Digital Necromancy: The Growing Activity of the Resurrection of Dead Stars | Cinema | DW

Carrie Fisher, who died in 2016, appears posthumously in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalkerreleased worldwide this week.

Even though computer-generated digital effects were used to cast her back as Princess Leia in the new film, her acting performance was not created by CGI. Director JJ Abrams and the production team instead crafted unused footage from prequels. star wars dive into their new story.

Afterlife controversy

While fans were thrilled with Fisher’s posthumous farewell, another planned “resurrection” of a dead star sparked the opposite reaction last month.

In November, production company Magic City Films announced that the late James Dean would be given a “secondary lead role” in their Vietnam War drama, Find Jack. The cultural icon, who starred in rebel without a cause and East of Edendied in a car accident in 1955 at the age of 24.

The announcement outraged many observers – particularly because the producers, instead of openly admitting they were going to pull off a publicity stunt, claimed there were simply no suitable actors for the role. .

“We searched high and low for the perfect character to portray the role of Rogan, who has extremely complex character arcs, and after months of research we settled on James Dean,” said director Anton Ernst.

There have been a number of deceased celebrities who have been “resurrected” using CGI in the past, but most often to complete a few scenes for a movie that was already filming. The scenes were created from existing footage, as in the case of Carrie Fisher.

It needed a whole new performance, however, for Peter Cushing, who died in 1994, to appear in the 2016 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. But there too, it was at least linked to a role that existed before.

To resurrect the character of Grand Moff Tarkin, as well as a young Princess Leia Organa, actors Guy Henry and Ingvild Deila were cast for their resemblance to Cushing and Fisher in the 1977 original. star wars movie. Their performance was later digitally enhanced.

For “James Dean” to perform these “extremely complex character arcs,” a real actor still needs to be found to serve as a double. The production company’s “months of research” aren’t over yet.

Growing Catalog of Resurrected Stars

The announcement that James Dean would be starring in an upcoming film was followed a few days later by news of Variety magazine that a newly formed company, Worldwide XR, aimed “to bring digital humans to traditional cinema as well as augmented and virtual reality.”

Along with James Dean, Worldwide XR represents over 400 deceased celebrities – Hollywood icons, musicians, athletes and historical figures. Malcolm X, Chuck Berry and Josephine Baker rub shoulders with Jerry Garcia, Ingrid Bergman and Neil Armstrong in their catalog of rights.

Dead musicians have also appeared as holograms, such as rapper Tupac at Coachella in 2012 – 16 years after his murder – and Michael Jackson at the Billboard Music Award in 2014.

Digital recreations of singer-songwriter Roy Orbison and opera legend Maria Callas helped the late stars launch international tours in 2018. The company behind the stage productions, BASE Entertainment, said that she would earn 25 to 30 million dollars (22.5 to 27 million euros). ) visits.

Here too, the “holograms” also require body doubles to create initial performances which are then digitally enhanced.

The perils of digital necromancy

It can also lead to its own set of problems. BASE Entertainment had announced a posthumous Amy Winehouse tour, but “challenges and sensitivities” led the company to put the project on hold earlier this year.

With the growing phenomenon of “digital necromancy,” as the trend of resurrecting dead stars has been called, more and more celebrities are figuring out the details of how their image will be used once they’re dead.

Before his death in 2014, actor Robin Williams had already explicitly banned the use of his image in film, television or as a hologram for the next 25 years. Others have made it clear in their wills how their image should not be used to depict sex or violence, or perhaps drugs and alcohol.

But many of the dead stars being resurrected today certainly didn’t realize they could experience a digital second coming. And not all media productions have been scrupulous about their work ethic either. In one instance, Bruce Lee (d. 1973) was resurrected for a Johnny Walker commercial. The martial arts icon had abstained from drinking during his lifetime.