DID YOU READ

E3 2011: Talking with Aaron Staton of Rockstar Games’ “L.A. Noire”

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E3 can be as random as an open-world sandbox game sometimes. In the decade or so I’ve been going, I’ve spotted celebrities that run the gamut from Steven Spielberg at EA and Spencer and Heidi of the “The Hills” just wandering the halls with a camera crew. Sometimes, these boldface names walk the sensory overload of E3 to promote projects and other times, they just love video games.

Aaron Staton falls into the latter category. When I was sitting down to take in the spectacle of Activision’s upcoming “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” Staton sat down right in front of me and watched rapt as Manhattan’s skyline got attacked by Russian fighter jets. After the demo, he was kind enough to answer a few questions. Read on to find out about how good Cole Phelps himself is at “L.A. Noire” and the Kinect game that he’s most excited about.

It was weird to see you in there, like a video game crossover. “What’s Cole Phelps doing in ‘Modern Warfare 3’?!” Are you involved with this “Call of Duty”?

No, but I’m a huge “Call of Duty” fan. This is the third E3 I’ve been to and the first one was where they premiered “[Call of Duty:]Modern Warfare 2.”

What’s been exciting for you this week so far?

First, I saw “Gears of War 3” and that looks great, and that Star Wars game which was one of the early titles announced for Kinect.

Right, “Kinect Star Wars.”

Yeah. When they had the original presentation a year or so ago, that was a title where I was just excited to see it. And now, it’s here and playable. So that was fun.

So you’re a Star Wars fan too?

I love the movies and those great characters. But, you know, I have to admit that I’m not that dyed-in-the-wool guy who can quote all the dialogue. But, come on, this game lets you be a Jedi! To have a lightsaber and use the Force? Every kid wants to use the Force!

So what’s your prestige level in the “Call of Duty” games?

On “Modern Warfare 2” or “Call of Duty 4”? I don’t remember my exact levels. But, “Call of Duty 4”–which was “Modern Warfare 1”–I think I logged a total of nine days, if you added up all the time I spent on it. Now I have an 11-month-old. So, with the current title “Call of Duty: Black Ops” coming out just as I’m getting used to being a dad, I’ve yet to even prestige at this point.

I just had a kid, too. They cut into the video game time. I actually thought that since I’m going to be up late, I’m going to play even more. Not happening.

Still, when you’re playing games, it’s work for you, though.

Yeah.

So you can use that as a defense, at least.

But my problem is I don’t always have time to finish anything. I’ve always got to jump onto the next thing. So, were you ultimately happy with “L.A. Noire?” I know it was like nothing you’d ever done before…

Yes, I really was happy with it. So much of it was done in pieces. All of the story was written and a lot of the world–all of the exteriors or the interiors and the city map–was done before we ever stepped in and became a part of the project. That was all completed. I worked on it for about a year and a half, I’d say, but even then there were two portions to that process. There was the motion capture for the bodies and then the facial capture.

So much of it was done over such a long period of time, so, to see it all put together, all of the elements, was a really cool thing. It just feels like a really cool thing to be a part of.

How are you at solving the cases? Did you remember everything when you sat down to play the final product?

Actually, I’m terrible. I’m a terrible interrogator. I’m really terrible at it. My wife is really good. We’ll play it. And she…

She has better instincts than you.

She does. And I’ll remember things. I’ll say, “Oh, I vaguely remember that there’s some matches that are important. I need to find matches.” So I’m combing the area for matches that I remember being an integral part of the case. But she’s actually able to pick out the lies and the evidence much better than me.

That’s really funny. So what else are you looking forward to before the week is out?

I’m really curious about the Wii U. I’ve read about it. I haven’t seen it. This is the second booth that we visited. Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing that. Have you seen it?

Yeah. It’s interesting. I think there’s a lot of possibility to it. It all depends on how people design for it.

I was kind of reading that it lets you move the game video from the TV to the other screen. There’s a lot of question marks about everything else it can do, I think.

It’s potentially going to fundamentally change how you play with games. It all depends on how you design to it. So I think it’s going to be really, really interesting. So, do you get your wife to play anything with you besides “L.A Noire”?

She’ll play “Left 4 Dead.”

Wow. That is impressive! “Left 4 Dead” isn’t for newbies or sissies. Kudos! Impressive. That is a good getting ahead. Does she ever leave you in the dust to get killed the zombies?

No, I have to kind of stay with her and protect my lady. That’s a fun one, with all the different zombie types and when they come running at you. She’ll play that one and she’ll play some of the Wii games. But, again, we haven’t played anything in a long time. But let’s see, what else? She plays a lot of “Angry Birds.” What about you?

Right before I got to E3, I was playing “Infamous 2,” which I love.

Oh, really?

Yeah, it’s just out this week. Eric Ladin does the voice for the main guy now. He’s on “The Killing,” which just started with a U.S. version.

And he’s on “Mad Men,” as Betty Draper’s brother. He’s also in “LA Noire.”

Is he?

I can’t remember which character he plays, but he’s a person of interest in one of the cases. You know,I played the first “Infamous” and got through about three-quarters of the main story and I played it as a good guy but I never made it back to play through it as an evil Cole McGrath.

Do you have more game work coming up?

Only playing. Like I said, my son is 11 months old and, like you said, it’s hard to find time. But it’s weird because, when I do, you know, I find myself playing games on the phone more than anything.

Are you an addict of “Angry Birds” like Jon Hamm?

I am. I don’t have three stars on every level but you go back and try. I’m playing another mobile game now. Have you ever heard of “Tilt to Live”?

Yes. That’s a great game.

It’s a great game.

I imagine mobile games on the iPhone and stuff must be good for you guys because you’re on set, you’re between takes, and you’re like, “OK, I’ve got five minutes and I can bang out a couple of levels.”

That’s exactly right. My wife always says, “Are you playing Tilt to Live right now?”

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Say Hello to Our Scarface Quiz

Play along with movie trivia during "Scarface" tonight at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Tony Montana is all about money, power and respect. And while we can’t promise you’ll get money or power by taking our Scarface quiz below, you will get respect if you get a perfect score. One out of three ain’t bad. Click below to take the quiz, and catch Scarface this month on IFC.

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Hank Azaria’s Simpsons Advice For Grads, Questionable Shark Facts and More of This Week’s Funniest Videos

This week we're laughing at Hank's Tufts commencement speech, Jason Alexander's shark facts and more.

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Photo Credit: YouTube/Tufts University

We’ve made it! Memorial Day weekend! But before we can complain that it’s over too quickly, take a moment to bask in the pre-break lack of productivity and enjoy some lighthearted videos.

From Hank Azaria channeling Chief Wiggum and other Simpsons characters while talking to college grads to “Shark-spert” Jason Alexander sharing questionable shark facts, here are five funny things from this week you need to watch.

1. Kermit Informs Fozzie Bear That They’ve Been Canceled

It’s never easy to see someone receive bad news, much less a Muppet. But if anything, Kermit’s poise and acceptance during a time of crisis is impressive, admirable even. Fozzie Bear, on the other hand, reacts with greater similarity to how we would: with baseless anger and utter despair.


2. Jason Alexander Offers Shark “Fin Facts”

Memorial Day weekend means the start of beach season, aka Shark Feeding Season. As part of IFC’s Shark Half-A-Day Memorial Day marathon, “sharks-pert” Jason Alexander offers up some interesting “fin facts” about our sharp-toothed friends from the deep. You can also check out Jason’s beach tips, and catch the Jaws movies with more “fin facts” from Jason this Memorial Day on IFC.


3. Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke Confirms Dothraki Is a Real Language

With eyes still dewy from the climax of this past Sunday’s Game of Thrones (Hold the door!), the Mother of Dragons herself Emilia Clarke dropped by Late Night with Seth Meyers to throw the diehard fans a reason to smile: Yes, Dothraki is a real language. Watch Clarke discuss the phonetics and grammar involved with vying for Westeros rule.


4. Hank Azaria Gives Advice Through Simpsons Characters

Hank Azaria — star of The Simpsons, The Birdcage, and Brockmire, premiering in 2017 on IFC — gave the commencement speech at his alma mater Tufts University. In the hilarious speech, Azaria discusses how he got through college, recounts his early career struggles, and offers up life advice via fan favorite Simpsons characters like Chief Wiggum and Comic Book Guy.


5. X-Men: The Animated Series Gets Honest

Screen Junkies are back this week with another round of Honest Trailers. This entry focuses on the cartoon mutants that comprise X-Men: The Animated Series — an ultra-’90s Marvel property that predates the comic book adaptation boom of the 21st Century. But looking back at the decade of Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane, this video finds much to mock.

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Weird Al Comedy Bang Bang Season 5

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“Weird Al” Talks Comedy Bang! Bang!, His Upcoming Tour, Favorite Videos and More

Weird Al comes to Comedy Bang! Bang! starting June 3rd at 11P on IFC.

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With a career spanning five decades, “Weird Al” Yankovic has defined the song parody genre and become a beloved pop culture icon. Starting June 3rd, you’ll be able to catch him as the brand new Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader Fridays at 11P on IFC.

We recently chatted with Al about joining Scott Aukerman on the new season, his upcoming tour, favorite CB!B! characters and his future dream projects. (Hint: it might involve actors spontaneously breaking into song.)

The Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader gig seems like a natural fit for you. Did it take any time to get acclimated?

Weird Al: Yeah. It’s a slightly different skill set. The accordion is my main act, but I don’t use it on the show at all. It’s a keyboard setup. The actual setup is a little bit of a combination of what Reggie [Watts] had and [Kid] Cudi had. And a few extra things thrown in. So I’m trying to do my own version of what they brought to the show.

You’ve been on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast and the show many times. Do you have a favorite CB!B! character?

Weird Al: I’d probably have to say Doctor Time. Every time Scott wants me to do an evil character, he’s always got a bad English accent. [Laughs] Any time my character goes evil, he becomes sort of British.

Any favorite guests you’ve worked with?

Weird Al: Gosh, I love them all. Paul F. Tompkins is always fun. His Andrew Lloyd Webber character, Cake Boss, everything he does. And Andy Daly as well. They’re so versatile and so amazing at improv. That’s the one thing I was a little nervous about because I’ve never been super confident with my improv skills. But Comedy Bang! Bang!, particularly the TV version, is good for that because it’s all heavily edited. So it kind of gives me permission to try out whatever comes to my mind, so if it really sucks, they’re not gonna use it. [Laughs]

Scott Aukerman Weird Al

Your upcoming tour is a continuation of your Mandatory Fun tour from last year. Any new elements to the show?

Weird Al: Well, it is the same tour, so it’s not that much different. I might freshen some video a little bit. I’m hoping to use a bit or two from the current season of Comedy Bang! Bang! and slip that into the show somewhere.

The tour starts June 3rd in St. Petersburg, Florida and ends September 24th at Radio City Music Hall. How do you keep up the pace? 

Weird Al: It’s just a mindset. I’m really only working for two hours a day, so I basically just save up my energy for the show. I relax, surf online, watch satellite TV, read a book, rest my voice, and then give it all I got when I’m onstage.

Looking back at your vast song catalog, was there ever a parody that came to you immediately upon hearing the song?

Weird Al: Yeah, that’s happened a few times. More often than not, I have to think about it and analytically work out all the variations on a theme that I can and pick out the one with the most potential. But there’s been a few times where the idea came to me spontaneously. I think the first time I saw Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video, before it was even over, I thought, “Oh! I gotta do ‘Fat’! Super-plus-sized actors trying to get through a turnstile on a subway! I gotta do that!”

Do you have a favorite of your many hilarious videos?

Weird Al: Oh boy, it’s hard to say. “White and Nerdy” has been my biggest hit and that was a really fun video to do. But in terms of making a video, “Tacky” was really fun to do because it was so easy and I got to work with amazing people like Jack Black, Margaret Cho, Kristen Schaal, Eric Stonestreet, and Aisha Tyler. And we knocked it out in a couple of hours. We were having so much fun while making it, I kinda wish we weren’t so efficient and professional. [Laughs] I could’ve done that all night.

Was it filmed all in one take or was it stitched together?

Weird Al: That was all one take. Some people say, “Oh, I see where the edit is,” but it was all one shot. We did a total of six takes, and I think four of those takes were usable, but the last one was the best.

And you were directing while performing?

Weird Al: I directed that one, yeah. We location scouted and found a building in downtown LA that I thought was good for the shoot. I’ve since seen that building in a lot of other movies and TV shows — I think it was used in The Big Lebowski and a few others. It was difficult because I start the video in one set of clothes and I also end the video in a completely different set of clothes. So while the cameras were off me, because there’s only one elevator in the building, I had to run down five flights of stairs, quickly change my clothes, and hit my mark for the end. And after the take, we’d all just watch what we did, and say, “OK, let’s do it again.”

Is there a director you’d love to work with in the future?

Weird Al: Oh gosh, yeah, but I mean, music videos are notoriously low-budget so that’s why I end up directing them myself. [Laughs] But I’d love to be in a movie codirected by Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino.

Do you have a particular genre of music that you love parodying the most? Or is it more of the moment and different for each song?

Weird Al: It doesn’t necessarily revolve around personal taste so much. It really depends more on the song than the genre. But I found rap songs tend to lend themselves to parody, mostly because there’s a lot of words to play with. A lot of pop songs are repetitive, and that’s sometimes been an issue. With rap, there’s no shortage of syllables to mess around with.

Given that you’ve been so prolific and done so much, is there any type of art left that you’d like to dip your toe in? Dramatic acting, perhaps?

Weird Al: Well, if Spielberg and Tarantino want me for their film, I wouldn’t want to turn them down. But there’s no burning desire to do drama. I love doing comedy and feel comfortable doing that. Writing a musical might be something I do down the line. I don’t know when but I might take a shot at something in that area. Other than that, I’ve done pretty much all I wanted to do in my life so far. A lot of it not successfully. [Laughs] But I took a stab at it and feel gratified by that.

You’ve had such a eclectic career in music and comedy. What do you attribute your longevity to?

Weird Al: [Laughs] I don’t know what I’d attribute the longevity to. There’s a modicum of talent, but it’s mostly because I surround myself with very talented people. I’ve got a great support group, I’ve got the same band since the early ’80s, and I’ve worked with the same people for decades. And I got a very loyal fan base and I love what I do. And somehow I’ve been very lucky and it’s worked out so far.

Watch “Weird Al” in an episode from the new season of Comedy Bang! Bang! right now, before the season premiere on Friday June 3rd at 11P.

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