Peter Cushing played the original Grand Moff Tarkin. He had a presence in the first Star Wars films powerful enough to warrant his return in more films. The actor’s death in ‘94 prevented his return. You might think that last phrase goes without saying—it is so obvious, it doesn’t need to be written, spoken, or even given a moment’s thought.
Grand Moff Tarkin did return in subsequent films—in Peter Cushing’s image.
So, this begs the question: How long can an actor’s image be used in films, even after they’ve passed on, before it’s too much?
Peter Cushing isn’t the only actor to have his image digitally preserved. He isn’t even the only one in the Star Wars film empire. Carrie Fisher had her image used as well, so Princess Leia could continue for a time.
Another example is of Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn in Tron: Legacy. Although Jeff was alive and well, and reprised his role as an older Flynn, the movie required a younger Flynn to react with his son, Sam. Jeff Bridges allowed his face to be “digitally remastered”, so to speak. Though it was easy to see the younger face was computer generated, the human element was captured well. In a movie about a world inside a computer, the digitally enhanced images didn’t need to be too well hidden. The question remains, if future Tron movies are made, will the digital Kevin Flynn make an appearance?
In the Ant Man and the Wasp movie, a digitally rendered younger Michael Douglas as Hank Pym is used to show scenes of an “earlier” time.
Also in Marvel, in the Captain Marvel movie, a younger Nick Fury, played by Samuel Jackson, steals the show in more than a few scenes.
How long will Hank Pym and Nick Fury live on in the Marvel Universe? Does it matter? Is it entirely up to the individual actors? Can the movie-makers own someone’s image? Is it a real ego-boost for the actor’s to know they could live on digitally forever? And lastly: will the fans ever get tired of seeing them?
How long is too long?