konami's unwillingness to pay royalties to the original voice actors - "specifically the actor who played James." She explains that video game voice actors are not entitled to royalties; rather, the actors performances are bought out by the company.
Guy Cihi, who portrayed James Sunderland in the PS2 version of Silent Hill 2, has released a statement over his Facebook account - one which he hopes will settle the matter once and for all. He claims that all agreements between himself and Konami were verbal, with the company never fulfilling its promise to give him a written contract. According to the actor, California law stipulates that "voice actors in videogames retain all rights for reproductions and re-uses of their vocal recordings and motion-capture work unless the artist specifically conveys those rights to a second party." Thus, the use of his work on a Silent Hill 2 HD cannot be used without his consent.
Cihi sought to allay readers of the, shall we say, more cynical persuasion.
Let me be clear about something: my problem with Konami has never been about money. It's always been about the thoughtless way that those involved in the production have been treated. The reuse of my material without asking me and without having a written agreement that provides for it is one example. Another example is how my contributions to the game, and my face, were purposefully erased from the 'making of' video. Why was that done? These are some of the issues I asked Konami to settle with me on before making any new agreements. To this day Konami has never offered any explanation.
With respect to his correspondence with Konami, Cihi stated that the only person with whom he had contact over the matter was Michael Ranja, Konami Digital Entertainment's Director of Licensing. Apparently Mr. Ranja sought to put the previous verbal agreements into writing back in October 2010 - a necessary step, due to the lack of paperwork and, presumably, the lack of a written contract. Cihi wrote back (he has yet to disclose the contents of that email) and received a follow-up, stating simply that Mr. Ranja would try to contact him shortly about a settlement.
While the whole of Cihi's statement makes for a good read, it's the last few sentences that bring a rather interesting twist:
After thinking it through carefully I have come to realize that I am unwilling to be part of any legal barrier or excuse which prevents a new generation from experiencing Silent Hill 2 the way the original Team Silent created it. The only way to do this appears to be for me to relinquish all my rights to Konami and so I hereby completely waive all rights to my motion capture and vocal performances in the Silent Hill 2 production without demand for additional consideration. Have your lawyer send me the proper documents required so that we can put this fiasco behind us.
I call on Konami to release the HD versions of SH2, and all subsequent re-releases, with the original vocal tracks intact. If you desire, I welcome you to include the new vocal tracks so that fans can choose which version they prefer.
So there you go, perhaps the end of what has been a fairly convoluted saga. If Cihi is being straightforward, voluntary relinquishment of rights to his acting clears out one roadblock; if McGlynn's statement is accurate, it's a wonder that, given that Konami can do whatever it pleases with a voice actor's work, this should never have been a reason to hire a new crew.
Personally, I'm hoping with all my little boy heart that Konami decides to include the original voice acting. Part of it's the sheer nostalgia - despite the fact that Silent Hill isn't exactly known for it's Shakespearean voice work, there's a sort of emotional attachment to the old - though much of it has to do with the fact that I've found the new performances to be pretty dreadful. Eddie is a particular point of ire for me. Say what you will about the original voice actor, but at the very least, he didn't speak with an inflection that could be aptly described as "slipping into a heroin-induced coma."
image via relyonhorror.com