SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched “Uncharted,” now playing in theaters.
In Sony’s “Uncharted” movie, “Spider-Man” star Tom Holland plays treasure hunter Nathan Drake from the popular PlayStation video game series; however, there would be no Drake without actor Nolan North, who voiced and performed motion capture for the video game icon for nearly 10 years.
In fact, many “Uncharted” fans wanted North himself to star in an adaptation for years, but the actor has one simple response to that.
“People think, ‘It should’ve been you.’ No, it shouldn’t. I’m 51,” North told Variety.
Fortunately for fans, North has a brief, but memorable cameo in the “Uncharted” adaptation, right after Holland’s Drake and Sophia Ali’s Chloe Frazer survive plummeting from a cargo plane thousands of feet in the air. The sequence, inspired by an action set piece in “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception,” begins with Drake stowing away in the trunk of a car being loaded into a plane in order to steal an ancient artifact. In true video-game fashion, a shootout ensues aboard the plane, and massive shipping containers are jettisoned mid-flight. Thrown from the cargo bay, Drake hangs on to a container for dear life, climbing and battling mercenaries along the way. Right before he makes it back into the plane, Chloe, armed with a parachute, hops into the car and drives it out the cargo bay door — directly into Drake.
The pair of treasure hunters plummet down, a breathtaking and seamless sequence that appears as if it were shot in one take. They manage to latch onto a piece of luggage mid-fall and deploy a parachute, allowing them to float down to the water and bob on the waves. They’re eventually carried by the current to a beach town, where a familiar voice greets them.
“Whoa, what the hell happened to you two?” North asks, lounging in a chair on the beach. As Drake’s original voice actor appears, the iconic “Uncharted” video game theme swells for the first time in the movie.
“Fell out of a car then fell out of a plane,” Holland answers, drenched, but mostly unfazed by his near-death experience.
“Huh. You know, something like that happened to me once,” North says knowingly. As Drake and Chloe walk off, North calls out, “Good luck!”
For North, the cameo was short and sweet, exactly what he’d hoped to contribute to the film.
“I think cameos can be touchy. I told them, ‘I don’t need to be in the movie just to be in the movie,'” North said. “I don’t like to be taken out of a movie. When I’m watching one, I’m focused in. From what we did, it’s just enough of a nod that everyone goes, ‘Ah, that’s the guy!’ And then we’re right back into the film. I was adamant with them, I didn’t want it to be self-indulgent. It’s a quick little thing, and it works for the scheme of the film and it’s fun. Like Stan Lee’s stuff in Marvel movies. They always were perfect.”
The scene took four days to shoot in Barcelona, where Drake, Chloe and Mark Wahlberg’s Victor “Sully” Sullivan explore during their treasure hunt. Under normal circumstances, the cameo would’ve been simple to film. However, this was in October 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which made North’s trip to Barcelona something like a twisty, suspense-filled “Uncharted” adventure itself.
“I had to get my COVID test — passed it. Then I had to get my visa the next day, and I was leaving [for Barcelona] the day after that. The next day, the office for emergency visas in L.A. had a positive COVID test and they shut down. They flew me to Houston, I got an emergency visa in about 90 minutes then I was leaving the next night,” North recalled. “I flew from Houston to Barcelona, got off the plane, went straight to their facility for a COVID test and to the hotel. I’m in beautiful Barcelona — now I can’t leave my hotel room for 36 hours. This was at the time where you order food, they knock on the door, they run and you bring your food in like Gollum.”
North revealed that he and Holland performed the scene as written, but also improvised a few lines. As for Holland’s younger take on Drake, the original actor had nothing but praise.
“I was super impressed by Tom Holland, not only his talent, but the person he is and watching him interact with the cast and crew. At the beach, there were so many extras and people who wanted to see him. There were crowds of young girls waiting to see him come off the set, and he waved and they screamed. I waved and they didn’t scream, but that’s OK. Some of their moms did,” North said.
The “Uncharted” games portray Drake in his mid to late 30s, with a couple flashback levels showing him as a teen meeting his mentor Sully and growing up in an orphanage with his older brother Sam. The movie uses those scenes as groundwork for the original story, which introduces Drake in his early adventuring days.
“Where was he during his 20s? There are so many adventures they could do,” North said. “It’s kind of endless, as long as Tom looks like he could play in his 20s — he’ll probably be in his 40s and play his 20s. When I saw him, it was perfect. It doesn’t look like the character, but it is the character.”
A prolific voice actor, North has played recognizable characters like Iron Man, Deadpool, Rocket Raccoon and Penguin in various games, in addition to starring in franchises like “Assassin’s Creed,” “Call of Duty,” “Destiny,” “The Last of Us” and countless more. In film and TV, he’s appeared in “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “Rizzoli & Isles” and “Melrose Place,” and voiced characters in “Young Justice,” “Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas,” “Star Trek: Lower Decks” and “Voltron: Legendary Defender.” However, it was “Uncharted” and Nathan Drake that he says “changed my life.”
“It gave me a little more financial security as a working actor. Because of ‘Uncharted’ and its success, I traveled more than I thought I ever would,” he said. “I continue to travel to conventions or appearances, Barcelona as part of the film. [‘Uncharted’] is 10 of the best years of my life, when I was with some of the most creative people I’ve ever known.”
Much like the games, the “Uncharted” film sets itself up nicely for a sequel, with two mid-credits scenes teasing the next team-up between Drake and Sully, who sports a video-game accurate mustache. Drake’s brother Sam, played by “Outer Banks” star Rudy Pankow, is also revealed to be alive and imprisoned somewhere, trying to get in contact with his younger brother.
If there were a sequel to the film, North says he’d love to see some elements incorporated from “Uncharted 2,” like the snowy mountains of Tibet, the lost city of Shambhala and Drake’s main love interest, Elena Fisher, who is absent in the movie. And even though he’s too old to play Drake, he has another idea up his sleeve.
“Maybe some day they find Drake’s long-lost father, I’d be old enough by then,” he said, proposing a reunion scene between him and Holland. “‘You’re the guy from the beach! I’ve been watching you, kid. You’re doing great.'”