Rogue One made use of computer-generated visuals to bring back certain characters from the original Star Wars, a move some have deemed controversial. Now, filmmakers on the movie have shared more information about the decision to do so and the process behind it.
Spoilers from Rogue One follow below.
Some of Rogue One‘s returning characters were recast (General Dodonna), while others saw actors return from the prequels (Bail Organa). As seen in the trailers, Mon Mothma had Genevieve O’Reilly reprise her role from a cut portion of Revenge of the Sith, though she was not the same actress to play her in Return of the Jedi. Grand Moff Tarkin and a brief appearance by Princess Leia, however, were deemed to require the same look as in A New Hope.
In the case of Tarkin, Lucasfilm decided that he was a key character, given his command of the Death Star in A New Hope. “If he’s not in the movie, we’re going to have to explain why he’s not in the movie,” said Rogue One co-producer Kiri Hart in an interview with The New York Times. “This is kind of his thing.”
Tarkin was realized by having an actor, Guy Henry, play the physical role, with CG work being used to recreate the face of original Tarkin actor Peter Cushing, who passed away in 1994.
His return was teased in trailers ahead of the film’s release, and he ultimately proved to have a fairly prominent role in the movie. Some have criticized the ethical decision behind using Cushing’s likeness, though his estate gave its consent in allowing it to happen. Others have been critical of the actual look–some have noted an unnatural quality to his appearance.
Industrial Light & Magic animation supervisor Hal Hickel told the NYT that one challenge it faced in recreating his look came down to the lighting used in the original film. Lighting him “he way he was in A New Hope improved his likeness as Tarkin, but it worsened the sense of him being real because then he didn’t look like any of the actors in the scene.”
Ultimately, it was deemed that “[r]ealism had to trump likeness.” Alternatives were proposed that would have eliminated the need to have him on-screen in this way, though they ultimately went unused. “We did talk about Tarkin participating in conversations via hologram, or transferring that dialogue to other characters,” said ILM chief creative officer John Knoll.
Knoll went on to say that this was “done for very solid and defendable story reasons. This is a character that is very important to telling this kind of story.” He doesn’t believe this practice will become commonplace, in part because “[i]t is extremely labor-intensive and expensive to do.”
“We’re not planning on doing this digital recreation extensively from now on,” he said. “It just made sense for this particular movie.”
As for the likeness of a young Carrie Fisher, who sadly passed away on Tuesday, Hart talked about the significance of seeing the character’s face.
“To deliver on that moment of hopefulness, that is really underscored by the fact that you do get to see her face,” Hart said. “That’s the best possible use of effects, to enhance the meaning and the emotion of the experience for the viewer.”