Moviegoers who treated themselves to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story over the holidays were probably just as shocked as we were when Grand Moff Tarkin turned up. The villainous character appeared in 1977’s Star Wars (otherwise known as A New Hope), and was played by the British actor Peter Cushing, who died in 1994. Lucasfilm’s decision to digitally revive the deceased actor and character — played by actor Guy Henry but via a digital likeness of Cushing — ruffled plenty of feathers when rumors of its happening first surfaced in August 2015. Now that audiences have seen CGI Cushing in action, however, many critics are wondering whether or not the dubious decision will have serious ethical implications in the future.
The Guardian called it a “digital indignity,” The Huffington Post described it as “disrespectful,” and Variety pondered it what — if any — impact an effects-driven recreation of Cushing might have on an already existing trend in film, television and commercials. Seeing as how Rogue One has been in theaters for less than a month, there hasn’t been enough time for critics, audiences or industry professionals to develop any kind of consensus. Yet as Industrial Light & Magic chief creative officer and Rogue One visual effects supervisor John Knoll explained to the New York Times, he doesn’t think their reproduction will cause any problems later on down the line:
“I don’t imagine that happening,” Mr. Knoll said. “This was done for very solid and defendable story reasons. This is a character that is very important to telling this kind of story.”
He added: “It is extremely labor-intensive and expensive to do. I don’t imagine anybody engaging in this kind of thing in a casual manner.”
Cushing’s estate, which is managed by the late actor’s former secretary Joyce Broughton, granted Lucasfilm and Disney permission to use his likeness as Tarkin in Rogue One. So in terms of appeasing anyone with a clear stake in the matter, the parties involved made sure to cover their bases. As for the possible negative implications references by The Guardian, Huffington Post and others displeased with Cushing’s digital revival, only time will tell if Knoll’s quips about the technique’s financial burdens remain accurate.
“We’re not planning on doing this digital re-creation extensively from now on,” Knoll reiterated during his discussion with the NYT. “It just made sense for this particular movie.”
(Via New York Times)