Should you render dead actors in CGI?

Should you render dead actors in CGI?

Mild spoilers ahead for Rogue One: A Star Wars story.

In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story two human characters were rendered in CGI (Computer Generated Imagery). Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia and Peter Cushing’s Grand Moth Tarkin. The reason for Fisher’s CGI double was that she had aged since the release of Star Wars Episode Four where as the story of Rogue One demanded her character to be her original age.  Peter Cushing was brought back from the dead to reprise his character via the clever use of CGI. This is impressive and disturbing. Some would argue that it’s scary for studio producers to have the power to do this and I found it creepy that while watching the film it took me ten minutes to remember that Peter Cushing had died.

This raises the question, should you render dead actors in CGI?

Using deceased actors isn’t uncommon in the film industry and it isn’t anything new. Before the use of CGI, stunt doubles were used in partnership with editing and camera trickery. There have been cases of the public believing that a CGI person was a physical human being. A realistic hologram of the rapper 2 Pac was created for a music gig in 2012 sparking rumors that his death in 1996 was a hoax. In the Japanese pop band AKB 48, one of their band members Eguchi Aimi was revealed to be completely CGI and made up of the best features of her band mates.

The 2 Pac Hologram
Eguchi Aimi in a photoshoot

One of the ethical issues of resurrecting actors is that their likeness could be used to promote products or films they were not related to. For example it was deemed extremely disrespectful when a digital version of Bruce Lee was used in adverts promoting whisky and chocolate when the real Bruce Lee had no interest in these products. Peter Sellers died eighteen months before appearing in the film Trail of the Pink Panther. This was achieved by using outtakes and unused scenes from a previous Pink Panther film. Normally the deceased’s family have a say in where the actor’s likeness can be used but nothing is stopping them from exploiting this power.

Sometimes a film can be completed after an actor’s death, in memory of them. This was the case for Paul Walker who died in a car crash while making a Fast and Furious film, titled Furious 7. The studio used what scenes had already been shot and with Paul Walker’s brothers, stunt doubles and CGI completed the film in his memory. A similar event happened when Brandon Lee was killed on the set of The Crow. A prop gun misfired, fatally wounding the actor eight days before the film was set to wrap up shooting. Using stunt doubles and images of Brandon Lee from previous scenes the film was completed with severe rewrites to the script. The film was then dedicated in his memory and performed well at the box office while generating a cult following.

Although the death of the actor should always be the major issue, some thought should be paid to the character they portray. When Carrie Fisher died in 2016 she had just finished filming for Star Wars Episode Eight. At time of writing the fate of her character is unclear but it is an issue that will need to be addressed inuniverse. In many cases the character is retired such as Heath Ledger’s Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy. Ledger passed away of an overdose after the completion of The Dark Knight and the character of the Joker was not seen in the film’s sequel The Dark Knight Rises.


I don’t have an answer for this question but I’ll be interested in hearing your opinions. Leave your thoughts and comments down below or on my social media and to see exactly how Peter Cushing was brought back to life please watch the Youtube clip below taken from the ABC news channel.

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