Final Fantasy 16 Clive actor has "loved everyone's reactions to the name"
Give Clive a chance, guys.
British actor Ben Starr – who you might recognise from Netflix's You, Sky's Jamestown or any number of other productions – is playing the lead hero in Final Fantasy 16. And the name of this epic champion that players will guide through an action-packed adventure? That would be Clive.
Sections of the internet had a bit of a laugh when Starr's character – full name Clive Rosfield – was first named in public. Starr, however, already had a pre-existing relationship with the Final Fantasy series, coming to the project with a lot of love and nostalgia for the games that have come before.
"I am a big Final Fantasy fan," Starr told RadioTimes.com at a preview event in London. "I've been playing the games since I was 10, I think. And I think Final Fantasy 8 was my first one ever played, and then obviously, I had to go back and play 7 and 9 and 6."
The beauty of Final Fantasy is that each game generally features new characters and stories, making the order of play somewhat unimportant.
Starr remembers those games as "pushing boundaries" and says: "I think there was a time before Final Fantasy 8 for me, and a time afterwards, because I'd never experienced anything like it. You know, I'd been playing good games on the PlayStation. I'd been playing a lot of Anna Kournikova Smash Court Tennis. But there was nothing quite like it."
Now Starr has grown up and landed himself a leading role in FF16. His audition story is "remarkable in how unremarkable it is".
Late on a Friday afternoon, he went along to read for a role in an unnamed fantasy RPG. He began performing a smaller part, speaking all of three lines before the director asked him to try reading for a different role. At that point, the character that would go on to become Clive Rosfield was actually on paper as Clint Richmond. A name that Starr thought was "very funny".
Starr recalls: "I just started to read these lines, and they were very emotional. They were just so vivid, and they told this incredible story. And it really struck a chord with me, maybe some of the stuff I'd gone through. And it just kind of fit like a glove. And I didn't really think anything of it. I didn't know that it was Final Fantasy at the time.
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"I remember walking out think I did an OK job. And then a week later, I get told I got a part in a game. And it wasn't until they gave me this big script in advance, and it had Final Fantasy 16 written on the front. And I remember screaming into a pillow."
The rest is history! A big Final Fantasy fan became the man at the heart of its newest entry, the latest boundary-pushing reinvention from Square Enix, and you can read on to hear more about his journey in the role!
What's in a name?
As we mentioned earlier, certain sections of the internet found it funny that the main hero in Final Fantasy 16 has a name as mundane as Clive. We couldn't help but ask, what is Starr's take on that situation?
As Starr graciously told us, "My take on it is: I've loved everyone's reactions to the name. Because it doesn't, to a lot of people, especially British people, the name Clive doesn't necessarily feel very heroic. Because we have certain connotations with that name. Like, Clive sounds a bit, you know, Uncle Clive from down the road.
"But I've recently watched the film Air, the one about the Nike Air Jordans, and there's that line in it, which is, 'A shoe is a shoe until my son steps in it'. And I think what this game does brilliantly is, 'A name is just a name until Clive stepped into it'.
"And I could never imagine him having any other name. He is Clive Rosfield. Out of context, anything can sound ludicrous but I think he really lives up to this name. And I loved his name to begin with. I was like, 'Oh, interesting. It's not Lightning. It's not Cloud. It's Clive'.
"And I'm so excited that I've gotten to build this legacy of this character, who people are just going to know as Clive and go, yeah, 'He's an absolute badass protagonist, I can't wait to go on that journey with him'. So yeah, a name is just a name until Clive steps into it."
The Game of Thrones effect
We had a chance to play a few hours of the game at the event. At the point at which we were pulled away to speak with Starr, we'd been playing the Final Fantasy 16 prologue – which will be made available as a demo before the full game launches. At this early point in the story, Clive is a young teenager. Son to the Archduke of Rosaria, he is being trained in combat at a castle when a serious situation begins to unfold around him.
One comparison came to mind during this prologue: the iconic HBO series Game of Thrones. We asked Starr if he'd agree with that comparison, with the game seeming more approachable to newcomers than some previous FF entries that might've looked a little too high fantasy and complicated from the outside.
Starr said: "It's a grounded aesthetic that they've clearly gone for which was incredibly accessible. And one note that I kept getting through the whole process is 'make it real', because it is fantasy, but we need to tell these human stories. And if you're going to play with one character, through the entire journey, we have to make him accessible to people. So it doesn't feel that we're separate from him.
"And people are going to draw on similarities that they see from any and all sorts of media. We're going to look at the most popular television fantasy franchise of the past couple of decades, Game of Thrones, there is always going to be similarities to it. But at the heart of it, with Game of Thrones, there's dragons, but what's the real drama of that show?
"It's the humanity between those characters, and that's certainly what I pulled on a lot. It was always, 'How can we make this seem real? How can we make this really affect Clive? How can his relationship with all the other characters seem like we could see them here, or in the 21st century or even beyond that?' There just happen to be icons and ice and giant beasts fighting around each other."
Fancy another reason why this game feels quite accessible? As Starr explained: "This is the first time that a Final Fantasy game has been originally recorded in English. So we were given this incredible bandwidth to make the characters our own.
"This isn't a dub, this is the original language that it's being recorded in, so we didn't have to copy someone else's performances, these are entirely ours. And you'll see that in how real these performances feel."
Bringing it back around to our earlier comparison, Starr added: "For the first time, English has been the first language and it really presents it like a blockbuster, like you are watching an episode of Game of Thrones or that sort of thing."
An entire lifetime of Clive
The game actually follows Clive through three stages of his life – his teens, his 20s and his 30s. Starr played the role in each time period, which he described as being "really useful" when it came to experiencing "the trauma of Clive" which occurs at an early age on one fateful night.
As Starr puts it: "A lot of how raw he is comes from that moment. So it meant that I was able to play a lot of the other stuff far more easily than having to separate the two characters, because his character is shaped on that evening."
Starr added that Clive "will always talk about '13 years I've waited for this chance', so it's like, to have had the opportunity to play that character in that point... those lines would mean so much more."
Summing up the experience of stepping into Final Fantasy as a fan, Starr says, "I know how much of an effect it's had on me. And how much this series has shaped my life."
Starr is aware that "there are going to be people who are going to be playing Final Fantasy for the first time who aren't familiar with the franchise. They're going to be opened up to this incredible world with these amazing motifs that you will recognise from the franchise if you've played them before – chocobos, moogles, seeds, crystals – and they're going to want to explore those again.
"And the fact that 16 is going to be a lot of people's first time, like 8 was my first time, that weight and that responsibility has never been lost on me and isn't lost on any of the people who made this game.
"There is such a love and appreciation for this franchise, that exists and has existed before, and you'll see that with every little inch of the game. It oozes love for this franchise, but also understanding that, like, 'Let's do something new with it.'"
From what we've seen of the game – which features three distinct time periods and a massive sweeping scope alongside its intimate interpersonal drama, magic-infused combat and a few open areas to explore – Final Fantasy 16 could win a lot of new admirers, especially if those Game of Thrones fans will give Clive a chance.
Final Fantasy 16 launches 22nd June on PS5. You can order your copy now.
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