Rolfe in 2013
|Born||July 10, 1980|
|Alma mater||University of the Arts|
|Genre||Gaming, sketch comedy, Let's Play, game review|
|Subscribers||3.6 million (combined)|
|Total views||1.8 billion (combined)|
|Catchphrase(s)||"What were they thinking?!"|
James Rolfe (born July 10, 1980) is an American filmmaker, actor, YouTuber, and online personality. He is best known for creating and starring in the YouTube webshow Angry Video Game Nerd, a joint production between Rolfe's Cinemassacre Productions, GameTrailers, and ScrewAttack. His other projects include reviews of board games, classic horror films, and weekly Monday videos.
Rolfe began creating homemade video productions in the late 1980s and has created more than 270 films (including shorts, features, and webisodes) throughout his career. His career as an online celebrity took off in 2004 with the beginning of Angry Video Game Nerd. Two years later, Rolfe gained mainstream attention when one of his videos went viral after friend and collaborator Mike Matei persuaded him to publish them on the internet. Between this time, he filmed videos he created on his own and most of them have been released on his website, Cinemassacre.
Rolfe was born in New Jersey on July 10, 1980. His parents bought him an audio recorder as a Christmas present sometime in the early to mid-1980s. Later, he got a camera and took photographs with friends performing fights for new projects. He was inspired by The Legend of Zelda and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to create adventure stories. Rolfe also illustrated comic books, which he updated monthly. One such comic he created had a plot inspired by the video game The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
Rolfe started filming shorts in 1989 and continued this hobby into the early 1990s. He used Mario Paint for a few of his early films. He eventually took classes for hand-drawn animation at a university. His early films did not have scripts or rehearsal. However, once he started writing scripts, his friends gradually lost interest because of the pressure of trying to remember their lines, which left many of Rolfe's films unfinished. He then tried his hand at action figures or puppets. The plot of The Giant Movie Director (1994) involved toys coming to life.
Since his early teen years, Rolfe operated and ran an annual "haunted house" Halloween attraction out of his parents' garage (the same garage was later used in building a graveyard for his horror comedy film The Deader, the Better and again used in his film/series pilot Jersey Odysseys: Legend of the Blue Hole), using a collection of several props and antiques that he later reused multiple times in his other films.
In May 1996, he filmed A Night of Total Terror in his backyard, a horror film that he has called "the turning point of my life". In the late 1990s, Rolfe created several films such as the B-horror movie The Head Incident that he finished in 1999 but did not release until its tenth anniversary in 2009. He also made Cinemaphobia in 2001, which follows an actor who suffers from an overload of work and sees hallucinations of cameras following him. Two versions of the film were made, a ten-minute version and an extended, fifteen-minute version. Rolfe has stated his preference for the shorter ten-minute version. The same year, he created Kung Fu Werewolf from Outer Space which is a mainly silent movie except for narration. He also created an hour-long comedy film entitled Stoney, which is a spoof of the 1976 film Rocky. His eighth film of 2001 was It Came from Beyond the Toilet. In 2003, he created another film, Curse of the Cat Lover's Grave, which was split into three parts to define three different horror genres. Rolfe made a pilot of a planned web series entitled Jersey Odysseys: Legend of the Blue Hole, which is based on the urban legends of the state of New Jersey. The pilot centers around on the legend of the Jersey Devil.
In May 2007, he began a new web series called You Know What's Bullshit?, in which he rants about everyday pet peeves; such as pennies, shoelaces, pay toilets, and printers. Originally just being rants by Rolfe, he instead decided to create a new character to host the series–"The Bullshit Man" (which is just Rolfe wearing a mask resembling cow dung). The Bullshit Man made several cameo appearances in AVGN content, including select videos and the video game AVGN Adventures. In 2020, the show's name was censored to You Know What's BS? due to YouTube's advertising policies.
In 2007, Rolfe began filming The Deader, the Better, a classic-style B-movie horror film that pays homage to the 1968 horror film Night of the Living Dead. The film was shown at the Atlanta Horror Fest in October 2007. On May 5, 2006, Rolfe released a music video that included stock footage from a trip he had made to England and Scotland. The music used in his work was from the Black Sabbath single "Heaven and Hell". Rolfe also participated in the 48 Hour Film Project between 2004 and 2007. In the 2007 event, he was the Audience Award Winner for his film Spaghetti Western. His other entries were a trilogy of films called Death Suit (2004), Death Seen (2005) and Death Secret (2006).
Angry Video Game Nerd
Rolfe's career did not gain much momentum until May 2004, when he filmed a 5-minute short review of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) game Castlevania II: Simon's Quest under the name "Bad NES Games". His character was originally named "The Angry Nintendo Nerd" but was changed to "The Angry Video Game Nerd" to avoid trademark issues and because he started reviewing games on other consoles (e.g. Sega Genesis, Atari 2600). Rolfe conceived the basis of his character while he was studying at the University of the Arts of Philadelphia when he attended from 1999 to 2004. Rolfe then made another video, which was supposed to be the last of the series, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, because it was the game he hated most. His beer drinking in most of the video was done on purpose as to say "these games are so bad I'm forced to drink". Both of these became generic traits of "The Nerd", which would appear in future videos. The choice of Rolling Rock was coincidental as it happened to be the only beer that Rolfe had in his refrigerator, and this eventually became an identifying trait of his character, although in more recent videos, he has also included Yuengling beer, hard-liquor and non-alcoholic hot sauce. Originally his videos were meant to be private. However, Rolfe's friend and collaborator, Mike Matei, convinced him to post the videos on a YouTube channel called "JamesNintendoNerd" (now called Cinemassacre) on April 6, 2006, which Matei created and managed for him.
On September 12, 2006, Rolfe's character first gained mainstream attention when his review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles became popular on YouTube. His videos are also posted on GameTrailers and ScrewAttack and have gained 30 million views monthly. He has over 3 million subscribers, as of September 2019. At the end of 2007, Rolfe halted the production of the series and cancelled an appearance at MAGFest after suffering from a break in his voice. On March 17, 2010, he made the announcement that he was suffering from burnout as a result of consistently writing, directing and starring in the videos, and that the show would be entering a brief hiatus. It was scheduled to return in May 2010; however, an episode was released on April 30. Episodes are released on either the first or second Wednesday of each month, as opposed to two episodes per month due to Rolfe's other projects. Episodes were at one point posted on YouTube over a year after their original release on GameTrailers. Rolfe formerly had affiliations with ScrewAttack before leaving in 2013.
Rolfe's character gained further fame through a fictional feud with the Nostalgia Critic (played by Doug Walker). This began with the Critic launching a satirical attack in an early episode. The feud took place over many episodes between 2008 and 2009. The two characters, and real-life comedians, are now good friends. Walker has informed his viewers of Rolfe's projects, and Rolfe has contributed to some of the Critic's subsequent videos.
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
For a period, Rolfe focused his efforts on producing Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie, which revolves around E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the video game for the Atari 2600. The film was a collaboration between Rolfe and Kevin Finn and was entirely funded by fan donations. The release of the film in 2014 coincided with the 31st anniversary of the 1983 video game crash. The final sequence of the movie, in which The Nerd reviews E.T., was later released as a standard AVGN episode.
Rolfe had a cameo in a Doritos and Pepsi commercial published online in November 2010. The ad was part of a voting contest of which the winning clip was to be shown during Super Bowl XLV. However, the ad was eventually withdrawn due to public backlash, because it spoofed the Catholic practice of Eucharist. In 2007, Rolfe had a cameo in the fan film Return of the Ghostbusters. He was featured in the 2009 documentary His Name Was Jason, in which he talks about the Friday the 13th movie series and its antagonist Jason Voorhees. Similarly, Rolfe appeared in a bonus feature to the 2010 documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, in which he discusses the Nightmare on Elm Street NES game, a title he had previously covered as the Nerd in the 13th AVGN episode. The bonus feature can be found on the second disc of the Never Sleep Again DVD set.
In 2010, it was announced that Rolfe was set to feature in a low-budget remake of Plan 9 from Outer Space entitled Plan 9, which was released through Video on Demand beginning February 16, 2016, and then released on physical media in stores on January 5, 2017. Around early to mid January 2013, Rolfe played a brief role as a news reporter in an independent short film about Sonic the Hedgehog. He was offered a role in V/H/S/2 by Adam Wingard, but had to decline due to working on Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie. Rolfe also appeared in the crowdfunded 1980's horror documentary In Search of Darkness.
Commitment to the YouTube videos has slowed Rolfe's progress in making new features, but he did make a trilogy of new shorts after Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie, including Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: The Movie (2015), based on the video game, Flying Fuckernauts vs. The Astro-Bastards (2016), a tribute to B-movie sci-fi, and Mimal the Elf (2017), a mockumentary. On May 25, 2017, in a general update video about the future of the YouTube channel, Rolfe announced he was in very early development on what he termed an "atmospheric horror movie... [the film would] take place in one room... very minimal". On December 29, Rolfe announced that 2018 would lean more toward his own original projects, and that he had begun writing the untitled horror film. It would be in the vein of past projects, such as Legend of the Blue Hole and Cinemaphobia. On August 8, 2018, Rolfe said he was 50-75% done with the script, and that it would contain some type of 'nostalgia theming', but it would likely undergo further rewrites and had no plans to film it in the near future. On June 19, 2019, Rolfe said the script was completed, but commitment to video production would delay the project for the foreseeable future.
On October 18, 2020, Rolfe announced the horror film was postponed indefinitely, owing to family commitments. Instead, he directed a sequel to his 1999 horror short, The Head Incident, reuniting several members of the original cast/crew.
Other video series
Cinemassacre has published a number of other reviews featuring James and associates as themselves. The topics include video games (under the James & Mike Mondays series), video game peripherals such as the VictorMaxx Stuntmaster headset, and films. One of Rolfe's other series is Board James, where he and Mike Matei review old board games in a humorous way, often with recurring characters. This show eventually developed into a psychological horror series, while still containing board game reviews in each episode.
Rolfe was involved in a fifteen-part series titled OverAnalyzers, where he played the part of the manager of a fictional company that over analyzed various pop culture references. The series was edited and produced by another website called Cinevore. He also worked as a film reviewer on Spike.com.
Rolfe has run Monster Madness, in which he reviews one horror movie for each day in October, since 2007. Each year, he has adopted a different theme for Monster Madness. 2007 was the history of horror. 2008 was Godzillathon, in which he reviewed all of the Godzilla films chronologically. 2009 was Monster Madness Three, which dealt with a variety of popular and little known films of horror. 2010 was Camp Cult, which dealt with both campy horror films as well as cult classic films, such as Troll 2. 2011 was Sequel-A-Thon, which dealt with horror sequels. And 2012 was 80's-a-Thon, which included only movies made in the 1980s. While the first five years of Monster Madness have been one film review per day for the entirety of the month of October 2012's 80's-a-Thon series of Monster Madness was reduced to every other day of October due to the production of The Angry Video Game Nerd Movie. Despite the decreased number of film reviews, the film reviews in 80's-a-Thon were longer than previous reviews on Monster Madness. With October 2013's Sequel-A-Thon 2, Monster Madness has returned to one review per day. 2013 was Sequel-A-Thon 2, which dealt with more horror sequels. The final 31 marathon Monster Madness series ran during October 2016. Rolfe expressed his desire to move onto other Halloween-themed projects and reviews in the future, but said that Monster Madness will always live on in some way.
In 2017, Son of Monster Madness debuted, which consisted simply of five new reviews, with the rest of October bulked by reuploads of older reviews previously not available on YouTube. Monster Madness, under the original branding despite not having videos posted everyday, returned in October 2019, now having Rolfe with a guest talk about the films.
He attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia from 1999 to 2004. He continued residing in Philadelphia after graduation. He briefly relocated to Los Angeles while filming Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie (2014), returning to Philadelphia upon completion of the movie.
In 2004, Rolfe was involved in a car crash when a utility trailer came loose from its truck, flung out to the other part of the highway, and hit him head-on. Rolfe sustained no physical injuries from the crash, while his Saturn Ion, which he had bought just nine days prior, was wrecked. Later that year, Rolfe discussed his experience in a short movie, Mechanical Losses, which can be seen on YouTube.
Rolfe met April Chmura in July 2004; she was a cinematographer on the early Nerd episodes. They began dating shortly after and got married in November 2007. He announced at the premiere trailer for Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie in November 2012, that they were expecting their first child. In April 2013, she gave birth to a baby girl. Rolfe has not divulged details about his daughter except for a few photos and expressing thanks that his wife got past complications resulting during childbirth.
In November 2013, April posted an update on Rolfe's Cinemassacre website that their daughter is continually seeking medical treatment due to unspecified complications. On April 13, 2016, Rolfe revealed what happened while announcing an auction of various Cinemassacre memorabilia to benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children. During birth, his daughter suffered nerve damage in one of her arms, and required many months of physical therapy to gain full use of it. Rolfe expressed gratitude to Shriners for all they did for his family during that time.
He has an Italian ethnic background.
On April 19, 2017, Rolfe announced on his Twitter account that he and his wife April are expecting another daughter. Their second daughter was born on September 1, 2017.
Criticism and controversy
Rolfe has something of a reputation among internet communities for generally staying out of contentious topics like politics and social media movements. However, he has been the subject of criticism over various business practices.
The earliest instance was when Rolfe made an endorsement video for a Kickstarter campaign by Greg Pabich for Cheetahmen II cartridges with the promise of game-breaking bugs being fixed if the goal of $65,000 was met. Many were skeptical as to why a fundraising campaign required $65,000 to produce a playable version of a negatively received game which already had several fan-made ROMs with bug fixes circulating on the internet. Many people who donated received dysfunctional NES cartridges and there was little to no response from Pabich.[better source needed] Rolfe issued an apology on his blog spot at Cinemassacre, stating he did not adequately research Pabich and his campaign when he made the endorsement.
On May 17, 2016, James uploaded a video to Cinemassacre's YouTube channel in which he expressed unhappiness with the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot film and how he planned on not seeing it or releasing a review. Rolfe criticized the film's lack of originality but had no problem with the female cast. This stance was criticized by some in the entertainment industry, with many theorizing that a significant portion of fan backlash against the movie was being grounded in sexism. Actor Patton Oswalt, who criticized Rolfe, pulled back his accusation later, claiming to have "picked the wrong target".
Former Cinemassacre contributor Brendan Castner (a.k.a. Bootsy Spankins, P.I.) left the website in 2016 after an argument over his compensation which arose from his years' worth of disagreements with Rolfe and Rolfe's longtime collaborator, Mike Matei.[better source needed] He claimed that he was never paid for any of his appearances and musical contributions within the Board James series while also criticizing how one of his videos had been monetized for Cinemassacre's gain after he had left.
|1999||The Head Incident||Dr Memrix/Bob||Writer, director, supporting actor, editor |
|2001||Cinemaphobia||The Film Actor||Writer, director, actor|
|2002||The Night Prowler||Narrator||Voice, director|
|2002||ROLFE: A No-Budget Dream||Himself||Documentary|
|2004||Jersey Odysseys: Legend of the Blue Hole||Narrator
|Writer, director, producer, editor|
|2005||The Deader the Better||Zombie||Writer, director, producer, editor, cinematographer|
|2005||The Mexican Mummy||Narrator||Voice, director|
|2007||Return of the Ghostbusters||The Nerd|
|2008||Piece of Meat||The Nerd||Special effects|
Short, music video
|2008||Late Night with Ganondorf Dragmire||Ganondorf
|2009||His Name Was Jason||Himself||Documentary|
|2009||History of Super Mecha Death Christ||The Nerd||Writer, editor|
|2010||Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy||Himself||Documentary|
|2011||Suburban Knights||Voice of the Ancient World||Voice|
|2012||To Boldly Flee||Gort|
|2013||Sonic||Light News Commentator||Short|
|2014||Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie||The Nerd||Lead role, creator, director, writer, producer, editor|
|2015||Plan 9||Officer Cop Policeman|
|2015||Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: The Game - The Movie||Grave Digger||Writer, director, producer, editor, cinematographer|
|2016||Flying Fuckernauts vs. The Astro-Bastards||Narrator||Writer, director, producer, editor, cinematographer|
|2017||Mimal the Elf||Beerman||Writer, director, producer, editor, cinematographer|
|2019||Shooting Clerks||Leonard James Nash|
|2019||In Search of Darkness||Himself||Documentary|
|2020||In Search of Darkness II||Himself||Documentary|
|2020||The Head Returns||Dr Memrix/Bob||Lead role, writer, director, producer, editor|
Short (sequel to The Head Incident)
Television / webshows
|2004–present||Angry Video Game Nerd||The Nerd, Board James, The Bullshit Man, various characters||Lead role, creator, director, writer, producer, editor|
|2004; 2011||Munky Cheez||Various||Voice|
|2007–present||Cinemassacre's Monster Madnesss||Host/Narrator/Himself||Annual series|
|2007–present||You Know What's BS!?||The Bullshit Man||37 episodes|
|2008–present||Nostalgia Critic||The Nerd||Supporting role/cameo|
|2009||Metal Gear Ben||Mega Mantis||Recurring character/secondary antagonist|
|2009||Atop the Fourth Wall||The Nerd||1 episode|
|2009–2015||Board James||Board James, The Nerd||27 episodes|
|2010–2011||Spade||Luther Jessup||4 episodes|
|2011–2014||Pat the NES Punk||The Nerd/Himself||5 episodes|
|2012–present||James & Mike Mondays||Himself||106 episodes|
|2015||James & Doug||Himself||6 episodes|
|2016||Commander Chet||Eye's Dad||2 episodes|
|2017||Son of Monster Madness||Host/Narrator/Himself||30 episodes|
|2018‐$�2020||Rental Reviews||Himself||34 episodes|
|2019||Scott The Woz||Narrator||1 episode|
|2020||Puppet Steve - Minecraft, FNAF & Toy Unboxings||Ken Masters||Voice|
|2020||Irate Gamer||The Nerd||1 episode|
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