How 'Rogue One' Created Full CGI Characters of Peter Cushing and 19-Year-Old Carrie Fisher

"Rogue One" is the latest addition to the epic space battle in the "Star Wars" universe, and damn, did it impress. From all angles, the film looked to hit on all the cues that made the original 70s and 80s films incredible, yet still filled it with plenty of new and relevant stories to bring it to life in 2016. Capping off a wild year of many celebrity deaths, it brings an interesting question: should we bring back deceased actors to fill a role?

To preface, there are spoilers to the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. 

In the film, we find our new set of heroes sprawled across the universe in search of a secret set of plans to defeat the infamous Death Star. The real hit of the new film seems to be on the focus around how big a role deceased actor Peter Cushing would have as he was seen in early sets of trailers months ago. Turns out, his role was substantial as he was a big part of the original films as the man in charge of the Death Star to begin with. Bringing back Peter was no easy task as ABC interviews John Knoll, Visual Effects Supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic and talks through what that looked like and how they got permission to use his likeness in the movie. 

Using a stand-in actor and CGI magic paired with past snippets of Peter's movies and even a cast of his face from a sci-fi movie he did at about the same time as the first "Star Wars," they brought him back to life. It's an incredible feat for filmmakers and an interesting question for moviegoers, as we wonder if it will be a normal thing to bring back dead actors to fill in iconic roles. It has been done before with simple permission from the families of the deceased, as in "Dirt Devil" with Fred Astaire and "Audrey Hepburn" in Dove Chocolate commercials. The team at ILM got permission and well as felt it right in all aspects of the moral question to use his likeness. 

In another outstanding scene, they were able to bring back a young 19-year-old Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. See the lead image of this article for a snap from the final moments of "Rogue One."  They did this with similar techniques using a young actress that looked close enough to Carrie and then filling in the rest with features from her younger self. 

What do you think? Is this wrong of ILM and Lucas Films to do? Or did they do it in such a way that respected the departed actors?
 
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6 Comments

Brian Schmittgens's picture

Personally, I found CGI Tarkin and Leia to be incredibly distracting. They looked better than I expected, but I just wish we could all agree that we're still at least 15-20 years from photorealistic CGI characters.

Rex Jones's picture

I was one of those nerds who really didn't care how good they did or didn't look. I was just too excited to see those characters!!

It's good to see John Knoll, one of the original EFX folks on the first Star Wars/ILM series and creator of Photoshop work on Rogue One. Kinda Nostalgic. The questions regarding Carrie Fisher and Episode 9 (she has completed all of her scenes in Episode 8) has its answer.

Wayne Denny's picture

He did more than work on it, the story was his idea! https://www.wired.com/2016/11/john-knoll-rogue-one-star-wars/

John D's picture

In general the pattern I've noticed is that people who knew they were CGI'd going in were more likely to be bothered by it, and those who were surprised by the appearances were either delighted or at least not bothered by it.

As a still image...no issue. When they start to talk...very distracting. Uncanny valley is a b*tch.