The late Peter Cushing had a small but memorable turn as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. So memorable, in fact, that — rather than recast his role for the upcoming Star Wars: Rogue One anthology film about the band of rebels that steal the plans for the Death Star — Director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) has reportedly chosen, instead, to use the miracles of modern technology to bring Cushing back for the role.
With today’s tech, casting deceased actors and actresses using CGI isn’t impossible, it’s just difficult. Apparently it’s a challenge that Disney and Lucasfilm are willing to take on. According to the Daily Mail, the Rogue One visual effects team is currently poring over old Cushing films in an effort to make a fully CGI version of his ominous Imperial character feel as true-to-life as possible.
Apart from the overall challenge of recreating a role for an actor long deceased, there is one very odd obstacle in the way: Star Wars: Episode IV doesn’t have a single shot that shows the actor’s feet. Apparently, Cushing was cruising around set in a Hefner-esque pair of slippers for the majority of the film, since the pair of leather riding boots he was issued were ill-fitting and (according to the actor) extremely uncomfortable.
“They are going through hours and hours of old footage from the horror movies to recreate his legs and feet to produce realistic movements,” a source told the Mail. “It is eerie to see someone who has been dead for so long come to life on a screen.”
There have been similar ventures into CGI to bring back characters from the beyond before. For instance, serious movie fans will remember the process was used to complete Oliver Reed’s scenes in The Gladiator (1999) after he suffered a fatal heart-attack during filming. A similar process was used to finish The Crow, when lead actor Brandon Lee tragically died on set. But creating a truly life-like character from the ground up is all but unprecedented.
Cushing died of prostate cancer in 1994 at age 81, but as the Star Wars franchise has proven, amazing things were possible a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.