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How & why Lucasfilm brought back a character from the past for Rogue One

12.27.2016

If you haven't seen ROGUE ONE yet, be warned, here be spoilers!

It's hard to talk about Star Wars today without thinking of Carrie Fisher. Her portrayal of Princess Leia went on to be just as iconic and powerful as Han Solo, Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader and she will certainly be missed. Fisher's time with the STAR WARS franchise isn't yet over, she completed work on the upcoming STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII and her likeness was featured in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WAR STORY, as was the likeness of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin.

Whether you immediately spotted the trickery or it managed to fool you, it was an impressive technical achievement nonetheless. Several of Lucasfilm's top talent recently spoke with The New York Times and discussed how they were able to pull it off as well as why they felt they needed to. Kiri Hart, head of Lucasfilm's Story Group as well as a producer on ROGUE ONE, said that Grand Moff Tarkin was crucial to the story and if he hadn't been in the film, it would have required a big explanation as the Death Star was "kind of his thing." Despite wanting Tarkin to play a part in ROGUE ONE, the creative team initially wasn't confident in their ability to successfully craft a digital Tarkin that could replicate Peter Cushing's performance in 1977. If they hadn't, there was talk of "Tarkin participating in conversations via hologram, or transferring that dialogue to other characters."

On set, Tarkin was played by Guy Henry in a motion-capture rig which ILM's Jon Knoll referred to as "a super high-tech and labor-intensive version of doing make-up." From then on out, there was constant tinkering required to make sure that Tarkin's digital-likeness not only looked real, but that he looked just like Peter Cushing himself. One of the difficulties they encountered was a lighting problem; Cushing was obviously lit differently forty years ago, but ROGUE ONE has its own look. Hal Hickel, an ILM animation supervisor, said that lighting the model with A NEW HOPE lighting improved his likeness to Tarkin, but it "worsened the sense of him being real because he didn't look like any of the actors in the scene." However, at the end of the day, Hickel said that "realism had to trump likeness."

A similar approach was used to bring Princess Leia to life in the closing scene of ROGUE ONE, with a real-life actress (Ingvild Deila) playing the character on set and then given a digital makeover to look like a young Carrie Fisher. Much like Tarkin, Kiri Hart believed that including Princess Leia in the film was important in order to "deliver on that moment of hopefulness, that is really underscored by the fact that you do get to see her face. That’s the best possible use of effects, to enhance the meaning and the emotion of the experience for the viewer." ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY is currently playing in theaters, so make sure to check out reviews from our own Chris Bumbray and Eric Walkuski.

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Extra Tidbit: Over Christmas, I was able to introduce my niece and nephew to Star Wars for the very first time. They knew a little about the franchise, how could they not, but they'd never seen any of the films. Armed with a bucket of popcorn and snuggled up on the couch, they sat in awe as the massive star destroyer filled the screen in pursuit of Princess Leia's ship. Despite having seen the movie countless times myself, it felt like the first time all over again as I watched it through their eyes, laughing, cheering and falling in love with the characters. Thank you for being a part of that, Carrie Fisher.
Source: New York Times

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6:08PM on 12/28/2016
Tarkin was pretty bad... but I bet come the Xth release of this film they'll have fixed him up. In that respect I'm kind of glad they didn't go hologram etc. Here's to Rogue One from 2026!
Tarkin was pretty bad... but I bet come the Xth release of this film they'll have fixed him up. In that respect I'm kind of glad they didn't go hologram etc. Here's to Rogue One from 2026!
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2:13PM on 12/28/2016

so what's the complaint....?

I wonder if the people complaining about the CGI Tarkin have thought it through. Yes CGI ANYTHING can be distracting if it's too overwhelming or if its too specific. Or maybe they are bitching that we can't make an actor who's been dead since 1994, more life like.
If they had replaced Tarkin with another actor, bitches woudl have bitched. If they made a whole other character in replace, then what do we do with that specific character that is never mentioned again. It had to be Tarkin.
I wonder if the people complaining about the CGI Tarkin have thought it through. Yes CGI ANYTHING can be distracting if it's too overwhelming or if its too specific. Or maybe they are bitching that we can't make an actor who's been dead since 1994, more life like.
If they had replaced Tarkin with another actor, bitches woudl have bitched. If they made a whole other character in replace, then what do we do with that specific character that is never mentioned again. It had to be Tarkin. Sure it could have been less of Tarkin, bringing the screen time down so it would be less distracting, but would does it serve the story? At first glance, I'm sure everyone was blown away.... "Is that... Grand Mother Fucking Moff Tarkin?" (actual title). But more screen time means more focus. Meaning of course you'll have to really look at him then nick pick the details. I would argue that we have not only a legend brought to screen in an respectable way, but we also have a solid foundation for the story. It's that, Organa, Mon Mothma, Vader and of course Leia, that gives foundation and adds to what's to come, answering questions that we, as an audience forgot to ask.

Besides, ILM has been pushing what is possible since the original Star Wars.
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11:17AM on 12/28/2016
I thought the Tarkin CGI looked great and I loved seeing that character again. Not really sure what people are bitching about. Bridges in Tron: Legacy and RDJ in Civil War looked 100% worse. The effect here was practically seamless, I can only imagine the jaded individuals frothing at the mouth over this, looking for anything to nitpick.
I thought the Tarkin CGI looked great and I loved seeing that character again. Not really sure what people are bitching about. Bridges in Tron: Legacy and RDJ in Civil War looked 100% worse. The effect here was practically seamless, I can only imagine the jaded individuals frothing at the mouth over this, looking for anything to nitpick.
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11:11AM on 12/28/2016
What I loved about Rogue One was that while it was dubbed a stand alone film, it was no doubt crafted as a direct-prequel to A New Hope all along. I look forward to one day watching Rogue One and A New Hope back-to-back, as the two films to together create a complete story. I also suspect we are going to get the same type of intertwined narratives and camoes in Han Solo (Jabba, Tatooine cantina, etc). I bet you will be able watch both Rogue One / A New Hope back-to-back, and Han Solo / A New
What I loved about Rogue One was that while it was dubbed a stand alone film, it was no doubt crafted as a direct-prequel to A New Hope all along. I look forward to one day watching Rogue One and A New Hope back-to-back, as the two films to together create a complete story. I also suspect we are going to get the same type of intertwined narratives and camoes in Han Solo (Jabba, Tatooine cantina, etc). I bet you will be able watch both Rogue One / A New Hope back-to-back, and Han Solo / A New Hope back-to-back, and each marathon would leave you with a different perspective and story line to follow while watching A New Hope. In a way, it's almost like what Marvel / DC strive to do with their standalone films vs Avengers/JL.
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9:21AM on 12/28/2016
I didn't so much mind Tarkin most of the time. The character needed to be there, and the story worked better for him.
I didn't so much mind Tarkin most of the time. The character needed to be there, and the story worked better for him.
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+1
8:50AM on 12/28/2016
I am sure it took a lot of work and cutting edge technology...

But it still looked terrible! So much it takes you out of the experience...

IMO they should have just hinted at the guy, use the "jaw" approach, just reflections and shadows.. it would have look a lot more terrifying and powerful
I am sure it took a lot of work and cutting edge technology...

But it still looked terrible! So much it takes you out of the experience...

IMO they should have just hinted at the guy, use the "jaw" approach, just reflections and shadows.. it would have look a lot more terrifying and powerful
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11:48PM on 12/27/2016

the best has never been topped!

when captain freedom and ben richards were digitally mapped and had a ''fake'' fight...........now that was some effects!
when captain freedom and ben richards were digitally mapped and had a ''fake'' fight...........now that was some effects!
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+0
11:43PM on 12/27/2016
For better or worse, I strongly suspect this won't be the last time we see this technology used in a Star Wars film. I expect an Alec Guinness force ghost to show up in VIII, a young Harrison Ford's face showing up in the Han Solo movie (with Alden Ehrenreich providing motion capture and voice), and if Leia's story isn't finished yet, a CGI Carrie Fisher in IX wouldn't surprise me. I think the jury is still out as to whether or not this is a good idea, but I'd be amazed if Disney and
For better or worse, I strongly suspect this won't be the last time we see this technology used in a Star Wars film. I expect an Alec Guinness force ghost to show up in VIII, a young Harrison Ford's face showing up in the Han Solo movie (with Alden Ehrenreich providing motion capture and voice), and if Leia's story isn't finished yet, a CGI Carrie Fisher in IX wouldn't surprise me. I think the jury is still out as to whether or not this is a good idea, but I'd be amazed if Disney and Lucasfilm haven't at least been discussing this as an option for the above characters. And the tech will have improved by then.
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9:08PM on 12/27/2016

It really was a cool moment....

I loved seeing her for that brief moment and felt like it ended the film perfectly. It was really sad to get to the car and hear she had passed away. Very sad.
I loved seeing her for that brief moment and felt like it ended the film perfectly. It was really sad to get to the car and hear she had passed away. Very sad.
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9:03PM on 12/27/2016
Tarkin looked awesome. I don't care how much people like to bitch about anything CGI. It actually took me a second to register how they did it.
Tarkin looked awesome. I don't care how much people like to bitch about anything CGI. It actually took me a second to register how they did it.
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7:35PM on 12/27/2016

How did they make RDJ look so young and yet Cushing look so fake???

I swear its like they take huge leaps in technology and then find out how to do it the cheapest way possible so it never quite looks as good as it once did. Cushing looked so fake and was distracting. People in my theater were actually talking to each other asking why his face looked CGI and parents had to explain to their kids because he is CG due to the fact that Cushing died years ago. Yet when they made RDJ look like he did in his 20s it was nearly flawless. Same fucking studio and yet its
I swear its like they take huge leaps in technology and then find out how to do it the cheapest way possible so it never quite looks as good as it once did. Cushing looked so fake and was distracting. People in my theater were actually talking to each other asking why his face looked CGI and parents had to explain to their kids because he is CG due to the fact that Cushing died years ago. Yet when they made RDJ look like he did in his 20s it was nearly flawless. Same fucking studio and yet its two totally different levels of competence.
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7:55PM on 12/27/2016
I'm sure at least part of the reason would be that they actually had RDJ there alive and well. Easier to digitally modify an existing object than to build one from scratch.
I'm sure at least part of the reason would be that they actually had RDJ there alive and well. Easier to digitally modify an existing object than to build one from scratch.
9:02PM on 12/27/2016
Yes. I'm sure this happened...
Yes. I'm sure this happened...
9:31PM on 12/27/2016
Its far easier to de-age someone that still exists than create an entire face from scratch that died 20 years ago. Look at RDJ in civil war, look at Michael Douglas in Antman, and for the reverse look at Peggy Carter in Winter Soldier. But taking the face of one person and planting it over another in a full on speaking role, when that person died over 20 years ago, is still far from simple.
Its far easier to de-age someone that still exists than create an entire face from scratch that died 20 years ago. Look at RDJ in civil war, look at Michael Douglas in Antman, and for the reverse look at Peggy Carter in Winter Soldier. But taking the face of one person and planting it over another in a full on speaking role, when that person died over 20 years ago, is still far from simple.
2:45AM on 12/28/2016
Also echoing the above comments. Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy.
Also echoing the above comments. Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy.
9:13AM on 12/28/2016
I'm always one to be critical of CG but Tarkin looked great
I'm always one to be critical of CG but Tarkin looked great
12:13PM on 12/28/2016
Jeff Bridges in Tron looked like crap. It was a great early experiment in this digital de-aging, but we're a long way from it
Jeff Bridges in Tron looked like crap. It was a great early experiment in this digital de-aging, but we're a long way from it
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