Lots of actors have been connected with the stealthy soldier, but will any of them take him on?
One of the reasons it’s taken so long to get to this point is how involved Kojima (and Konami, the company that own the property) insist on being: while a lot of game-to-film adaptations just involve names and rights being handed over, Kojima is rightly protective of his creation, and in Vogt-Roberts has found someone he’s happy to collaborate with.
Who could possibly play Solid Snake though? He’s one of the most beloved, iconic characters in gaming, a grizzled badass influenced by loads of Kojima’s favourite films. A number of actors have been mentioned over the years in association with the character, but how likely are any of them to take the role on? And how good would they be?
The first Metal Gear game came out in 1987, and the packaging designers based Solid Snake’s face on that of Michael Biehn, Kyle Reese from Terminator. Hideo Kojima wasn’t personally involved in this decision, but it certainly didn’t hurt, did it - the series became enormous. Biehn is now 61, but still in good enough nick that he puts out a few straight-to-DVD films a year, usually playing some kind of worn-out sheriff type figure hitting baddies with a stick.
Pros: He would definitely be up for it.
Cons: He’s not got a huge amount of box-office draw these days, plus his name is “Mr Biehn”, like the clumsy near-mute slapstick character, which could confuse audiences.
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, released in 1990, features an in-game portrait of Snake, based on actor Mel Gibson, who was then one of the biggest stars in the world. He is now 62 but still pretty hench, playing Mark Wahlberg’s dad in last year’s Daddy’s Home 2.
Pros: It would definitely get a lot of press, and he and Vogt-Roberts could share large beard anecdotes. “It’s quite big, isn’t it?” Gibson could say, and Vogt-Roberts could say, “Sure is!”
Cons: He’s a really bad person. Like, really really bad.
Solid Snake is thought to owe his name and eyepatch to another famous Snake: Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken, hero of Escape From New York and its not-great-but-still-fun sequel Escape From LA. He’s been in the last few Fast & Furious films as Mr Nobody, as well as Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2, and still looks like Kurt Russell.
Pros: He’s got experience wearing a patch and answering to the name “Snake”, and there would be a pleasing circularity to it all.
Cons: Things might get fairly confusing. Also he’s 67, which is probably pushing it a bit to be honest.
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Game designer Yoji Shinkawa based Solid Snake’s body on Jean-Claude Van Damme when designing the character for 1997’s Metal Gear Solid. Van Damme is a trained ballet dancer as well as martial artist, and claims the former is more of a strain on the body.
Pros: Starring in a big Hollywood film involves appearing on a lot of chat shows to promote it, and JCVD sometimes pops boners on chat shows, so we’d all be in for some TV gold.
Cons: Van Damme has starred in a video game movie before, 1994’s Street Fighter, and that was total shit.
Lee Van Cleef
In Metal Gear Solid IV: Guns of the Patriots, an ageing Snake was modelled on Lee Van Cleef, the Western icon best known for films like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and For A Few Dollars More. Also, someone forgot to clumsily Photoshop the eyepatch on the clumsy Photoshop above. God damn it.
Pros: Van Cleef perfected the kind of glowering menace that could be perfect for a no-nonsense role like Solid Snake.
Cons: He is so, so dead. Dead AF.
The face atop the Van Damme-inspired body in Metal Gear Solid (1997) was inspired by that of Christopher Walken, says Yuji Shinkawa. Walken is Hollywood royalty, with over 100 film credits to his name as well as a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
Pros: Proper acting chops, and he’s a hell of a dancer.
Cons: He’s 75, so internally at least there’s probably nothing solid about him at all. And his uncanny ability to find new places for full stops in sentences, reinventing the structure of every sentence he speaks, is sometimes very welcome but wouldn’t work for Metal Gear Solid: The Movie unless they took it in a very unexpected direction.
Sutherland voiced Snake in Metal Gear Solid V, taking over from longtime voice actor David Hayter and providing a motion-capture performance. This polarised fans, who were quite attached to Hayter.
Pros: Years of playing Jack Bauer in 24 make it easy enough to take Sutherland seriously as a take-no-shit badass. Plus, any excuse to revisit the time he drunkenly beat up a Christmas tree is welcome.
Cons: He’s pretty much Donald Sutherland now.
Hideo Kojima acknowledges the Bond series as being massively influential on the development of Metal Gear Solid, and Bond writer Raymond Benson has produced several MGS tie-in novels. Daniel Craig is set to do one more Bond film and then he’ll be free - they could totally snap him up for Solid Snake.
Pros: It would all seem comfortably familiar.
Cons: Daniel Craig seems to actively detest being James Bond, so odds are the last thing he’d want to do would be enter into another potentially endless espionage-y franchise.
Hideo Kojima once named Hugh Jackman as the actor he’d most like to see take on the Solid Snake role, but later backtracked and said he’d be happier seeing an unknown. Nonetheless, fans were into the idea, with Jackman’s name topping polls of who they’d be into seeing take the role on.
Pros: He’s Hugh Jackman, he’s great. Everyone likes him - he can punch through a house then tap dance it back together again.
Cons: It feels like after 20-odd years of playing Wolverine, Jackman wants to concentrate more on the song-and-dance-man side of his career, and Solid Snake is a lot of things, but he is no tap dancer.
Before Jordan Vogt-Roberts got involved, one director who was said to be eyeing up the role was Paul Thomas Anderson - Konami representatives were speaking to him as early as 2008. Obviously, if PTA was involved, he’d drag his BFF Daniel Day-Lewis out of retirement for an acting tour de force.
Pros: He’s a great actor, with three Oscars to his name.
Cons: Day-Lewis’s commitment to fully inhabiting his character might lead to some people being killed.
In 2009, Christian Bale’s name became attached to the property, and rumours spread that the actor (who was still Batman at the time, with two films out but one yet to be made) would be stepping into the role of Solid Snake. Eventually Bale reached the point of denying it in interviews, really curtly. Remember him on the Terminator: Salvation set? Not quite as curtly as that but pretty curtly.
Pros: Yeah, good, probably. Cool.
Cons: This Photoshopped version just looks like a shit David Bowie.
Of course, there’s an easy way for anyone making a Metal Gear Solid movie to get around all of this. It’s bold, but it would make for excellent cinema:
Have Solid Snake spend the whole film hiding under a cardboard box.
There’s thinking outside the box, and there’s thinking so far outside the box that you’re back in one.
(Pics: Konami, Warner Bros, Universal, Paramount)