Ian Harrison aka "British Storm" as Punk vs. Master Sega. He was finally identified and accepted an interview!
The French Mega Drive advertisements of the early nineties marked a generation of gamers with its legendary slogan that became cult "Sega is stronger than you". They are what was best at the time, and even today, 30 years later.
Outside the world of video games, they are often highlighted in books or programs dealing with the subject of advertisements.
The Sega France team, then directed by Luc Bourcier, and supported by the Lintas advertising agency, can be proud of the work accomplished and the creation of the emblematic Punk tormented by Master Sega.
Hearing the name of the Japanese company Sega, who doesn’t remember their legendary slogan "Sega is stronger than you"? And yet that was 3 decades ago.
Compilation of all the ads "Sega is stronger than you"
The history of Megadrive advertisements.
For the launch of the Mega Drive in France, a new marketing plan had to be devised. Initially, the advertisements for the French-speaking territory were to be the same as those used by Sega in England. Sega France stood up to the English and succeeded in repelling their attempts to impose their marketing campaigns for France.
In the 1990s, Sega bought the distribution subsidiaries of Virgin Loisirs, which until now had been Sega 's distributor in France. Virgin becomes Sega France and that's where it all begins!
Equipped with a solid, almost unlimited, marketing budget to promote the Sega brand, Luc Bourcier and his team were faced with a major obstacle, as no creative agency in Paris wanted to design advertisements for the video game industry, which wasn’t highly thought of back then.
The first idea, from one of the few agencies that showed interest, was to present a little boy returning from school whose gaze transformed his surroundings into video game sets because he couldn't help but think about his favorite games. Sega France no longer wanted to address children, but young adults. The idea was too simplistic and not different enough from the competition, so it was rejected.
Finally the Lintas agency accepted to take up the challenge and impressed Sega France with the slogan "Sega is stronger than you". Alexandre Bertrand surrounded by Eric Niesseron and Philippe Foliard must think of a better concept to target the young people of the time, namely the hooligans and the cool types of the playgrounds. Together, they imagine a biker that aims to challenge players. Thus, the team of the creative director of Lintas, Alexandre Bertrand, kept their promise by delivering a Punk, who became an unforgettable character and a real icon, as well as for the following seasons, full of creations that we still remember.
It was the director Barry Myers, an English veteran of commercials who offered to transform the character from a basic Punk to a more ridiculous, funnier protagonist. The Brit 's idea was to portray a big, brainless brute and get him into trouble. Muscles are not everything and he would never manage to beat Master Sega who would then make fun of him.
The final idea being found, the scripts written, the director chosen, the shooting can begin.
Picture on the set : I'm the strongest!
Picture on the set : Or not!
Picture on the set : Hmmm, the weather announced a tropical storm!
The filming location
Picture on the set : The Los Angeles of Mad Max!
Picture on the set : We smile at the camera!
Filming takes place, from June 5, 1991, for 5 days without forgetting 2 days of lighting adjustment.
A hall called "H. Stage" is leased to "Shepperton Film Studios" now known as " Pinewood Studio". The shoot takes place in the UK.
For filming purposes, the Los Angeles train station, Union Station, is reproduced faithfully.
Jason Lehel, the cinematographer, vaguely remembers it:
“It was a full set, not an actual location. I used the movie Blade Runner as a reference for the mood, it was my idea to change the lighting once the actor started playing a game."
Four commercials will be shot: Sonic, Strider/Super Monaco GP, Moonwalker and Shinobi. Many Sega lovers have speculated that there is a fifth. It was apparently abandoned during filming or editing. The reasons are still unknown.
"The script was adjusted during filming and editing, but I can't tell you how and when."
By studying in detail the "Sonic" commercial , scenes are reminiscent of "Mickey Mouse Castle of Illusion" (the apple, the boxing glove and the water jet), elements that can be found in the game and in the gameplay rushes of the filmstrips. On the claps of some takes used for "Sonic", it is mentioned "Mickey".
Unpublished Mickey Mouse ad
Finally, the actor playing the punk, who was he?
The actor embodying Punk:
Ian Harrison, now 53, is the actor hiding under the guise of the most famous French punk. He is a former English professional bodybuilder and wrestler known among other names as "British Storm".
“I really didn't know anyone remembered those ads or that the character had a huge following until you told me a few days ago. I find this astonishing and it is a real revelation. I was told the ads could be sold in America and other countries, but I never saw them. Honestly, I had no idea how popular they had become."
Immigrated to Florida with his wife of 28 years, they gave birth to 2 children. They are also the proud grandparents of 4 grandchildren.
“They love to hear the stories of my many adventures, not the least of which are the Sega commercials.”
Born in Leeds, England, Ian was brought up in the spirit of martial arts. His father was a former top judoka excelling in the United Kingdom. At the age of 15, educated in a sports family, he found his way and turned to bodybuilding. Just a teenager, he won prestigious competitions such as the NABBA Junior Mr Britain and the NABBA Junior Mr Universe in 1988.
Gathering experience, from the top of his 20 years, he participated in various competitions in the open heavyweight division and won the EFBB British heavyweight championship in 1989. This last consecration allowed him to obtain professional status.
Shortly after this victory, one of his good bodybuilder friends, Colleen Yates, contacted him explaining that a certain Chris from the casting agency "Sports Workshop" was looking for a bodybuilder for ads from one of their clients who was none other than SEGA . She could see him playing the role of a bodybuilder.
“I was never really a player, I was too involved in my sports career. I knew Sega. I was honored to have been chosen for such an important company's advertising campaign."
At 21, a few days after talking with his girlfriend, he shows up in London for the casting. There were a lot of people auditioning, some he knew, some he didn't. It was his first casting experience.
“During casting I vividly remember being asked to hold a chair and act like I was going to kill someone with it, I did that and cleared the room!! ! Apparently they were very impressed and I got the part."
Filming took place at "Shepperton" studios known today as "Pinewood Studio". Films like "Pirates of the Caribbean", "Prometheus" or "Captain America" were shot in this European Hollywood.
“During the casting, I lied by saying that I knew how to ride a motorcycle. In fact, I had never driven one! I trained on a friend's motorbike in the parking lot of the gym where I worked the day before I came down to London to start filming.
For the role of Punk, the production asks him if he doesn't mind having his head shaved, something he accepts without flinching. On the first day, the hairdressers and make-up artists cut his hair and tattooed barcodes as well as the falcon on his face. The character's look was inspired by the movie Mad Max.
“I had a black chair with my name on it, every morning I went to have my makeup done and they arranged my head, hair and outfit for the shoot of the day.”
In a post-apocalyptic world, Ian Harrison, sharpened with an anarchist Punk mohawk, has the leading role. He is then treated as a Star.
“I remember that at the end of the week, I was driven from London to Leeds by the same driver who had driven Kevin Costner a few weeks earlier while filming Robin Hood. It's funny how these little things stay in the memory.
The film set was very realistic and impressive, he remembers it like it was yesterday. Barry Myers, a director who devoted his career to making prestigious commercials, was a wonderful guy with whom he had a good relationship. All the staff were wonderful, the atmosphere was warm.
“I think Barry appreciated my work ethic and the fact that I never complained, I was just happy to be there working on such a cool project. On the set, they were joking and laughing about what I ate every day, etc.
The director really went all out by using real special effects and hiring specialists of all kinds. The shoots were close to what was done in the cinema.
“I met the stunt coordinator who had been the head stunt coordinator for the original Highlander movie. I immediately wanted to impress him by showing him what I was ready to do to succeed in the scenes.
Picture on the set : A nice cold shower?
Ian Harrison aka "British Storm" as Punk vs. Master Sega
Picture on the set : So we dig a hole?
Picture on the set : And the permit?
Picture on the set : Are we telling jokes to the make-up artist?
Picture on the set : Are they nicer than Master Sega?
Picture on the set : No, not me yet!!!
The highlights of the filming of the actor:
The director's team takes him on a tour of the set, explaining to him the 4 adverts planned. To practice driving the Harley-Davidson and get used to it, for several hours, he revved the engine while traveling with it through the entire studio. During one of his escapades, he saw Dudley Moore (British actor, composer and screenwriter) who was shooting a film on the same date as him.
“The first day, the first take, I was riding the motorbike next to the seats in the station, the ground had been soggy, and I stopped in front of the stairs leading to the television screen. The motorcycle slipped out from under me and I crashed to the ground. Everyone panicked and worried about whether I was injured, but I had nothing and the bike had nothing either. I felt a little silly, but I learned the lesson."
One of the most spectacular scenes is the one in which the pyrotechnicians smash the motorcycle of the yellow-haired hoodlum into a thousand pieces. Two motorcycles will thus be destroyed in spectacular explosions (the film Die Hard is nothing next to those effects) just to the delight of viewers.
"The Harley-Davidson they brought was amazing and I couldn't believe they literally intended to blow it up in the final scene."
For the advertisement for the Mega Drive game "Michael Jackson Moonwalker", a dance teacher attempted to teach British Storm some moves. Since the student had no dancing skills, the professional dancer gave up after just a few days.
"I had to improvise and they imagined that I broke my leg dancing (sort of) towards the game monitor on the stairs."
One of the first scenes shot was of Punk walking through a wall, at the start of the "Sonic" commercial. Once the wall was broken, smoke rose from it and the hero appeared. it was only the beginning of the adventure for the Punk who was going to have a rough time !
“We also did a take of it where I was walking through sugar glass panes, but I'm not sure if that was used in the actual commercials. »
Video of the breaking wall scene: from 01:46
The effects seen from inside the Sonic ad:
The most difficult stunt of the entire shoot was the one in which he played the game "Sonic". Focused on the screen, joystick in hand, a jet of water shoots out of the television to eject him backwards. Master Sega was not tender with the actor and the Punk !!
“For this scene, we brought in a life-size fire truck and we put the hose in the back of the TV screen, so while I was playing, the hose was literally in front of my face.”
The actor was equipped with a special harness, those provided did not suit him. A rope connected the back of the harness to a pulley installed on the roof of the studio then the rope went back down to the ground. Three people, at the director's signal, had to pull like crazy.
The fall landing site, protected with airbags (mattresses), was behind the Punk. As soon as Barry Myers shouted "Action", the firefighters opened the water jet and the actor jumped back on impact with the water while the 3 guys pulled with all their might on the rope.
“On the first take, the garden hose hit me in the face, it was like I had been punched by Mike Tyson! I think we did 3-4 takes to get there.”
For the Punk -stunning apple and boxing-glove scenes (takes originally planned for the canceled "Mickey Mouse" commercial), Ian has to walk on two mats on the floor, one for each leg, and reach the TV face down. to him. Once arrived at the monitor, the production team pulls the two carpets so that he can fall backwards to give the illusion that the unfortunate hero is being ejected while he gets objects in the face.
“I had an idea to make it comical by falling straight backwards as if I was already unconscious, and it worked well!”
The effects seen from inside the Moonwalker ad:
During the advertisement for the game Michael Jakson Moonwalker, the Punk, by dint of dancing too much, sinks into the ground by digging a hole to finally completely disappear. Decidedly, Master Sega definitel had a grudge against him.
“We literally had a circular hole in the floor with a spinning elevator. As I slowly turned and descended, massive fans blew leaves and debris as I drilled into the surface.
Special effects seen from inside the Strider/Super Monaco ad:
While playing Strider on Mega Drive, Punk Loses his beautiful yellow mohawk, the symbol of the entire "Sex Pistols" generation. It is snatched clean by a metallic dragon appearing out of nowhere, yet another shot of....
"I was lying on my side, they cut the mowhawk and used compressed air to pop it and make it look like it had been cut quickly by the dragon spitting on me."
Thinking he's a Formula 1 driver while playing Super Monaco Grand Prix, Punk doesn't suspect for a second that a hurricane is about to be unleashed by Master Sega. The vagaries of nature will not spare him!
“They had massive fans blowing directly at me making it hard to breathe, no special effects, just real wind and dust!”
The effects seen from inside the Shinobi pub:
Did you come by bike? Do you want to play Shinobi ? Well here we go! At the end of the commercial, when the legendary slogan "Sega is stronger than you" appears, the Punk tries to flee from fireballs and escape the fury of a dragon.
“These balls were large and placed on a wire. They ignited and followed me while rolling. The scene required me to dive on a mattress, which I really enjoyed doing. What an idiot am I!
After commercials :
After this memorable experience, Ian Harrison continued his career as a bodybuilder. He used the money earned from the adverts to set up his own gym called "Body Balance" in Leeds, UK.
"I would love to travel to France and meet everyone who remembers the character, if that could be arranged."
He continued to compete in bodybuilding until 1998, when he opted for professional wrestling. From 1999 to 2003, he donned his blue underpants decorated with the flag of the United Kingdom and became known as the "British Storm". He was wrestling as part of the XWF ( X Wrestling Federation ) but will start his career in WCW (World Championship Wrestling) fighting for example Rey Mysterio. Fans of Nintendo 64 and THQ will understand!!!
“I asked for the outfit of the ad, but they wouldn't give it to me, unfortunately. Sega never contacted me for a follow-up to these advertisements.
Picture on the set : are we doing ads for the competition ?
Ian has done other commercials for video games. He also plays Ben Smasher Jackson in the game Fighting Force by Eidos alongside Kelly Brook.
“I went to New York where a lot of pro players were flown out to see us reenact scenes they had staged. I had a few funny stories about this trip, but I'll try not to get off topic, that's for another time."
A few years later, he was approached for the film "the fifth element" but he refused the proposal.
I would like to thank Ian Harrison for his availability, his kindness and for taking the time to answer my questions and even more. His testimony and his photos are exceptional and bring a lot of new information about the "Sega is stronger than you" advertisements. You can follow him on his instagram account "therealianharrison" or visit his website.
In connection with Sega Mega Drive advertisements, you will be able to:
to the Francophone community for interview questions.
to Vince for the English translation of the interview questions and the article.