Idris Elba isn’t the first celebrity to grace the world of Cyberpunk 2077, but his role as Solomon Reed in Phantom Liberty, the game’s first (and possibly only) expansion, is still pretty unique, per a new interview in which CD PROJEKT RED reveals the character was written specifically for the 50-year-old actor. This is a contrast to how the studio approached Keanu Reeves, whose character, Johnny Silverhand, “already had a story” in place before the John Wick star was ultimately sought to tell fans that they were “breathtaking.” Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is now available for pre-order ($29.99) ahead of its release on Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, and PC via the GOG, Steam, and Epic Games Store on September 26, 2023.
“When we were designing a story for and then decided to cast Keanu Reeves, it was slightly different than with Idris Elba,” quest director Pawel Sasko said. “With Keanu Reeves, we already had a story that we knew we wanted to tell, and we were on the level of scenarios when we casted an actor. Then this is where Keanu Reeves came in. With Idris Elba, it was slightly different because we were on the level of story outlines. So, even before you go into screenplays and scenarios, so just very general. Then we started thinking about an actor that could actually fill that role.”
“You write differently for an actor versus when you just write a story and cast an actor for a role,” he added. “Basically, when designing a story for Solomon Reed or Idris Elba, we already knew for whom we are writing those things. It was like from almost the very, very beginning, like really early, we already knew for whom we are doing [this]. So that was a major difference.”
From a Kotaku report:
Reeves’ performance in Cyberpunk 2077 was met with mixed reception, with some feeling his delivery felt flat, and for a character who is as angry and vitriolic as Johnny Silverhand, it didn’t always feel like the performance and the material quite lined up. Which, given the apparent order of operations, makes some sense, now.
While Elba was on board to play Solomon, Sasko says his schedule required some flexibility on the studio’s part. While the studio had worked with big celebrities before, Cyberpunk 2077 has had huge stars in pretty involved roles between Reeves and now Elba. Working with Reeves’ schedule to record Johnny’s lines was a learning experience for CD Projekt Red, and according to Sasko, helped them better coordinate with Elba for his work on the expansion.