CALLED TO DUTY
Hawaii native Jeremy Dunn is the ‘motion capture’ actor who creates many of the moves in some of the world’s biggest video games
Millions of gamers were called to duty when the highly anticipated Call of Duty: Black Ops video game launched last week.
Many pre-ordered their copy months ago, and thousands of retail outlets even opened their doors at midnight to deliver the first copies.
According to Activision Publishing, Call of Duty: Black Ops became the biggest entertainment launch ever with an estimated sell-through of approximately $360 million in North America and the United Kingdom alone in the first 24 hours of its Nov. 9 release. That’s about 5.6 million copies.
The wait is finally over, but the hype continues. And for local boy Jeremy Dunn, it means another block-buster title on his resume. Dunn is one of the main motion-capture actors in the game, meaning he’s the guy the player sees and controls.
“In Black Ops I do voice and I also did a lot of scenes as the player, which means where you’re looking I had to look because the camera is around my head,” he explains. “I also did a lot of the motions of the people you’re seeing, so the gun drawing, the rolls, the scaling of mountains.”
Call of Duty: Black Ops is the seventh main installment of the Call of Duty series developed by Treyarch and published by Activision. The game, which is rated M (Mature) for blood, drug reference, intense violence and language, takes players to conflicts around the globe, as elite Black Ops forces fight in “deniable” operations and secret wars that occurred under the veil of the Cold War.
“Black Ops is going to be absolutely the most amazing game you’ve ever played because the technology that was put into it is second to none,” says Dunn, 31. “And one thing I like about it is if you’re a Modern Warfare fan, you have a little more modern weapons. I personally liked World at War because it was more gritty. The guns, everything is a little more nasty. Black Ops has both because that’s when the technology shift was coming.”
Dunn also appeared as a motion capture actor in Call of Duty: World at War, which was released in 2008 with millions of copies sold, and also was photographed for the game cover, which later appeared on the cover of XBOX 360 magazine. In 2009, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare2 was released, and approximately 4.7 million copies were sold on its first day of release.
Those who aren’t familiar with video games should know that the Call of Duty franchise is a big deal. Dunn credits the phenomenal success of these video games to the graphics, the story line and the realism it brings.
“One thing I love is that Call of Duty also integrates history,” he adds. “I actually learned more from World at War than I learned in school, history wise.
“Also, when I play I’ve heard people say things like, dude, I totally respect soldiers. You don’t have a second chance in real life, but you get killed in a game and you come back.
“So, I think people like it because it puts them in the action but in the safety of their own home. However, it’s important for them to know this is very real. There are real battles out there and real enemies, and we need to respect our soldiers.
“All the guns I use are fake. These guys use the real guns. They’re the real stunt-men. I’m just Hollywood.”
Dunn started his motion capture acting career in 2002 and has since appeared in a long list of video games, including Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, UFC Undisputed 2009, Quantum of Solace, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, Rise of the Argonauts, The Bourne Conspiracy, Turok, Conan, Spider-Man 3, The Shield, Desperate Housewives: The Game, Madden NFL 2007, True Crime: New York City and more.
“I was always a gamer, so it’s almost a dream come true for every gamer to end up being in a game,” says Dunn, who lists Madden, Legend of Zelda and Mario Bros. as some of his personal favorites growing up. “When I was a kid I never thought I’d be doing this for a living, nor did my dad think that if he bought these games it would actually benefit me in the future. But now more than ever do I have to play because I need to study my motion.”
Dunn, who lives in Venice Beach, Calif., was raised in Kapahulu and graduated from Kaimuki High School in 1997. A standout safety on the football team, he received the MVP award at the East vs. West all-star game his senior year, and was recruited by Western Oregon University before transferring to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.
Football was his passion with a goal to get to the NFL, but then the entertainment industry came knocking and the opportunities were too good to turn down.
“I took a voice class (at UNLV) and was cast in the 2000 ESPYAwards as one of five tenors who sang in front of 20,000 live,” he recalls. “It was one of the biggest rushes of my life and that’s where everything started.
“I had seven seconds of national television, and an agent backstage asked me if I wanted to have a (small) kissing scene in the movie Pay It Forward.”
From there, Dunn became a model, including work for The Gap and Armani. Then the terrorist attacks of 9/11 happened.
“I was watching live when the planes hit and it was totally shocking, and I lost all drive to do anything else,” he remembers. “I didn’t want to go to school. I even contemplated military. I needed a change and wanted to get out.
“Then my cousin (Shaun Piccinino), who is an actor/director, called and said you need to come to L.A. and let’s make movies.”
Dunn made the move and started going to auditions. Needless to say, he got noticed, and with a background in sports, naturally moved into stuntwork. Last week, he was in San Diego working as a motion capture actor for UFC Undisputed 2011, and earlier this year grew a beard and shaved his head for a role as a stunt performer in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, playing one of nine henchmen for Blackbeard. He also did stuntwork for Thor, scheduled for release next May, and The Green Hornet, scheduled for release in January.
Dunn, whose father Jeff lives in Nuuanu and sister Sonya lives in Hilo, says he tries to be in Hawaii at least once a year. His mom, Judy Chapman, lives in California.
“One time I didn’t come back (home to Hawaii) for three years because I was so focused on my career, and then a good friend of mine, Tautua Reed, said to me, ‘Jeremy, you have to come home so you remember why you’re up there doing what you’re doing,'” recalls Dunn. “Remember who you are, where you came from, who you love and where your loyalty lies.”
Part of that loyalty includes making time to cheer on his alma mater, including at the recent OIA White Division championship game against Kalaheo. Kaimuki won 48-12.
He also “hits up” his favorite eateries: Big City Diner, where he orders the kim chee fried rice; Hung Won in Kaimuki, which he believes has the best Chinese food on the Island, and Gina’s B-B-Q in Market City Shopping Center.
“Being in Hawaii makes you want to work harder for everybody back here, everyone who’s watching you and cheering you on,” says Dunn. “Hawaii is home and where my heart is. I think I’ll move back one day, but I’m not sure exactly when.”