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.


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?”

That 70s Show Thanksgiving episode

Turkey Day Laughs

The 10 Best Thanksgiving Sitcom Episodes

Catch That '70s Show all Thanksgiving Day during IFC's Sweatsgiving Marathon.

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Whether it’s the Connor family on Roseanne or the family of friends on That ’70s Show, there’s no holiday that brings out the comedy in dysfunctional families like Thanksgiving. Before you dig into IFC’s Thanksgiving Day That ’70s Show marathon, check out the 10 best sitcom episodes stuffed full of turkey, laughs and tears.

10. Family Ties, “No Nukes is Good Nukes”

Thanksgiving is ruined at the Keaton household, and for once you can’t blame Alex because it’s his parents Steven and Elyse who get thrown in jail for protesting a nuclear power plant. Unlike his do-gooder, aging hippie parents, the only thing Alex P. Keaton would ever protest is term limits on Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

9. Modern Family, “Punkin Chunkin”

Modern Family Pumpkin


It’s Thanksgiving time, and the intertwined families of Modern Family all have their own squabbles going on. This episode culminates at a football field with a classic Modern Family ending when Jay, Mitchell and Claire doubt that their partners, the self-proclaimed dreamers, can launch a pumpkin through a goal post.

8. Seinfeld, “The Mom and Pop Store”

If this Seinfeld outing was a Friends episode, it would be titled “The One with Jon Voight’s car,” because that is the hilarious storyline that everyone remembers. The Turkey Day plotline revolves around the gang attending Tim Whatley’s pre-Thanksgiving party which happens to overlook the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Any appearance by Bryan Cranston as Tim Whatley is pretty memorable, and in this one he reveals to George who the real Jon (John) Voight is.

7. That ’70s Show, “Thanksgiving”

Kelso Thanksgiving

In the season one Thanksgiving episode of That ’70s Show, the Formans (especially Kitty) dread the arrival of Red’s mother. Laurie returns from college and brings her attractive friend Kate along, who flirts with Eric. The episode creates a classic Eric Forman dilemma as he kisses Kate and then tells Donna. Eric does get another valuable life lesson when he learns that bad things happen to him not because of rotten luck but because he’s, as Red so aptly puts it, a “dumbass.”

6. Roseanne, “Thanksgiving 1991″

Few sitcoms captured the stress of holiday get-togethers like Roseanne, and “Thanksgiving 1991″ has all the family drama and hilarious moments that fans love about the show. Roseanne’s mother Bev reveals that her husband Al has been unfaithful. Darlene is being her usual moody-but-loveable self and stays in her room while D.J. sits adorably alone at the kids table. The appearance of Roseanne’s grandmother Nana Mary, played with crotchety glee by Shelley Winters, makes this episode an instant classic.

5. The League, “Thanksgiving”

In what has to be one of the most brilliant casting choices in TV history, Jeff Goldblum in all his Goldblum glory plays Ruxin’s dad in this hilarious Thanksgiving episode. Sarah Silverman’s appearance as Andre’s promiscuous sister is the icing on the raunchy cake as the guys walk in on Goldblum right before he gives his “vinegar stroke” face. The moment is simultaneously disgusting and hilarious as Goldblum’s look of ecstasy is eerily identical to Ruxin’s look of disgust.

4. WKRP in Cincinnati, “Turkey’s Away”

If you’re old enough to have watched WKRP In Cincinnati, the first thing you probably remember is the catchy opening theme song (and rockin’ closing credits song). But when it comes to remembering an episode, it might be the only sitcom where every fan thinks of the Thanksgiving installment first. This is the show that taught the world in hilarious fashion that turkeys can’t fly, especially when dropped from a helicopter.

3. Cheers, “Thanksgiving Orphans”

A potluck dinner at Carla’s house sets up one of TV’s most famous food fights. This classic moment shows off the gang’s camaraderie in a simultaneous moment of silliness and reflection as they remember the loss of Coach, played by Nicholas Colasanto, who died the year before. The episode also contains the closest thing the audience gets to seeing Norm’s wife Vera, which make the episode even more memorable.

2. Friends, “The One With The Thanksgiving Flashbacks”

“The One With The Thanksgiving Flashbacks” is the Friends flashback episode fans had been waiting for ever since Ross was revealed to be Rachel’s “lobster.” Except in this episode, Monica is Chandler’s turkey in an adorable scene. It’s also the one where we learn why Monica got thin, the one where we find out that Chandler and Ross were way too into Miami Vice and the one where Chandler lost a toe. This episode would’ve been hilarious just for Ross’ “Mr. Kotter” ’80s look alone.

1. How I Met Your Mother, “Slapsgiving”

While the Friends creators obviously loved the fun of Thanksgiving episodes, the How I Met Your Mother writers took it to the next level with the “Slapsgiving” episodes. Slapsgiving was so beloved by fans, it became an epic holiday trilogy. The beloved Slapbet originated in the episode where Robin Sparkles is brought to glorious life, and it continues in “Slapsgiving” as Robin and Ted deal with trying to stay friends during the Thanksgiving following their breakup. Unlike the divisive series finale, Marshall’s Slapsgiving slap of Barney is a “legen (wait for it) dary” moment in the show’s history. If you’ve never seen Marshall’s “You Just Got Slapped” video, you’re in for a Thanksgiving treat.


David Cross in NYC

David Cross Is Coming to NYC’s Live Employee Of The Month Podcast

Todd Margaret returns Jan 7th at 10P on IFC.

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No one would ever accuse Todd Margaret of being a good employee. After being assigned to the London office of Thunder Muscle, he ended up blowing up the entire world. It’s safe to assume that Todd Margaret isn’t going to get a raise after those shenanigans, but David Cross, who plays Todd in the series, just got named Employee of the Month.

The comedian is appearing at the live talk show event on November 20th at NYC’s Joe’s Pub which will be recorded for an accompanying weekly podcast. Cross will be subjecting himself to host Catie Lazarus‘ trademark unorthodox line of questioning about how he created such an awesome career, including With Bob and David, Arrested Development, Todd Margaret and so much more.

David will be appearing alongside Speedy Ortiz frontwoman Sadie Dupuis and actress Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, Mistress America) who finally managed to escape from Portlandia‘s Women & Women First bookstore.

Get tickets here. and be sure to catch the return of a very, very different Todd when the third season of Todd Margaret premieres January 7th at 10P ET/PT on IFC. Check out the trailer for more.

What’s Employee of the Month? Watch the video below. 

Whats Eating Gilbert Grape

Depp Gets Real

10 Times Johnny Depp Was Great Without Makeup

Catch IFC's Nightmare on Elm Street movie marathon Friday, November 20th starting at 6P ET/PT.

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Photo credit: Everett Digital

Ever since Johnny Depp reached teen idol status as a pretty boy cop on the late ’80s TV show 21 Jump Street, he’s made a career of seeking out film roles that he could disappear into. In most of his career-defining films — like Edward Scissorhands, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the Pirates of Caribbean series — Depp has proven to be one quirky chameleon. For his fans that may have forgotten what he actually looks and sounds like, here are 10 times Johnny Depp was great without makeup.

10. A Nightmare on Elm Street

Depp was one of the sleep-deprived teens in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, and his character isn’t remembered for rocking a half shirt or being sufficiently freaked out by Freddy. Depp, who played the boyfriend to Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy, is remembered for being killed in glorious, horror film fashion. As Freddy’s glove springs through his bed, Depp awakens to get sucked in before blood shoots out at the ceiling like a geyser. Depp played a part in one of the greatest moments from the Nightmare on Elm Street series, except for once the other guy in the scene was buried underneath makeup.

9. Platoon

In another pre-21 Jump Street role before he became a household name, a young Depp was cast as “Gator” Lerner, one of the members of the platoon in Oliver Stone’s Vietnam War classic. In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him role, which Stone cut down to be even smaller, Depp proved he could blend into an ensemble. It was one of the few times a Johnny Depp performance could be described as “subtle.”

8. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

After wowing audiences by believably portraying an outsider with scissors for hands and a knack for landscaping in Edward Scissorhands, Depp began a string of acclaimed dramatic roles in the early ’90s. Unlike quirkfests like Benny & Joon and Don Juan DeMarco, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape allowed Depp to play a relatable, not-so-out-of-the-ordinary twentysomething meandering through everyday life. In a movie where Leonardo DiCaprio received the lion’s share of the acclaim for his quirky portrayal of the always dirty, mentally challenged Arnie Grape, Depp gave a noteworthy, understated performance in the titular role that sets the tone for this highly likeable film.

7. Donnie Brasco

In this acclaimed crime thriller, Johnny Depp had his own undercover cop Serpico role that pitted him against the legendary Al Pacino in some highly charged dramatic moments. Depp’s character is based on the real life Joe Pistone, an undercover FBI agent who infiltrates the Mob. If you’re going to be playing someone who learns the ropes of the gangster life, you can’t do better than Pacino, and the duo have genuine chemistry. Depp’s Donnie Brasco battles his own conscience and allegiances as he loses himself in the Mafia world.

6. Chocolat

As Jason Segel’s character in I Love You Man said, it’s hard to argue that the cinematic bon bon Chocolat is “just delightful.” There’s a sweet (pun intended) tone to this adult fairytale of a film, and both Depp and Juliette Binoche play off each other well. Their flirty scenes fit the sweetness that Binoche’s chocolate shop begins to bring to the repressed French town she arrives in with her daughter. In Chocolat, Depp puts on the European charm as a suave traveler who falls for the effortlessly beautiful Binoche and for once he doesn’t chew scenery like so much delicious chocolate, er, “chocolat.”

5. Secret Window

In Secret Window, which is based on a Stephen King novella, all Johnny Depp plays a disturbed writer holed up in a remote cabin. Like Misery, Secret Window has the brand of psychological thrills that we’ve come to expect from King. Depp’s Mort Rainey is accosted by a stranger, played by John Turturro, who claims he stole his manuscript. It is Turturro who plays it creepy with the over-the-top accent, but by the end of this thriller the audience is taken on a ride into Depp’s own madness. Secret Window is classic King, and proof that Depp is due for a return to psychological horror.

4. Dead Man

Depp gives an understated performance in Jim Jarmusch’s moody Western where for once he’s the one reacting to the quirky characters. (It’s hard to be the “head quirk” in a film boasting cameos from Crispin Glover, Iggy Pop and Billy Bob Thornton.) An underrated film in Depp’s canon, and a good showcase for his deadpan comedic timing.

3. Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Once Upon a Time in Mexico is the final movie in the Robert Rodriguez-directed El Mariachi trilogy, and it lives up to the over-the-top action, gunfire and general baddassery of its predecessors. Johnny Depp’s CIA agent character Sheldon Sands steals every scene he’s in, creating one of his funniest and most likeably devious performances. You can’t take your eyes off of Depp, as his character becomes more entertaining after losing his.

2. Ed Wood

Even Depp’s most hardcore detractors have to admit that he gave one his funniest and richest performances as Z-movie director Ed Wood. In one of his least mannered and overtly “quirky” collaborations with director Tim Burton, Depp puts his stamp on a real person without creating an over-the-top caricature. His scenes with Martin Landau, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of horror icon Bela Lugosi, are some of the best work Depp has done in his long career.

1. Finding Neverland

After his comically on-point role in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Depp brilliantly took on as opposite a part as he could the following year, portraying famed Scottish author and playwright J.M. Barrie in this acclaimed drama. If you’re looking for the definitive great Depp performance where he’s not relying on make-up or a cartoonish wig to help bring his character to life, you’ve found it. (Even his Scottish accent is understated here.) Depp seamlessly embodies the Peter Pan creator with childlike imagination, as he forms a bond with Kate Winslet’s Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her four sons. The chemistry between Depp and Freddie Highmore, as the real life Peter, is so heartwarming, even Captain’s Hook and Sparrow would get emotional in the scene where the two sit on a bench as Barrie comforts the boy after the loss of his mother.

Resident Evil Afterlife

Resident Expert

Take the Ultimate Resident Evil Movie Quiz

Catch a Resident Evil movie marathon Saturday, November 28th during IFC's Sweatsgiving.

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Photo Credit: Screen Gems/courtesy Everett Collection

Resident Evil is the sort of action franchise that’ll crash a motorbike through a stained glass window just to explode some zombies in awesome fashion. But how well do you know Alice’s adventures against the undead? Before you catch IFC’s Resident Evil Sweatsgiving Marathon, take the quiz below and prove once and for all that you’re the ultimate Resident Evil movie fan.


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