Should CGI be used for dead actors? We can already recreate actors from death and put them into a film, such as tarkin from star-wars, but do we really want to see that?


Uncanny Valley: Used in reference to the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it.

CGI: Computer-generated imagery (special visual effects created using computer software).

Estate: All the money and property owned by a particular person, especially at death.

Likeness Rights: The right of publicity, often called personality rights, is the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness, or other unequivocal aspects of one's identity.

Motion Capture: The process or technique of recording patterns of movement digitally, especially the recording of an actor's movements for the purpose of animating a digital character in a movie or video game.

Overlay: Cover the surface of (a thing) with a coating./ (Of a quality or feeling) become more prominent than (a previous quality or feeling).

Rogue one: CGI Grand Moff Tarkin

How is it done?

There are several necessities in order to recreate a dead actors image, including… the actor represent and digital stop motion. The use of old film photos of a deceased actor can be used as guidelines to the recreation of their image with CGI. For recreating Tarkin, Disney had an actor named Guy Henry play the base image of Tarkin, and then used old images of Cushing from the original Star Wars and some of his other films, to overlay over Henry’s body giving a final print of Cushing’s iconic Tarkin (Bode) Many people felt that the image they were seeing was an absurd, immoral usage of CGI.

Guy Henry, Actor for Tarkin with Motion Capture makeup

When is it moral using CGI for actors?

Whether it is moral to use CGI for dead actors depends on Estate permission from the actors represented. Peter Cushing’s image was used in Rogue One as a full on role. Before proceeding with their plan, Disney was given permission from Cushing’s estate to use his image. On the Other hand, not all actors want their image to be used, like Robin Williams. Lee Benjamin mentions in his article on, The Guardian, that, "Robin Williams said his image could not be used until at least 20 years after his death." Leaving way for possible alternatives to CGI.

Guy Henry, with facial motion tracking rig.

Are there alternatives to using CGI?

When a character is in a film but the casting is all wonky there are a few things that can be done, they can recast the actor and use as much practical effects to make them look as close to the character as possible. They could also just not have the character in the film at all, and just acknowledge the characters existence. James Naremore had an interesting observation on acting, he said, “watching films involves not only pleasure in the storytelling, but also a delight in expressive movement, and enjoyment of familiar performing skills and an interest in players as ‘Real People.” Mark Goldberg mentioned in his article on Collider, "If you're going to have an actor provide the mo-capped performance as tarkin, why not just recast the role? People didn't flee the Harry Potter series when Michael Gambon replaced the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore. Was it really impossible to find a severe, elderly British actor to play Tarkin?" The process of Re-Casting the role could have lead with more realistic human movement, instead of computer generated movement.

Benedict Cumberbatch in Motion Capture gear for doing Smaug

Are Computer movements noticed?

Yes, computer movements certainly are noticed. Using an example from, Rogue One, viewers and fans after a while noticed, Tarkin's actions and movements were not 100% realistic. His lips didn't move the way Cushing’s did and they just didn't really seem to be moving the way lips should move. On a webpage called IndieWire, Mike Ryan, says, “the technology isn't there yet, and he couldn't remember what Tarkin said cause he was so distracted by the freaky CGI lips.” The viewer of any film or any show can distinguish the movement of something graphic or something human. It's a thing we humans can notice based on the difference between real actors doing the movements vs a completely green screen animal or creature. It's all the same, especially since the age of technology is growing exponentially. Rich Haridy mentions in his article on, “It's a stunningly confronting moment to be so personally thrust into the uncanny valley, for we know that not only is Peter Cushing, the actor long passed away, but we are seeing a character from 40 years ago appear exactly as he appeared in our nostalgic memories." Not only appearing the same but he also isn't credited for the role.

The CGI stages and process for making Tarkin

How would correct credibility work?

While it may seem, Cushing was the image of Tarkin, currently Guy Henry is the only actor credited. Christopher Campbell respectively stated that, “Peter Cushing wasn't in Rogue One, he wasn't credited in it, Guy Henry the actor who actually played Tarkin was.” Even if the main character is the same, but the actors are different, credibility is still very keen and important. Kristy Puchko, says “that studios don't own people, and people are not persona’s so taking their voice and likeness is repugnant and wrong.” If the future is going to include the usage of CGI for recreating dead actors, it feels more moral and correct to credit them as the likeness of that character. Since it is their entire person, that is being mimicked.

MLA Citations

Ehrlich, David. "Are the Special Effects in ‘Rogue One’ Unethical? " IndieWire. N.p., 19 Dec. 2016. <>.

"Should Hollywood use CGI to replace dead actors in movies?" N.p., 10 Jan. 2017. <>.

Lee, Benjamin. "Robin Williams restricted use of his image for 25 years after his death." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 31 Mar. 2015. <>.

Bode, L. "No Longer Themselves?: Framing Digitally Enabled Posthumous “Performance”." Cinema Journal, vol. 49 no. 4, 2010, pp. 46-70. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/cj.2010.0019

"Star Wars Rogue One - CGI Tarkin Explained." YouTube. N.p., 18 Dec. 2016.

"Is It Ethical To Resurrect Dead Actors?" YouTube. N.p., 23 Dec. 2016.

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