Interviews - Dominic Armato
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Dominic Armato

Six months after the release of "The Curse of Monkey Island" I got a chance to ask Dominic Armato, the voice of Guybrush, some questions about his relationship with the Monkey Island games and his experiences supplying the voice for the main character in the third installment.

When did you first hear of the two first Monkey Island games?

I actually played The Secret of Monkey Island on the first Sega CD system. I had gotten it for Christmas, it had just been released, and Monkey Island was one of the first titles available. I had played Loom on the PC, and I was a big fan of adventure games, so I thought I'd give it a try. I wasn't even aware that there was a sequel until a number of years later when I bought another LucasArts title and flipped through The Adventurer that was enclosed in the box.

What did you think of the ending to LeChuck's Revenge?

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that it REALLY bugged me. And it really wasn't the ending specifically, just that at the time there was nothing to follow it. When I first played Monkey Island 2, it was already four or five years old, so I was working under the assumption (as were many, I think) that we weren't going to see a Monkey Island 3.& I didn't mind being left hanging, but not indefinitely. The worst part was, I couldn't really complain to anybody, lest I end up being locked away.& People tend to give you really odd looks when they think you're getting emotionally involved in a computer game.

How did you get the part as Guybrush?

I was called into my agent's office just as I would be for any other audition. I didn't even know what I was auditioning for until I got there, but when I picked up the sides, I nearly died. I went walking through the halls of my agent's office chanting, "I WILL be Guybrush Threepwood!" Everyone was looking at me muttering, "Okay, Dom, you... um... be that...uh... Freep... whatever." It was twice as amusing considering the conversation I had had with a friend a couple of months prior.

He had asked me what my ideal CD-ROM job would be. I told him that first off, it would have to be with LucasArts, since their games rock and their voiceover is tops. Then I said, it would have to be Monkey Island 3, which I insisted was a total pipe dream given that it had been so long since Monkey Island 2, but hey, we were speaking hypothetically. I then said that of all the Monkey Island characters, I'd want to shoot for Guybrush Threepwood. Two months later, there is was in front of me. So I put my audition on tape, my agent sent it away to LucasArts, and I waited. A few months later, in July of '96, I received word that I had made the callback, and was down to the last five.

So I went to a studio in Hollywood, met the voice director Darragh O'Farrell, chatted with him about the game for a while, and then recorded the original audition material, plus a few extra lines. Within a week, I had the part. Later on I found out that the fact that I was such a big fan of the games put me over the top. I had made the cut that brought it down to myself and one other, and it was extremely close, but when Jonathan and Larry heard that I was a huge Monkey Island fan, they decided to go with me. I felt vindicated. Years of video vegetation had paid off :-)

How long did it take to record all the sentences?

It took 27 4-hour sessions that were spread out over a year. I did one session in July of '96 when I was first cast, which covered all the cutscenes and the material for the demo. They record the cutscene voices first, because the animation is done to match the voiceover, not the other way around. The bulk of the recording was done from late February '97 to early April '97. In that time, I did 24 sessions, recording all of the interactive dialogue. Then I was called back in July of '97 for two sessions, one to record the pirate song which had been added, and one for pickups of lines that had been added or didn't quite turn out right the first time.

Was it hard? / Was it fun?

Oh, it was incredibly fun. I hesitate to call it work. Ordinarily, no matter what you're doing in the studio, a four hour session can get tiring, but CMI was just so funny we had a great time. Also Darragh O'Farrell was a lot of fun to work with, and he did his best to keep things lively. The only thing that was difficult was the fact that the script was formatted out of sequence, and I never got to actually work with any of the other actors (except during the pirate song), so there was a lot of guesswork as to the context of many of the lines. Occasionally when we were totally stumped, we'd just read it a bunch of different ways and let the sound people choose.

Did you help write the lines?

The only writing credit I can take is for the songs that I sang for VanHelgen in the Barbery Coast. The words had already been written, and we got to those lines just before our lunch break. Darragh said that they hadn't written any music, and they just wanted me to make something up. The lines were incredibly funny, and I didn't just want to slap some makeshift tunes on them, so I asked him if I could take the lunch break to ponder it. He agreed, so I drove around for an hour making up tunes, and when I came back we laid them down. As I understand, Larry and Jonathan liked them so much that they ended up asking Michael Land to write a complete song for the game, which ended up being the pirate song on board the Sea Cucumber.

Did you get new ideas for a line/dialogue while recording?

On a couple of occasions, Darragh tossed in a line, but because the folks at Skywalker Ranch were working on the software as we were recording the voices, we didn't really have much flexibility. All of the subtitles for the lines had already been programmed in, and making changes was apparently a big deal, so we pretty much stuck to the script.

Are you satisfied with your work? (I know I am :)

I'm very pleased with my work, but only because all of the Monkey Island fans seem to be as well. Being a fan of the games myself, I knew how important it was for me to get it right. I knew that my voice would be the one to receive the most scrutiny, and I was prepared for criticism. The character had been so well loved for so long, I figured I couldn't please everybody, but I just hoped that I wouldn't bomb. As it turns out, the response has been far better than I could have hoped. Apparently I've convinced the gamers that I'm Guybrush Threepwood, so I'm very proud.

Did you meet some of the other people who did voices?

I met about half of them in passing from one session to the next, but I only got the opportunity to work with Alan Young (McMutton), Michael Sorich (VanHelgen), and Gregg Berger (Cutthroat Bill) when we recorded the pirate song. They were great guys, and I really wish I had had the chance to work with them more. Also in passing, I met Earl Boen (LeChuck), Tom Kane (Rottingham/Flying Welshman), Victor Raider Wexler (Slappy Cromwell/Snow Cone Guy), and Gary Coleman (Kenny).

When did you get the chance to play the game?

I got my hands on a copy about a week after the release, and it had been a looooooooong week :-)Through the course of recording, I had seen some incredibly early versions which had black and white sketches for the backgrounds and tiny Full Throttle characters substituted for the characters that hadn't been animated yet, but I didn't see anything even remotely close to a finished product until the release. I got my copy from Darragh, took it home, and pretty much played it straight through. I remembered how to solve almost all of the puzzles, but it still took a while. I wanted to hear all of the dialogue, so I was saving and reloading like mad. I still have something like 30 Megs worth of savegames on my hard drive. I really loved the game, it was a blast.

Will you be doing other voices in the future?

I've already recorded a couple of voices for two LucasLearning computer games that should be released sometime this year, and my goal is to get into television animation. It's a difficult business to break into, but with a little luck I'll be doing many, many more voices in the future :-)

What is your favourite quote from the Monkey Island games?

Geez, there's so many... my favorite is probably the "You don't need to see my identification" sequence between Guybrush and the Cabana boy in CMI. Either that, or Murray insisting that he'll "Roll! Roll through the gates of Hell!!!" But there's so many, it's hard to say. No, it's probably the "Turn off your computer and go to sleep" from the original Monkey Island... I nearly died... it was, after all, the middle of the night... we gamers are so predictable. Of course, it could have been.......

What is your favourite scene from the Monkey Island games?

My favorite scene still has to be the romantic interlude between Guybrush and Elaine on the dock in the Secret of Monkey Island. Something about the ocean at night, the swelling music... *sob*... I still get choked up.

Who are your favourite characters?

I love Murray. He rocks my world. Actually, originally he was only going to be in the scene outside the ship from the demo, but the response to him was so strong that they wrote him into the rest of the game. I also got a real charge out of the Snow Cone Guy.

Have you ever met The Devil Chicken El Diablo?

Actually, no. As I understand, after his cameo in CMI, he rushed off to Hong Kong to aid his less demonic bretheren in their hour of need. At the moment, he's either stalking the jungles of the Pacific Rim, or being served up on a bed of steamed rice. Who knows?

When were you born?

I was born on November 18th, 1976 in Melrose Park, on the west side of Chicago. I grew up and went to school in Chicago and the immediate suburbs, and moved out to California in September of 1995.

Do you have any plans for the future?

At the moment, I plan to continue to work at breaking into animation, as well as spending at least two hours a day in a meditative trance attempting to send Jonathan and Larry psychic vibrations, convincing them that they must make Monkey Island 4. I'll let you know how it goes.

This interview is exclusive to The World of Monkey Island. you are not allowed to copy it to your own site. This interview is copyright Ken Christensen. Not to be reproduced in any way.

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