Anghus Houvouras on digital resurrection…
No. Hell no. This needs to stop and needs to be stopped in its infancy. Snuffed out before this demon baby matures into a fully grown ideological hellspawn that feasts on our cinematic souls.
I might be one of the few people who was genuinely irked at seeing the late, great Peter Cushing dragged through the uncanny valley in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. And it wasn’t about the dodgy realism but the idea of taking a great, charismatic performer and trying to replicate that magic digitally. The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. Peter Cushing was a legend. A presence. And the idea that someone so compelling and iconic could be replaced by a digital doppelgänger is an affront to the concept of performance.
This morning I read that Disney iss ‘negotiating’ with Carrie Fisher’s family about her ‘continued appearance’ in further Star Wars movies. This basically equates to Fisher getting the Peter Cushing treatment and continuing on as a computer generated replicant.
This has to stop.
When I first brought up Peter Cushing concerns in Rogue One, I received the kind of feedback that your average film fan would roughly call ‘a defense’. This equated to ‘Peter Cushing’s family gave them permission’. As I expect they would. If you roll up to someone’s house with a suitcase full of money, chances are they’re going to take it. It doesn’t make it any less grotesque.
I’m completely understanding in a situation like the untimely passing of Paul Walker. Using digital doppelgänger and body doubles was done to help complete a movie he was unable to finish. The work was done to help preserve a performance and allow him a dignified exit from the series that he was so associated with. Does that really apply to Peter Cushing?
I suppose you could try the same argument with Carrie Fisher. She appeared in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and finished her work in Star Wars: Episode VIII. Unfortunately she won’t be able to finish the story arc in Star Wars: Episode IX. But it’s not like she was mid filming. This isn’t Brandon Lee in the final days of the The Crow’s production. It’s an entire film that she had yet to participate. This is Sir Richard Harris in the Harry Potter series or Gloria Foster in The Matrix.
Yes, Princess Leia and Fisher’s performance are far more iconic, but it feels much more dignified to recast the role than to continue this maddening trend of creating a computerized approximation of a real person. Carrie Fisher was such a vibrant, expressive person and performer. Someone who brought such life to her roles. Why would we disparage the memory of a great performer by reducing them to an amalgam of 0’s and 1’s so that audiences don’t have to suspend a little more disbelief in dealing with a new actor in the role?
This is so ludicrous, it feels like it shouldn’t even require being voiced. And yet I’m betting there are people who are 100% behind the idea. A world where an actor is nothing more than the physical representation of their image and a similar sounding voice. Where heart, emotion, and subtlety are less important that a familiar image.
We’re already living in an unoriginal age of cinema of recycled ideas. Will we just allow studios to recycle our favorite actors as well? I don’t want Carrie Fisher replaced by a digital doppelgänger. I don’t want Hollywood studios starting to see an actor’s death as a fixable problem. I don’t want my favorite performers to be recreated and rendered, made to dance on-screen like their corpse held up by marionette strings.
There’s so much more to an actor and to a performance. Let Carrie Fisher have her dignity. Use the scenes she’s done. If you need new scenes, cast a new actress in the role. I guarantee you this won’t impact the series, the fans, or the bottom line.
What worries me is not the limited use we’re seeing right now, but the eventual thought process that will seep into a studio system already too reliant on reboots, sequels, and strip mining the past for product. This is a snowball I don’t want to see rolling down the hill and gaining momentum.
I don’t envy Carrie Fisher’s family. I’m sure the last thing they want to think about after losing their mother and grandmother is dealing with some Disney execs trying to get permission to recreate her in After Effects. No doubt there will be conversations about the value of legacy and what she would have wanted. Removed from the personal attachment to these decisions makes it much easier for me to declare my hatred for the idea.
Digital doppelgänger aren’t the solution: just a new problem.
UPDATE: Lucasfilm has now denied the rumour that it is looking to digitally recreate Carrie Fisher’s Leia for future Star Wars movies. You can read their statement here.