When actor David Bateson landed the role of Agent 47 in “Hitman: Codename 47,” expectations were modest.
“I know for a fact that the first game, even the founders didn’t see this going where it is today,” Bateson said. “They were hoping it would make some money so they could start developing other game ideas.”
More than 20 years later and eight games in, the series is still going strong after “Hitman 3” was released earlier this year.
“You need a bloody good idea, a good story and some very attractive, real characters,” Bateson said. “The games that are successful or that have a fantastic future in terms of length really reach out and grab the player’s attention and make them feel that we’re in this together.”
For years, Agent 47 has been a mysterious character with players having limited knowledge of his past. But his tortured persona was something that attracted Bateson.
“It was the Frankenstein’s monster feel to it,” Bateson said. “As an actor, you want to find out who this guy is, what makes him tick. You want to find out why do they react and do what they do.”
The challenge was that for years, Bateson wasn’t privy to any of that information.
“He doesn’t know about his childhood. He doesn’t know where he came from,” Bateson said. “That was the challenge. Giving him a reason for reacting like he reacts without knowing why. There was no indication and I wasn’t going to get any indication.”
To help form the role, Bateson made some “private assumptions” about Agent 47 that helped drive his character early on.
“I made up in my mind a kind of haunting toughness to this guy, which I could hang some kind of non-emotion emotions in the way I would say a line to make it more interesting,” Bateson said. “Otherwise, he would sound like some kind of robot.”
This year’s “Hitman 3” completed the “World of Assassination” trilogy. And, though Agent 47 operates as a lone wolf for a majority of the series, that changed in the latest installment.
“That voice in my earphone for 20 years, Diana Burnwood, how exciting was it that we were both in the field together risking everything and killing the bad guys together,” Bateson said. “I don’t want to make him into a kind of buddy movie character, but I love that suddenly we’re in this together.”
Developer IO Interactive said they are putting Hitman on pause as they focus on a recently announced James Bond game. For some fans, the idea of one company developing both a Hitman and James Bond game has sparked dreams of the characters teaming up.
“Let’s face it, it’s not rocket science. It’s not a quantum leap of the imagination,” Bateson said. “They are two assassins. Both with code names. One kills on the private and the other does it for the government. In this last game when I got to sort of ride shotgun with my childhood friend Mr. Grey, I thought, ‘Oh man, this is so cool to be on a mission with another assassin.’ Yeah, if you can do ‘Alien vs. Predator,’ bring it on.”
But, don’t get your hopes up, warns Bateson.
“I think, to be honest, I’m well and fully frozen out of the picture right now, which is understandable,” Bateson said. “I have full respect for that. But oh man, I think it would be fun to team up and do tag-team missions.”
While “Hitman” fans around the world celebrated the franchise’s 20th anniversary, Bateson said he never imagined in his “wildest imagination” that the series would have the longevity or the impact that it has. But, he’s excited for the future of the franchise and gives credit to everyone involved.
“I have difficulty accepting any credit,” Bateson said. “As a voice actor, I come in at such a late stage. I have nothing to do with the visuals, nothing to do with the gameplay or the level design or the sound for the music. I’m humbled when a game comes out.”