Paul Walker’s unexpected death in November 2013 didn’t keep Universal Pictures from finishing the seventh film in the “Fast & Furious” franchise. The star of “Furious 7,” who passed away halfway through filming, was digitally reanimated using cutting-edge technology.
“If you have enough time and you have enough money … and you have the talented visual effects artists, they can do pretty much anything,” says Carolyn Giardina, who wrote about Paul Walker, and other attempts at a creating a digital actor, in the Hollywood Reporter.
A few examples:
- When Oliver Reed died while making “Gladiator,” the filmmakers created a digital map of his face, put it on a body double and re-animated his mouth.
- “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is one of the first times we saw a very realistic CG actor or facial performance. Digital effects changed Brad Pitt’s age throughout the film.
- Visual effects companies are already creating fully digital actors to perform stunts, often for safety.
Studios have started regularly taking digital scans at the beginning of production to keep for safety and for archival purposes. This raises questions about privacy and the posthumous exploitation of a celebrity’s image.
Some actors are safeguarding themselves from this trend. For instance, Robin Williams restricted the use of his likeness for 25 years after his death, so he won’t be appearing in any ads or performing stand-up as a hologram anytime soon.
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