The name Jim French may not make gamers immediately think of anyone in particular, yet his voice has had an impact on millions. Perhaps best known as the voice of William “Bill” Overbeck from Left 4 Dead, Mr. French has unfortunately passed away. Jim French had recently retired from his long-standing position at the head of Imagination Theatre, producing radio plays for over twenty years.
Imagination Theatre confirmed that Mr. French passed away on December 21st early in the morning with family at his side. The voice actor and director was 89 years old, which means he sadly passed away at the same age as Robert Guillaume, the voice of his Half-Life 2 co-star, Eli Vance.
Jim French’s role as Bill in Left 4 Dead is perhaps his best-known, especially after the game received a continuing DLC to detail the fates of the original survivors. He also reprised the role in Overkill Software’s Payday: The Heist, appearing in the special No Mercy Hospital DLC. However, Mr. French’s voice talent was lent to a wide variety of Valve games. The developer had a long history with Mr. French, bringing him on to play the eccentric Father Grigori in Half-Life 2, The Fisherman in Half Life 2: Lost Coast, and most recently, The Elder Titan in Dota 2.
Since Bill was killed off in Left 4 Dead via the universe-building comic The Sacrifice, and the subsequent matching campaign DLC, chances are the actor wouldn’t have made an appearance in the frequently rumored Left 4 Dead 3. However, his loss will nonetheless leave a mark on the gaming community, as the majority of the characters he played were fan favorites.
Although Jim French may be gone, his talent will be long-remembered and permanently preserved in a multitude of games. From his cranky admonishments to his zany laugh, Jim French shaped characters that won’t easily be forgotten by those who played the games he was a part of.
Our sincerest condolences to the French family. We’ll miss you, Jim.
Left 4 Dead is available on Mac, PC, and Xbox 360.