If you don’t know who I’m talking about, tonight’s blog might not mean much to you. If you haven’t seen the new Star Wars movie “Rogue One” – you could stop reading now but I promise there are no real spoilers in this post.
Grand Moff Tarkin was Darth Vader’s right hand man in the very first Star Wars movie (that’s Episodes IV to those of us who care). He was in charge of the Death Star, killed the planet Alderaan and did assorted other bad stuff.
If you haven’t seen Rogue One, or even if you did and weren’t paying attention, you might not know that Grand Moff Tarkin is back in Rogue One as a substantial character in the film. So what, you say? Characters have appeared in sequels for decades already. No big deal.
The issue here is that Grand Moff Tarkin was played by actor Peter Cushing – who died in 1994. That’s right. 22 years after his death, Cushing is back on screen. Rather than re-cast the part, Director Gareth Edwards, along with the wizards at Industrial Light & Magic, decided to digitally recreate the actor.
How did they do it? They hired another actor (British actor Guy Henry) to play the role while the other actors acted around him. Then the magicians at ILM used footage from the earlier film, as well as Cushing’s other films to digitally replace Guy Henry’s face in Rogue One. They were remarkably successful. I think back to movies like The Polar Express where digitally created versions of actors had a phony, creepy quality to them. In this film, even looking carefully, it’s pretty tough to notice anything that makes you second guess this as anything other than another performance by Peter Cushing in the flesh.
With this capability, can we expect new films from many of our favorite stars from decades ago. A new movie with Emma Stone and James Dean at the multiplex next summer? The possibilities are endless. My fear is that long removed descendants of famous actors may seek to cash in on this new technology in ways that may not be up to the standards held by the actor when he or she was alive.
Luckily, some reading I’ve done today revealed that Peter Cushing’s family was consulted and actively involved in the process that led to the digital recreation of their famous family member. They gave their consent and had input right down to small, subtle adjustments in Cushing’s appearance. Given those circumstances and the involvement and care taken by Cushing’s family, I’m cool with him being digitally resurrected for Rogue One. What did you think?