In the 2016 hit film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, late actor Peter Cushing re-appeared on screen despite having been dead for 22 years at that point. This phenomenon was achieved through a technique known as “digital resurrection.” Cushing’s head was created using sophisticated computer-generated imagery software, or CGI. An actor named Guy Henry then had his facial movements and voice matched with Cushing’s computer-generated face and then pasted on a body double.
While many celebrated this as a crowning achievement of the VFX field, many claimed that the use of this method to resurrect Cushing was unethical. They stated that the actor may not have wanted to appear in the film, but due to his death he had no say in the issue, therefore making it unethical. Cushing’s estate agreed to having the process done, and many use this as reasoning to believe that this is ethical. But is it?
If Cushing’s estate agrees to use this method in other films, that means that the late actor could appear in films with scenes he would find distasteful or offensive in life. Peter Cushing wouldn’t want to be seen in such scenes, as he may have had strict requirements on what types of films and scenes he was going to be in. But now, he can appear in those scenes with a click of a mouse.
Although Peter Cushing is the main example, the same goes for many other actors, including Audrey Hepburn in 2014, who was digitally revived to advertise Galaxy Chocolate. The company that pulled off this feat is called Framestore, a VFX company that does special effects for film and TV ads. Just as in the Peter Cushing example, Audrey Hepburn’s estate gave permission for her image to be used in the commercial, but Audrey herself had no say in the matter. Would she have wanted to appear in the commercial? No one knows.
Many believe that we are on our way to a future where acting may become extinct and replaced by CGI. Actors have had all of their specifics scanned into computer systems so that they can be put into films after death, even if in life they were unwilling to star in inappropriate films, they no longer have that decision. Producers, and their computers do.This trick is a neat way for VFX companies like Lola, Framestore, or Industrial Light and Magic to show off their skills, but when it comes to ethics, it may not be a good choice. It may be more ethical just to use lookalike actors to bring back our favorite characters.
From all of the research that has been conducted, I have to say that digitally resurrecting late actors is unethical, because what if Peter Cushing and Audrey Hepburn could spend a day on Earth again and see what their images have been used for? Would they be very happy? Feel free to tell us what you think!
By: Brig Larson
Photo Credit: reddit.com