Warning: Spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story below. If you're the type who hates stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herders ruining movies for them, close your shield gate now.
If you're a major Star Wars franchise fan, then there's no doubt that you were on the point of whooping and punching the air when the final scene of #RogueOne appeared and a young Princess Leia swung around to take possession of the Death Star plans.
More impressive than that is the fact that Leia wasn't even the first character from A New Hope to return thanks to digital recreation, with Grand Moff Tarkin also appearing multiple times and looking almost exactly as he did in A New Hope. This was not only quite a feat because the film is almost 40-years-old, but also because that the actor who originally played Tarkin, Peter Cushing, sadly died in 1994.
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Thanks to the advancement of technology, recreating a character using archive footage of the actor has become more common place in film than we could have ever imagined. The most notable example in recent years has to be the late Paul Walker's appearance in Furious 7, though it also happened in Marvel films Ant Man and Captain America: Civil War with Michael Douglas and Robert Downey Jr. So how exactly did Rogue One achieve this almost-flawless feat? A glorious mix of actors as body doubles and digital technology.
As you may have noticed in the credits, there were actually actors credited with the roles of Leia and Tarkin, with Norwegian actress Ingvild Deila playing Leia, and Guy Henry as Grand Moff Tarkin. Having body doubles in the roles meant that when it came time for the team at Light and Magic, Lucasfilm's in-house visual effects company, to digitally augmented their features in post-production, the characters actually looked real and avoided the "dead eye" look which can often plague digitally-created characters.
In addition to just being used as body doubles, both actors share facial similarities with their characters (for example, Henry and Cushing have similar cheekbones, and Deila and Carrie Fisher have similar chins), which meant that when the team digitally augmented their features in post-production, they could use the actor's actual features as an anchor point for blending in the footage of the young Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher to Deila and Henry's faces.
But getting the footage itself was likely a job in its own right. Back in 2015, Weta Digital senior VFX supervisor Joe Letteri spoke to Variety about how the team managed to complete Furious 7 using CGI to complete Paul Walker's scenes. Letteri mentioned that the team mined any and all available footage of Walker, including outtakes to build a library of the actors emotions and moments, something that the Light and Magic also would have had to do with Cushing and Fisher. In fact they could have even gone as far as to use footage from other films the pair appeared in throughout the 70s and 80s, as was the case for creating a young Robert Downey Jr in Captain America: Civil War.
In the end though, the result speak for themselves and the scenes involving both characters left audiences feeling like Rogue One was truly the prequel to A New Hope, a film 39 years in the making.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is out on Blu-ray and Digital HD now!
What did you think of seeing Leia and Moff Tarkin?