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Michael Mando Interview: The Future Is Bright For Vaas Montenegro

Michael Mando Interview: The Future Is Bright For Vaas Montenegro

Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?

Far Cry 3’s Vaas Montenegro is one of the most recognisable villains in video game history. That’s factual. From his wild-eyed stare to his mohawk and gruesome forehead scar, his physical presence is only upstaged by how unhinged the pirate leader is.

“Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?” is a question that bounces around the skulls of almost every gamer on the planet, and that captivating monologue permeates far and wide outside of the hobby. Vaas, I think it’s safe to say, is truly iconic.

We were fortunate enough to sit down with Michael Mando ahead of the release of Far Cry 6’s DLC, Vaas: Insanity. Mando - who aside from imbibing Vaas with his looks, acting chops and motion capture - is also a co-creator of the character. You may recognise the actor from his other appearances in shows like Better Call Saul as Nacho Varga or Mac Gargan in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Below is a transcription of the interview which touches on Vaas’ creation, the likelihood of a Vaas movie or TV show, and Mando’s reaction to the character’s warm reception from fans.

GAMINGbible: I wonder if we could quickly go back and talk about the first time you auditioned for Vaas? You’ve said in the past that the original idea wasn’t quite the one that we got, is that right?

Michael Mando: Well, actually, what happened was, when I got the audition for Vaas they were looking for like [a guy who was] 6’6”. This big, big monster. And I think they wanted a deep voice. And the actor had a choice of like six, seven accents to pick from. When my agent sent it to me, I told her I'm not that, you know? I don't know why they want to see me for this, I think they had seen... there's a clip on YouTube of a show called The Border that I did where I had tattoos on my face. I think they had seen that. And they said, bring him in anyway, maybe he'll give us a different interpretation of it. 

So when I came in with it, I said, since I don't look anything like what they're looking for, I'm going to go ahead and improvise this monologue and sort of change it around and stuff. I think Ubisoft released a clip of it in an interview we did not too long ago. I kind of turned around and I was pretending I was eating and I was like sucking on my fingers. It got really unpredictable and really crazy really fast. I didn't think I was going to get the part because I already didn't think I looked anything like what they were looking for. And I was very lucky to have a gentleman in the room who was called Brent George, who actually contacted me not long ago, and he turned to the casting director and sort of whispered after my audition. I thought they were gonna say ‘get the f out of here’!

[But] to my surprise, Andrea Kenyon, the casting director said, ‘they want you to go even further’. And I was like,’ further than this? Okay’. From there, the character was created through a lot of improvisation. Brent would say to me ‘okay you're in a club, and you meet a girl you'd like. And then how would that go and you're surrounded by your friends, you got to tell a joke’ and then the writers would write down a lot of stuff. Then they would write scenes, and we'd improvise the scenes, and they go back and write it. 

GB: How did it feel slipping back into that role?

MM: It felt like we never left. I always felt that there was so much more to the character that was unexplored. I've always been interested in, like a deep character development film about a character like that. But at the time, the industry wasn't really interested in characters like that as a focal point of a story. Now, with Joaquin Phoenix's Joker, and characters like Deadpool, who are very, very antihero characters that you'd never think could be the main driver of the storyline, I think the world's coming back around to that idea. I'm incredibly interested in exploring a Vaas film or TV show. Especially given the fact that the character translated so well to film and TV with the Far Cry experience and the asylum stuff that we shot in Montreal that's now on YouTube.

GB: Well, you've jumped ahead and answered one of my other questions. Obviously, Ubisoft are getting more into that kind of area - into films and TV shows - you say that you would very much be up for doing that?

MM: Yes. I have been thinking about it for a while. I spoke with Ubisoft in Italy a few years ago. We had coffee and I told [them] a couple of ideas that I had for a film. And I have a couple of really great ideas I spoke about with Greg Russo (Mortal Kombat 2021) who is really interested in Vaas as a character and making a film. I spoke to some writers from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul about it, and there's a lot of interest there. I’ve also spoken to producers here in Los Angeles that are interested. I think if the fans really asked for it, I feel we could give it to them, right? I think we're very close, we'll see where it goes.

GB: Do you think that if you did go down that route, you would follow the canon of what we know about Vaas? Or would you use it as an opportunity to create a new version that is more suited to the big screen?

MM: You know, that's a really good question. I've learned a lot from Breaking Bad with Peter Gould (writer and supervising producer) and Vince Gilligan (creator, writer, producer, director). You know, reading those scripts and analyzing and watching those guys work - they're just masters. So pulling back is something that I always find interesting. That works really well for TV, and I think it applies for film. Look at great movies, like The Godfather - you pull back and there's not a lot of violence. It's about the themes, it's about the thesis that you're trying to portray. Though, I don't know if we would change the essence of the character. I'd be interested in pulling back a little bit, going back and trying to see how he got there. Kind of like an origin story would be fascinating. And then I have another story that I'm developing that would take place with the Vaas we know now, but that takes place on a huge, huge international scale. I can't say anything yet, but hopefully people will keep asking for it. And we'll sit down, and give it to the people.

Far Cry 3 /

GB: I don't know if you are aware of this, but when Far Cry 6 was announced there was a character (Diego) who a lot of people thought was potentially a younger version of Vaas. There was a lot of hype about the fact that we might be exploring this character's backstory. Did you catch in on any of that?

MM: Ubisoft did this fun thing where they gave him the scar. They give him a little bit of a scar. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but someone put that scar there. And you know, given the bosses iconic look, and that scar is actually based on - you see this scar? [Michael shows a scar on his left eyebrow] You see my eyebrow? That's what that scar is based on. They took that scar - that real scar - that I have and prolonged it in the game.

But there is no connection between Diego and Vaas from what I understand. We do get to explore a younger version of Vaas in the downloadable content, Vaas: Insanity. We get to explore that child part of him, which is something that I was really interested in. In the movie version that I pitched to Ubisoft - a couple of scenes that I had with Vaas as a child that would mark him and his vision of the world. Because, you know, a character like that has been presented a world that is so different from the world you and I understand. So it's very hard to not want to go back to the child or the adolescent and explain all the different aspects as to how you become like that.

GB: Speaking of the fans - do you have any particularly fond memories of interactions you've had with them?

MM: I remember a moment where I realized - like this full circle moment. I went back to my original Theatre School in Montreal 10 years later, and I went after hours, I wanted to surprise one of my teachers. When I got there, they were young actors who had occupied one of the ballet rooms, and they were rehearsing. When they saw me they said, ‘could you please come in, we have to show you something’.

They were rehearsing the Definition Of Insanity monologue, and it was just amazing for me to be in the classroom that I was 10 years ago with these young aspiring actors who were using that monologue in class to do their presentation, and it was just mind boggling. And I have to say, it was moving. And they were really good, man! I was just like, maybe they did it better than I did! So that was a real, real special moment for me to see how far the character has gone, and at the same time, how much of an impact it had on the acting community.

The Vaas: Insanity DLC for Far Cry 6 will be releasing November 16th and is the first of three planned DLC add-ons for the game.

Featured Image Credit: Ubisoft

Topics: Far Cry 6, Far Cry, Ubisoft