CGI actors and them living beyond the grave

At the end of Furious 7, the audience felt a great shock when they saw Paul Walker’s character drive past Vin Diesel one last time. If it wasn’t for his well-reported untimely death, the audience could truly believe that the CGI effect was the real actor.
Paul Walker
Paul Walker’s CGI appearance created an emotional experience for viewers. Photo: Zennie Abraham via Flickr

This was one of the most popular cases of CGI being used to portray an actor that has passed away. Could this be a regular case with the technology continuing to grow.

Regular occurrence

These days, CGI is also being used more regularly to make actors appear younger. In Gemini Man, Will Smith plays two versions of himself. Along with this, Samuel L. Jackson is de-aged in Captain Marvel. With this in mind, the technology could be applied to portray deceased celebrities in their biopics.

Furthermore, period movies could benefit greatly from this process. Quentin Tarantino loved to implement historical actors such as Bruce Lee and Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Therefore, with CGI, these portrayals can be taken to the next level. In fact, despite being a health freak, Bruce Lee had been controversially digitally recreated in a 2013 Johnnie Walker commercial.

CGI effects can be crucial when it comes to wrapping up film production. Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon Lee tragically died while on set when filming The Crow. There were only a few scenes left to complete the film that Lee and the rest of the staff worked so hard on. Therefore, the producers used CGI to superimpose Lee’s face on his stuntman to shoot the remaining parts.

Brandon Lee
CGI was used to portray Brandon Lee after he died while filming The Crow in 1994. Photo: Elizabeth Rios via Flickr

Big business

Gone are the days when a saga would stop after a trilogy. Now, movies are carried on over decades with sequels and reboots. With this in mind, producers will be incentivized to use CGI to portray actors in prequels.

It would not be a surprise to see more Star Wars films portray a character played by an actor that is no longer with us. The series already brought British actor Peter Cushing back to life after 20 years. His likeness was used to recreate the role of Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One. With the number of spinoffs and prequels the franchise produces, this could be a regular occurrence over the years.

George Lucas
George Lucas could be interested in using CGI on actors they have passed away to portray more characters in the future. Photo: nicolas genin via Wikimedia Commons

Wishes need to be respected

However, the big concern is that these portrayals may be done without the wishes of the actors in question. Many actors would hate to be exploited after their death but they wouldn’t have a say in the process.

Fearing this, some actors had taken measures to prevent their likeliness from being used after death. One example of this is with the late Robin Williams. The revered actor had put legal protections on his image to prevent CGI from being used in any form.

Regardless, CGI should only be used to represent dead actors in a tasteful manner and with the blessing of their estates. If an actor is concerned about their image being used after dying, they should make the right preventative measures.

What do you think about the use of CGI to represent actors that are no longer with us? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.

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