Warning: Mild spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story!
With #RogueOne fitting in perfectly between the infamous #StarWars prequels and the very first movie of the series, A New Hope, it was obvious there'd be plenty of cameos and nods to the old movies to make the story fit in perfectly with the timeline as we know it.
But no one really expected to see Peter Cushing return to the space saga after he passed away in 1994 — and yet here he is, crushing Director Krennic's megalomaniac hopes of ruling over the operations of the Death Star. While a glimpse at the character would probably have been enough of a hint for the eagle-eyed Star Wars fans, Governor Wilhuff "Grand Moff" Tarkin gets actual scenes thanks to one of the most impressive CGI accomplishments in cinema to date.
Meet Guy Henry, The Man Who Brought Cushing's Tarkin Back To Life
In an interview with RadioTimes, Rogue One director Gareth Edwards revealed a few details about how the movie managed to bring a fully fledged CGI character to life:
"It was a lot of blood, sweat and tears from [special effects and animation studio] Industrial Light and Magic."
But instead of building Cushing's face completely from scratch, the studio used an actor to play Tarkin and modified his features in detail thanks to motion capture. The mysterious actor is Guy Henry, whom British fans will probably know from the BBC's drama series Holby City.
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As Edwards puts it, it's quite the sacrifice for an actor to perform in a movie where their face will be replaced by another's:
"It was played by an actor called Guy Henry [above], who's in 'Holby City,' and he was amazing. [...] It was a massive thing for him, it was very gracious of him, because essentially he's doing this big performance and getting zero credit for it."
What Does This CGI Feat Mean For The Future Of Cinema?
Edwards explained that when they started outlining the plot for Rogue One, it was clear that some characters would have to make a comeback — but the team weren't instantly sure how they would pull it off:
"You sort of lay out the movie, and as you start laying it you go 'You know what, you've gotta have these certain characters in there, and I dunno how we'd do it. [...] Like, what do we do? Do we cast someone who looks like them? Do we not have them? Do we just hear about them?'"
And while it's amazing that they actually brought back Cushing's familiar face almost 40 years after the very first Star Wars movie, the creation certainly raises a few ethical questions.
On the one hand, we can certainly applaud the possibilities opened up by technology, but on the other, what if anyone could make you star in a movie after your death? Who controls that image, and how far can they take the replica? Though actors such as Robin Williams have made the move to protect their image and their likeness, the legal framework for this kind of situation isn't fully defined yet.
Additionally, do we flock to the movies for the fan service and the familiar faces, or should we watch a new movie for its actors and their performances? The digital recreation suggests that the seamlessness of our experience with sequels and prequels and remakes is more important than an actor's work, but it wouldn't be too crazy to think our brains have the potential to connect the dots when a character is recast.
At least for Rogue One, LucasFilm claims it sought the approval of Cushing's relatives. Cushing's secretary Joyce Broughton, who inherited of his estate, was taken aback when she saw the movie:
"When you're with somebody for 35 years, what do you expect? I can't say any more because I get very upset about it. He was the most beautiful man. He had his own private way of living."
What did you think of Grand Moff Tarkin's return in Rogue One? Do you hope to see more of this kind of CGI? Do you mind characters being recast?