Update 10/18/22: Sources have rebutted details of Hellena Taylor's story; she stands by it. See the latest here. This article was previously updated to include a statement from Jennifer Hale.
Hellena Taylor, the original voice actress of Bayonetta, released a sequence of videos on Twitter explaining why she did not return to the role. Taylor claims that she was offered a flat sum of $4,000 to voice the character in the upcoming Bayonetta 3, and on refusing this offer, was replaced by Jennifer Hale of Mass Effect and Knights of the Old Republic fame. Taylor urged players to boycott the game, compared her situation to that of other underpaid workers, and urged Bayonetta fans to donate money they would have spent on the game to charity.
Taylor begins her videos by pointing out the Bayonetta series' international success, as well as her extensive training and career as an actress and role in shaping the character. Taylor claims that she did a routine re-audition for the role, and received a lowball offer even below the $4,000 one she would get later. She then personally appealed to series creator Hideki Kamiya via a go-between. The developer allegedly told the actress he "values greatly her contribution to the game." Taylor was subsequently offered the final $4,000 flat sum for her performance.
Taylor indicates that the offer insulted her, given the character's international success and her role in that success. In addition to offending her pride as a veteran performer, Taylor describes being at a point in her career when she feared becoming destitute, and even contemplated suicide after turning down the role.
We have reached out to Hellena Taylor and Platinum Games, and will update this story if we hear back.
Bayonetta is one of Platinum's most successful franchises, selling over three million units across both games according to VGChartz, with only NieR Automata's 6.5 million units shipped surpassing it. The company recently shut down its first live service game, Babylon's Fall, after a dismal critical and commercial reception.
Friends, Worldlings, Bayonutters. Hear ye!#PlatinumGames #Nintendo #Bayonetta #Bayonetta3 #Bayonutters #Boycott #NintendoEurope #NintendoAmerica #NintendoJapan pic.twitter.com/h9lwiX2bBtOctober 15, 2022
Hideki Kamiya, one of the creators of Bayonetta and a founding member of Platinum Games, responded with the message, "Sad and deplorable about the attitude of untruth. That's all I can tell now." Kamiya went on to caution readers to beware his rules—a reference to his combative social media presence and propensity to block people who argue with him. Since the original publication of this story, Hideki Kamiya seems to have deleted his Twitter account.
On October 17, Jennifer Hale, the prolific voice actress who replaced Taylor in the role, shared a short message to Twitter in response to the controversy. "As a longtime member of the voice acting community, I support every actor's right to be paid well and have advocated consistently for this for years," Hale begins, subsequently pointing to her respect and advocacy for other VAs.
She continues, "I am under an NDA and am not at liberty to speak regarding this situation. My reputation speaks for itself." The actress concludes by requesting fans that keep in mind the size and dedication of the development team, and she expresses a wish that "everyone involved may resolve their differences in an amicable and respectful way."
Numerous figures in the industry have commented on the situation. Pentiment and Pillars of Eternity lead, Josh Sawyer, tweeted that the $4,000 offer to voice a game protagonist was "absolutely nuts," elaborating, "I have been working with union and non-union voice actors for over two decades and I've never heard of anything that lowball from a studio of any significant size."
Jarrod Greene, an actor who, among other videogame roles, recently appeared in Tiny Tina's Wonderlands, tweeted that he had earned $2,000 for a 4-5 hour (a single standard shift according to the Screen Actors Guild's voiceover FAQ) union voice acting role. This in contrast to the multiple sessions required, high profile, and technical demands of the Bayonetta performance.
Lily Lammers, who has done voiceover work in Smite and Fire Emblem Heroes, shared a series of tweets contextualizing the $4,000 amount with typical pay rates in the industry. Lammers cites figures of around $250/day for non-union voiceover work and around $1,000/day for union voiceover work, figures which are consistent with the Global Voice Acting Academy's rate guide (thanks to Gianni Matragrano for apprising us of this resource.)
With that in mind, and assuming the work for Bayonetta would be done over four sessions/working days, Platinum's $4,000 offer to Taylor would be in line with industry standards for voiceover work. However, this strikes me as more of a floor than a ceiling, and still fails to account for Taylor's veteran status, the high profile of the character, and Taylor's 13-year relationship with the role. Lammers, for their part, pointed to the pay rates as examples of the potential precarity of voice acting as a career, barring the achievement of celebrity status.
As many people have pointed out, Taylor's replacement, Jennifer Hale, is one of those celebrity voice actors and presumably has the leverage to charge far more than a lump sum of $4,000 for this sort of role. The situation is in some ways reminiscent of how David Hayter, the iconic English language voice of Solid Snake, was unceremoniously replaced by Kiefer Sutherland in the final entry of the Metal Gear Solid series. Platinum Games has yet to offer any official response to Taylor's claims.