Rogue One: the CGI resurrection of Peter Cushing is thrilling but is it right?

The late Star Wars villains return to the space franchise isnt the first time a star has been digitally brought back to life, but could represent a tipping point for Hollywood

We want to scan you, all of you, your body, your face, your emotions, your laughter, your tears. We want to sample you, preserve you. We want to own this thing called Robin Wright. These are the unnerving words from Danny Hustons Jeff Green in sci-fi film The Congress, as he discusses the idea of digitally capturing the actor for generations to come. Once her image is handed over, she will lose all creative control of how it is used the studio owns her for all time.

Its hard not to think of these words when watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, in which the late Hammer legend Peter Cushing returns to the screen for the latest instalment of the franchise.

With the aid of advanced CGI, a walking, talking Cushing once again reprises his role as the sneering Imperial Officer Grand Moff Tarkin from the 1977 original Star Wars: A New Hope, even though the actor has been dead for more than 20 years.

The news that Cushing would feature in Rogue One broke last year, with sources reporting that it would be one of the most complex and costly CGI re-creations ever. Since the release of the film, critics have noted how remarkable yet slightly creepythe digital resurrection of Cushing is.

The effect is remarkable, if uncanny, and the technology is breathtaking. How the trick was pulled off remains a mystery as the wizards at Lucas Film and Disney remaining tight-lipped about their achievement. Since the start of cinema, its technical magic has always made us gasp, and seeing Cushing interacting, near seamlessly, with new characters brings a smile to the face.

Then come the questions about this necromantic cinematic feat and what it means for the industry. When the effects can be so spookily lifelike, you start to wonder can you copyright and package an actor after death? It would seem so.

This isnt the first time that the dead have graced the silver screen. Brandon Lee was tragically shot while filming Alex Proyass goth classic The Crow. The film was completed by digitally lifting Lee from previously captured footage and superimposing it on later scenes. After Oliver Reed died in the middle of shooting Gladiator, Ridley Scott similarly used digital renderings of the actors face to complete the missing scenes. Both were remarkably effective, with audiences barely aware of the digital trickery.

More recently, theres been a trend of actors being given digital facelifts to restore them to their younger selves, as was the case for Robert Downey Jr in Captain America: Civil War and Anthony Hopkins in Westworld.

Superimposed
Superimposed star Brandon Lee in The Crow. Photograph: Cine Text/Allstar/Sportsphoto

Musicians have been raised from the grave, too. At Californias Coachella festival in 2012, Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg were joined on stage by Tupac Shakur, 16 years after the actor was shot dead in Las Vegas, thanks to holographic technology. The same techniques have been deployed for Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley concerts, where audiences enjoy the macabre spectacle of the dead performing again.

Framestore, the VFX company that has provided visual effects for Arrival, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and the upcoming live-action Beauty and the Beast were also behind the Galaxy chocolate TV advert set on the Amalfi coast that brought a 19-year-old Audrey Hepburn back to the screen They used FACS (facial action coding system) and body doubles. Mike McGee, CEO and co-founder of Framestore, says: Many young and old actors today are having their heads and bodies digitally scanned to future-proof their image, to allow future technologies to recreate them.

But such technological marvels can feel unnerving, as if theyve been plucked from a dystopian novel. Where science and alchemy have failed, Hollywood is creating its own philosophers stone.

So where do we draw the line? It was reported last year that the late actor Robin Williams had passed on rights to his name, signature, photograph and likeness to a trust protecting the use of his image until 2039. Williams, as with Ari Folmans The Congress, clearly saw Hollywoods direction.

Returning to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, its interesting that Peter Cushing isnt credited on the Internet Movie Database, nor the presumed body double used to stand in for the shots. This is more likely about not creating a spoiler for diehard Star Wars fans, rather than a creative snub, despite the characters return being well-publicised.

Questions remained unanswered, though. Who gets paid for a digital resuscitees role? Does an estate have to give permission if the likenesses are taken from pre-existing footage under licence to movie studios? It is difficult, at least in English law, to protect your own likeness, and unless an actor, as Williams did, has taken steps to protect their image, it is unlikely that permission would be needed.

There are also positives. It is wonderful to see Cushing, replete with snarling lip and piercing stare, back in the franchise that relaunched his career. It appears to be an act of affection by director Gareth Edwards who, rather than recasting the Grand Moff, has opted to honour Cushings memory.

Legal points aside, what does this means for actors in moral terms? Are studios right to use an actors likeness? Pandoras box has been opened,. Stories and plots are remade and rebooted all the time in Hollywood, but what if this becomes the case with actors? Could a director resurrect an actor digitally if they believe there are perfect for the role? Are we going to see Marlon Brando, James Dean, Grace Kelly and other Hollywood icons brought back to star alongside Dwayne Johnson and Melissa McCarthy? Perhaps.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2016/dec/16/rogue-one-star-wars-cgi-resurrection-peter-cushing

Hi my name is Kareem Maize and welcome to my personal blog. I am 26 year old musician and information technology professional with a passion for learning new aspects of life everyday. On my journey to express myself I began blogging to share my ideas with others. Now I intend to write fun, interesting, and engaging content for my viewers to help them grow spiritually, physically, and mentally . The concept of belief systems and the law of attraction peak my interest!!! I believe blogging about my personal experiences, beliefs, and ideas is the best way to achieve these goals!!!