Is ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ Digitally Resurrecting Grand Moff Tarkin?

     August 23, 2015

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If this is true, call it Industrial Light and Dark Magic.

The Daily Mail is reporting that Peter Cushing, who played Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars, will be digitally resurrected for the upcoming spinoff, Rogue One. For those that don’t know, the plot of Rogue One is about a group of resistance fighters who unite to steal the plans for the Death Star.

It makes sense for Tarkin to be a key character since he’s instrumental in the building of the Death Star, and a source tells the Mail, “This is one of the most complex and costly CGI re-creations ever. Cushing is a pivotal plot line as he was the one to create Darth Vader and there’s a whole back story that will come out.” If this is true, that means Darth Vader is probably coming back, but it’s a whole lot easier to put him into the new movies than it is for Cushing, who died of prostate cancer in 1994.

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Image via Lucasfilm


It’s a bit ghoulish to digitally raise Cushing from the dead, and the Mail’s story doesn’t make any mention of his family feels about this, or if the legality of this. Even if ILM is able to pull off a convincing recreation, it’s still bizarre because we’ve now turned a real person into an animated character who can say or do anything director Gareth Edwards chooses. Acting is a series of choices, but those choices will be removed from the actor. That’s why performance capture is still vital because it adds authenticity and distinction.  Granted, performances are still shaped in the editing room, but the editing can only shape what’s been brought to life by the actor.  Would the real Cushing have made his lip curl after saying a particular line or is it just what Edwards wants?

Or maybe this is some unnecessary hand-wringing on my part.  After all, they’ve already brought back Tarkin on Star Wars Rebels, but that’s clearly a cartoon.  But what’s the dividing line?  Does one even exist in terms of the ethical implications?  Is all that’s missing the technology and a competent voice actor?  And is that all that makes a performance and a character?

While I’m sure there will be a great amount of lip service paid to honoring Cushing’s memory, a painstaking digital resurrection for Tarkin basically makes him a CGI puppet, and it’s a bit twisted and perhaps even a little unnecessary. Roles get recast all the time, and there’s no shortage of distinctive British actors who could make the role come alive. Just because we might have the CGI tools to do something, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens December 16, 2016, and stars Felicity Jones, Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Mads Mikkelsen, and Alan Tudyk.


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Image via Disney

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