Me and Simon’s Quest

Outside the Washington St Acting School
Me, Sean, Chris, Sandhya, and Nick

The small walfdorf-esque grade school I went to was heavily into drama. We used to do several plays a year with the whole class. Mostly they were mythological themes: the Norse saga, the Krishna story, the Gilgamesh epic.

I loved it. When our school principal’s daughter opened up an acting school in Royal Oak, I and a bunch of

Head Shot

my schoolmates signed up. That led to a few auditions and a couple of very minor local jobs, mostly commercials, a couple of which even paid dollars, sometimes tens of dollars. We decided to take that money and sink it into a professional “head shot”, a big glossy 8 x 10 photograph, which Mom could use to register me at the two or three talent agencies in Detroit. And so it came to pass that one day I was called to audition for the biggest gig of my career, a TV commercial for Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. Lo and behold, I got the job. And through the power of the internet, for the first time in over twenty years, I watched that commercial last night. Here it is:

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This commercial was directed by none other than Detroit native Sam Raimi, at a pivotal time in his career. It was after Evil Dead II, but before he went to Hollywood and made Darkman, the best comic-book movie adaptation ever, except it wasn’t based on any existing comic-book. It launched the career of Liam Neeson and led the way to the neverending cascade of superhero movies, none of which beat Darkman in my opinion, including Raimi’s own Spider Man in 2002. Fast-forward to 2011 and Sam Raimi is now Hollywood royalty.

The other person in that commercial who went on to fame and legend was …

… Simon, the hero of the video game. Castlevania II, I am only just now learning, was an innovative videogame in the way it introduced role-playing and non-linear quests into the side-scrolling platform-type game, and heralded a stream of similar “metroidvania” games. Castlevania went on to become the single longest-running videogame title in history, and although Castlevania II was the weakest seller of the series, it is venerable enough now to be the subject of (semi-)serious study by scholarly videogame critics. If you are older than I am, you may be shocked to learn that there even exist scholars and serious students of videogames. But in fact Simon beat Sam in a way because the videogame industry is now larger and more profitable than the movie business.

As for me, well, that was it folks. That was as big as I got. I could have been the next Brad Pitt. Or maybe more of a John Turturro. Didn’t happen that way. Instead, as the residuals money trickled in, I wound up with an unsmall amount of discretionary funds for a 15-year-old. I could have saved it to pay for two or three months of university expenses. I could have squandered it on comic books and other habitual pursuits. Instead, my parents put me on an airplane to sunny Sri Lanka, then very much in the middle of its 30-year civil war. There I traveled on foot from Trincomalee to Kataragama and learned vital wearing-a-sarong and eating-rice-with-my-hands skills that serve me well to this day.

10 Replies to “Me and Simon’s Quest”

  1. as-Salaamu ‘alaykum! Man, this is priceless. Made me really laugh. You’ve got some acting chops, man. And with Raimi on your CV, you’re a shoe-in for Halalywood. Question is, which of your little ones will follow in your footsteps? Do I smell an Oscar?

  2. Halalywood, that’s clever. Hang on though because that was not the only time I worked with Sam Raimi. He and I were in a feature-length movie together! I can’t believe some of this ancient crap people are putting on YouTube, but since they are and it’s out there, I might as well get my due, right? I’ll post it in a few days inshallah.

  3. I laughed out loud, too, seeing that video of you for the first time! Since we rarely watched t.v. only once did I catch just the end of that commerical and the big shots who make these commercials can’t be bothered to send copy to the people involved. What a treat!

  4. Yeah you know the phony show business type dude who was handling me on the set promised he’d get me a copy of the videogame too. Of course that never happened either…

  5. I enjoyed reading this post and looking at these fabulous photos. Your parents were brave to thrust you into such an adventure so young but it appears that it paid off in your ability to live authentically and courageously.
    Peace, Collard Green Muslim.

  6. One of my favorite Nintendo games ever. πŸ™‚ And that was an awesome commercial! I’m missing ping pong buddies out here Zayn, gotta come visit soon

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