Have Your Say: You Shouldn't Digitally Resurrect Dead Actors

Associate Editor, Features; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
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Have Your Say: You Shouldn't Digitally Resurrect Dead Actors
By now I don't think it's a spoiler to say that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes place a short while before the very first (1977) Star Wars film, and as such is about the Death Star. Indeed, the entire film is about providing the Rebel Alliance with the information about the deadly contraption's weak spot.

While the first Star Wars was a gamble and an experiment, it did have an interesting mix of known and unknown actors on board, with the famous ones definitely bringing some class to the proceedings. On the hero-end, we got an actual knight with Sir Alec Guinness playing Jedi Knight Ben Kenobi, while on the villain-end we saw the great Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin, the high officer who was in charge of the Death Star.

By now I think it's ALSO not a spoiler that Grand Moff Tarkin is in the new film. As Peter Cushing died 22 years ago, digital means were used to resurrect him. And the effect is uncannily real in the first few scenes, when it's used in small doses. In my opinion they drop the ball a bit later on, by overdoing it (unfortunately introducing a couple of less-than-photorealistic moments and thereby nose-diving into uncanny valley territory), but that's beside the point for this discussion.

Done well or not, should dead actors be digitally resurrected when the need arises? Or do you sully their remembrance by doing so? It's an impressive effect for sure, and if they get closer to perfection it's a great way to keep continuity in a series. But some already quip that Peter Cushing has now given his first less-than-stellar performance, and history has shown audiences can be very forgiving when you use different actors for the same part. Take Michael Gambon replacing Richard Harris as Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films...

So chime in, in the comments below, and HAVE YOUR SAY!

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  • God of Joy

    Symantics really. Fictional Characters should live on and on as long as necessary for their stories. Actors obviously have more limited shelf lives. I support recasting provided the casting director knows what they are doing (Gambon stepping in for Dumbledore, brilliant). A clever director or screenwriter can side step the issue by keeping characters in silhouette, out of sight, but heard, or recycle footage from a previous performance (like Soderbergh (sp?) did with Terrance Stamp in "The Limey", am I remembering that right? Or from unused cutting room floor footage from previous performance) or simply offer a compelling slip of dialogue as to why character X is being forced to wear a medical apparatus over their face for a scene or two, or had to relocate to base station Y where they can only communicate via radio. Using uncanny valley CG builds, as good as some of them are getting, just comes off as lazy to me. Having said all this, have not seen Rogue One yet, love Cushing, and think that part of him would be a little tickled that his Tarkin is back to his mischief.

  • Mangkone

    I think it was the right thing to do in Fast and Furious 7 (wait don't slap me).
    They had to end the story of Paul Walker's character and it was very sincere tribute from the cast.

    But in all the other movies I've seen where dead actors were brought back to life, I can't say that's a good thing.
    Take Game of death for instance, the only parts I enjoy watching are the ones where the real Bruce is in, I don't even remember the other scenes (apart from that infamous motorbike scene).

    As you said another good actor can replace the late one, in the spartacus series they did a good job finding a new lead actor who didn't just copy the part. Hell they even replace living actors with other living actors from one movie to another (dammit Tank in the Matrix, or Daario Naharis).

  • cjohnston

    Rightfully/ ..Justifiably, or Not. ... Considering all the fruit and veggies that are often heaved in the direction of (the most recent) installments in the F&F franchise --- I COMPLETELY Agree upon your opening point..
    --
    ...I'm grown, ...I'm out of Diapers, and I don't need pacifiers anymore (...aside for the occasional drink when need arises - like this week for instance.); ~ but I've seen Furious 7 multiple times - and I have NO issues or problems stating that I shed more than a few alligator tears during that ending..

  • Paul M

    Resurrect all the dead famous people, and make them do porn.

    It's going to happen anyway.

  • Stu

    yeah - there's a brave new world barreling towards our loins

  • chainsaw autotune

    I had a fleeting concern that Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin was going to be given a Snickers.

  • David Smith

    The voice didn't work but then I'm a Hammer fanatic

  • B.

    My wife never watched Star Wars as a kid, nor any of the Hammer classics, so when the rest of us discussed the CGI Cushing as the credits rolled she was wondering who we were taking about. She never even noticed the artificial character. Something to be said for the quality of the work without foreknowledge.
    I see no reason why it shouldn't be done if it's required for an on-going story, provided the estate of the dead actor approves and is compensated, cultural considerations are taken into account, and it doesn't look so bad it effects the suspension of disbelief.

  • Recast all the way. The STAR TREK reboots are a great example of how strong recasting can be.

  • I just hope they don't do it for Fisher for Ep. IX.

  • Count Erpoint

    Recast with a lookalike, or find a way to use a different character.

    It's simply ghoulish.

  • Kurt

    The digital technicians and artisans are well on their way to climbing out of the Uncanny Valley. But let us recall that in all mountineering movies, the bad shit happens after they reach the summit and are on their way home.

    CGI-Cushing was exceptionally bad and deeply distracting in an otherwise solid entry into growing pile of Star Wars movies.

  • John W

    CGI Cushing was very bad, very distracting in an otherwise good movie. They should have recast the part.

  • lincolnmon

    I think the line should be drawn at resurrecting a fictional character only. Using Grand Moff Tarkin again and again, why not.
    But to use Peter Cushing as a whole new character. Nope.

  • Ard Vijn

    I think you just nailed the line.

  • guest

    the studio will be getting a special fee in my contract for them to pay for my next big blockbuster.
    i want to be able to spend it while I'm still alive, yo!

  • Saget Mir

    The studios will be guided by their business interest to subvert aspects of the actor, as it suits them. So no, I don't think it is a good idea. Nonetheless, studios will keep doing this -- for the same reasons they are captivated with remakes. This is something like "Peter Cushing II." By the time we get to "Peter Cushing XXV!," I don't think there will be anything meaningful left.

  • wagnerfilm

    Mainly I think the decision should be down to the actors and their estates. (And Disney did make sure to get the thumbs up from Cushing's estate.) "Appearing" in new movies giving new performances after your actual death is now a thing working actors will have to think about, that no prior generation of actors did. If nothing else this is going to open up new categories of entertainment law, if it hasn't already. I mean, part of me would kind of like to see a new Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart appearance, now that it can be done. But then part of me feels the heavy anachronism of taking these actors away from their time, and how poorly they'd fit in a film made with today's artistic and commercial sensibilities, and I think we should leave it well alone. After all, as skillfully as Cushing was rendered in Rogue One, I was never not aware of the fact I was watching a digital simulacrum.

  • Ben de Klos

    So as of today Rogue One has not one but two dead cgi actors....

  • ManateeAdvocate

    No. Dead actors should never be digitally resurrected.

  • Miguel Valdez-Lopez

    "There's something ghoulish about using a dead actor's likeness without his knowledge, and in the past I've deplored such desecrations as the Fred Astaire Dust-Buster ads, but surely every actor on his deathbed, entering the great unknown, hopes he has not given his last performance."

    - Roger Ebert, 2004, on his review of SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW, talking about using a Laurence Olivier "performance", 15 years after his death.

  • the hong Kong cavaliers

    Great question, Peter Cushing is my favorite actor of all time and seeing him in Rogue one did not bother me one bit .
    Let's be honest this and that "other" cameo shot were only to service the hardcore fans hungry for nostalgia (member berries ) and to that regard it did serve their purpose (judging by the crowd reaction on opening night).

    With that being said I don't think I'll be ready to accept something else than that . The crow used it pretty well when Brandon Lee passed away while filming and from what I heard the fast and furious did it pretty well also .

    But I'm not ready for hologram Peter Cushing to appear in newer Hammer production or other "gothic" horror films

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