An Interview With Pierre Santino - The Dreamcast Barber

It took us over a year, with countless emails and tweets and hours of internet searching. But we finally did it, we found The Barber. The full story is documented in this series of articles:

We know how the tl;dr (too long, didn't read) modern internet works though, so the abridged version is this: a guy played a barber in a Dreamcast commercial. He was the face of the console in Europe and his image was everywhere for a few months in late 1999 and early 2000...then he simply disappeared. No record of his name, or who he was left anywhere on the promotional materials, and internet searches turned up nothing. His identity could have been lost to the digital mists of internet lore...that is until The Dreamcast Junkyard stepped in and decided to find out who he was. If you've been following this whole saga you'll know how we did it (and the assistance we had from the wider Dreamcast community), but if not I urge you to read the previous In Search Of The Barber articles to get a full appreciation for how mammoth a task this has been.
This photo is from Pierre's private collection and has never been published before.
Anyway, it's all come to this. We have found him. His name is Pierre Santino and he is alive and well living and working in France. An actor and comedian with an extensive portfolio of work spanning 40 years, Pierre was only too happy (and possibly a little surprised) when we showed him the previous articles documenting our search for him. As he is French and speaks very little English, we enlisted the help of Arnaud Bonnet (author of 1000 Jeux Vidéo, 1000 Anecdotes published by Pix'n Love Editions) who acted as an interpreter. Huge thanks go to Arnaud for his assistance in the translation of this interview from English, to French...and back again. Enough from me though. Let us turn our attention to the man of the moment - The Barber himself, Mr Pierre Santino...

But first, allow us to refresh your memory if you have no idea who 'The Barber' is or have never even seen the European Dreamcast adverts:

DCJY: Pierre, thank you for taking the time to speak to us, we’ve been searching for you for a long time! Could you tell us how you came to become ‘The Barber’? How did you find out about the part and did you have to do an audition?

Pierre Santino: Yes, following a successful casting suggested by my agent, I was chosen for the role since I had an 'unusual' appearance and I knew how to use hair clippers...which was important for the role.

Very important, as it turns out! What did you know about the Dreamcast before being cast in the role?

Not a lot - I didn’t know anything about the Dreamcast because it wasn’t released yet!
Can you tell us anything about the shooting of the commercial? Where was it shot, and what was it like on the set? How long did the shoot take?

Of course. From memory, the commercial shooting took place in the French city of Marseille for two days, and this was followed by a day spent in London, England for a photo shooting session. As you know, the pictures from this shoot were published in the UK, France and around Europe.
 During the commercial shooting I had such a good time. There were a lot of extras, a pretty huge team (make-up artists, costumes designers, set decorators, various other on set crew). It was as if we were on a big movie set. I also recall there were some important people from Sega also present on the set.

Did you have any idea how famous and well known you would become as ‘the face of the Dreamcast’?

No, not at all! I really didn’t think my face would become so famous after those three days!
I dread to think how many people saw your face on those leaflets contained in the Dreamcast game boxes! Did this role have much impact on your life? Did you become recognisable in the street, for example?

Yes, the role of 'The Barber' helped me to success in others auditions and castings afterwards, and people who recognised me started to shout at me in the street, asking permission for taking a picture with me! It was really helped by the fact that the commercial was shown before the new Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace movie in cinemas.
 A lot of people saw it and recognised me.

I remember seeing the advert in the cinema myself and I think it really excited a lot of people for the launch of the Dreamcast. It was an interesting time for gamers and you were an intrinsic part of it. What is your history in acting terms?

I’ve been an actor and a comedian for more than 40 years now. I've been in countless TV series, movies, short films, commercials and video clips. I’m also a humorist and a pyrotechnician specialised in pyrotechnical special effects.

At this point, I thought it was worth mentioning that Pierre also featured in the French crime/gangster movie Borsalino, released in 1970. The film was ranked at 19 in Empire Magazine's 2009 article 'The 20 Greatest Gangster Movies You've Never Seen.' Here are a few exclusive photos from the set that Pierre shared with us:
What did you think of the Dreamcast? Did you play the system at all?

Haha! No, 

I’ve never really played on the Dreamcast as I'm not much of a gamer, but a lot of people among my relatives bought it at the time!

I was hoping you'd have a secret collection of every Dreamcast game ever made! Not to worry. What do you make of this search to find you? It’s taken over a year of research and nobody seemed to know who you were - what have you been doing over the last 16 years since the advert?

Well, you are a very persevering person! And I must say I’m happy about that. In truth I was really surprised - in a good way - when you contacted me. It’s true that it's been a long time since this commercial and the Dreamcast and I still like to share it.
 But in the intervening time? Like I said in a previous question, I’ve been busy with my acting career for the past 16 years, and have appeared in many different TV shows, movies and commercials.

Since discovering your identity I have been quite taken aback by how many credits you have to your name, which only adds to my puzzlement that it took so long for me to find you! Lastly, how does it feel to be forever linked to this games console? You are something of a legend now and the Dreamcast community at large is thankful that we found you - do you have anything you would like to add about this whole thing?

Haha! A legend? This may be something of an overstatement… No, I’m just a comedian doing his work with a lot of love and respect for all the people around myself. You know, this is really a passion for me and I’m very proud of it. 

I hope you’ll be satisfied with my answers, and now that we’re friends and I have made friends with lots of others in the Dreamcast community I hope we’ll be able to continue to communicate!

I think that's pretty much guaranteed! Mr Santino, thank you for you time and for answering our questions.

Thank you.
So there you have it! The Barber has been found, he's an accomplished thespian and comedian...and now he's a member of The Dreamcast Junkyard's Facebook group! We all love a happy ending, and this is about as good as is gets for me in some slightly nerdy way. I never thought I'd discover who played this iconic Dreamcast-related role, and to finally speak to him adds a little bit of closure to the saga. I really hope you've enjoyed coming along on this ride to find Mr Santino, and I thank you sincerely for putting up with my constant tweets and Facebook posts. Oh, and for reading.
If you'd like to know more about Mr Santino and his acting career, you can find his IMDB entry here (it's far from complete, though), some clips of his work on YouTube, and details of his latest movie Charbon here (plus a clip below):

Once again, massive thanks to Arnaud Bonnet for translating this interview from English, to French and then back again in a far more legible manner than Google Translate ever could! You can find Arnaud's book 1000 Jeux Vidéo, 1000 Anecdotes at Pix'n Love here.


Eleazar López said...

Congratulations for finding him! And of course, thank you for the interview. Good work, guys.

Tom Charnock said...

Thank you!

Unknown said...

Cool! now lets find a new obsession for you ;)

Richard Troupe said...

It's incredible that you found him Tom after persevering for so long. I genuinely thought that he'd never be found but it just goes to show you how resourceful both you and the wider Dreamcast community truly are!

I'm sure that everyone shares your excitement and sense of accomplishment in finding the true identity of 'The Barber'.

Keep up the excellent work on the site and the podcast, and I'll see you guys at Play Manchester.

Anthony817 said...

I had this smug grin on my face whilst reading it. Congrats on netting that cherished interview with the man himself. All of us regular readers were rooting for you for sure.

Now, lets hope you obsess as much over having your friend leak those betas he has been sitting on! XD

Unknown said...

This was an amazing interview! As always you are the best asset the Dreamcast community has.

Unknown said...

This was an amazing interview! As always you are the best asset the Dreamcast community has.

BlueSwirl said...

This is awesome, I knew you would find him eventually!