CD Projekt Red says Keanu Reeves was simply too likeable of an actor to sway players in Cyberpunk 2077. The developer made the decision to turn Reeves’ character in the game, Johnny Silverland, into an unlikable character so that players could more naturally side with him and have a clearer understanding of his arc throughout the story. The company added that it faced a similar situation with actor Idris Elba, who is set to appear in Cyberpunk 2077‘s upcoming expansion, Phantom Liberty.
Speaking during GDC this week, CD Projekt Red’s Paweł Sasko, lead quest designer on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Cyberpunk 2077, talked about how the studio had to essentially dial back Reeves and Elba in the game due to their natural likeability as actors.
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Sasko explained the process behind trying turn Reeves and Elba into unlikable characters so that players could root against them before more organically getting attached to them:
“When it comes to Cyberpunk, we discovered this very interesting factor which is star power. We had Keanu Reeves playing Johnny Silverhand in Cyberpunk 2077 – and Idris Elba in Phantom Liberty – and so we had to take into account the fact that every time we had a star, players were going to fall for a star almost all the time.”
Sasko added that CDPR made the decision to intentionally transform Reeves into an unappealing character at first:
“Therefore Johnny Silverhand, when you meet him for the first time in Cyberpunk, he’s a real asshole. Because we wanted to make sure we could draw this really big arc, from being a horrible person, to the point where you actually really like this guy, and really understand him.”
Keanu Reeves portrayed the washed up Night City rockstar, Johnny Silverhand, in Cyberpunk 2077. Silverhand exists as the “inner voice” of protagonist V throughout the story after becoming embedded in their subconscious. Idris Elba will also have a major role in the upcoming Phantom Liberty expansion, though his role is unclear for now.
Cyberpunk 2077 is now available for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.