While there's a ton of action in Captain America: Civil War, the film also had its share of touching moments, including the flashback/hologram sequence when an older Tony Stark is altering the last time a young Tony Stark saw his parents before they were killed. The scene was incredibly touching, but on another level it was also incredibly satisfying to watch, purely because Robert Downey Jr. looks so damn young!
During a Q&A to promote the Blu-ray/DVD release of Captain America: Civil War, film editor Jeffrey Ford, visual effects supervisor Dan Deleeuw and sound editor Shannon Mills revealed to IGN exactly how this incredible scene was brought to life so realistically.
Deleeuw explained, that thanks to RDJ's long career the team had a lot of footage to help the team figure out exactly how young Tony Stark should look like. "Basically what we did, we went through and we put a kind of catalogue together of his earlier films," he said. "Part of the process was deciding what Robert should look like, as this younger version of himself. And we settled on kind of a mix between a couple films. It became more of a young Stark, than a young Robert, in a way."
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Then, after choosing the look that the team felt best fit with a young Stark, they took things technical. "...You actually take Robert’s face and warp it. You’ll go into your computer and you’ll take his face and basically massage it so areas as you age, that we’ve all experienced, you know, that kind of distort from when you were young —then kind of distort those back to when you were young, at an earlier age.”
The visual effects team behind this scene has also talked about the technical work on Tony's face, but Deleeuw was able to simply explain the complexities of such a process, including having to reapply detail lost in the "massaging" process.
"The imagery you’re working from, there’s a fine level of detail and as the face gets warped, a lot of that detail gets washed away. So then what you’ll do is you take a double, fairly close in facial structure, but then you’ll photograph that double in the same positions, [for example] how the face is oriented to camera. And you’ll steal detail from that younger person’s face, then reapply it to Robert’s face. And then you go and do clean ups on the hair."
Ford went on to talk about how the length of the shot made the process so much harder:
"Part of what made the shot even more challenging was the length of the shot. The idea that the guys wanted to do it as a 'oner,' one long shot. You kind of wanted to set up the idea that there is something off about the scene. He comes out and as it plays longer and longer — if it played like a normal scene, you would have cut. Normally that helps us out because if it’s a shorter shot, you can split that up between more people and get the work done quicker."
Getting the face right was only part of the challenge for the team, with Tony's voice also a challenge. Mills explained that they watched old RDJ performances in 1980s films such as Back to School and Tuff Turf, however he explained "when we did it we realized we had to pitch him up just slightly, but very little, because Robert, he acted it, too. It’s one of those things — it’s a combination of incredible visual effects, but also acting, because he performed it." He went onto add "he had to be that guy for that moment as well, because all the technical stuff in the world isn’t going to work if he didn’t act that. If these guys didn’t get a performance out of him. It’s that combination of those things.”
Lastly, Ford revealed — perhaps unsurprisingly — that they shot the young Tony Stark scenes on RDJ's very last day on set because it required him to be fresh-faced, unlike the older version of Stark.
Captain America: Civil War is available on DVD, Blu-ray now and On-Demand now.
Did you think young Tony Stark was convincing in Captain America: Civil War?