He’s Not Dead Yet

Ok, he really is dead, but a holographic avatar of Sir Lawrence Olivier is set to appear in the much anticipated (by me anyway) movie, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

This reminds me of the Monty Python sketch where Marilyn Monroe ‘stars’ in a new film:

Interviewer: Ah, what sorts of things does she do in the film?

Carl French: Well, we had her lying on beds, lying on floors, falling out of cupboards, scaring the children, ahm…

Interviewer: But surely Miss Monroe was cremated?

Carl French: Well, we had to use a standin for some of the more visible shots.

Interviewer: Ah! Uh, another actress.

Carl French: Dead actress. But Monroe was in shot the whole time.

Interviewer: How?

Carl French: Oh, in the ash tray, in the fire grate and vacuum cleaner…

But on a more serious note, we’re quickly approaching the time where an actor, dead or alive, can be digitally created and placed in a movie, and done without the consent of that actor. I know several people who felt the main character in the Final Fantasy movie was a double of Ben Affleck. Also, President Clinton made an appearance in Contact, but much like Olivier, hecwas added by splicing different TV appearances together. So the question is: Because we can do this should we? Is it ok to take a famous person, create a digital likeness and use that in a new movie? Can you say Starring: Name of Famous Person? Does that person’s family have any rights in this at all?

Discuss…

2 thoughts on “He’s Not Dead Yet”

  1. Thats a very interesting question JP. I believe that ultimately the decision to use the digital likeness of a given person will depend on several factors including what the digital entity is doing. I am sure from a stunt perspective this is a good thing (although stunt persons will not agree) But from the questionable entertainment angle – the ability to put Marilyn Monroe in compromising positions on film seem exciting but are definitely a wrong use of that digital copy. I guess I would try to limit the use of digital personages to those used in Forrest Gump to offer the ability to put real actors into historical sequences or for stunt work. I do feel that reproducing a given person after they have passed on is probably not a good thing and would not condone that activity. These people have given us quite a bit in the films they have already made and how will we ever know if there is another Charlie Chaplin if we don’t give other actors the chance…

    One note I would add is that some test screenings for FF the movie said the animated characters looked too real and they actually stepped back some of the renderings to ensure it still was cartoonish.

  2. Seems like there are arguments both legal and ethical.

    On the legal side, and here I?m drawing on my vast experience of watching mediocre lawyer dramas around the late 80?s, there are the issues rightful compensation and tarnished images. Too bad Century City never got around to the issue before it disappeared faster than a girl at a Trek Convention.

    On the ethical side, it depends on whether the filmmakers received the subject?s consent (assuming it was legal to do so, which is unlikely ? even for dead people whose suddenly-offended descendents can cry foul). If the actor did not agree to have his digital likeness used, then the film is nothing more than a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the filmmakers who want to direct the best of the best (like Don Johnson, Charles Nelson Reilly, Sting). But even with the actor?s consent, it still seems like a cheat. Although, there could be some humor in having something like the digital image of Vin Diesel being voiced by Carol Channing.

    There was a movie that used a digital actress called Simone. I wonder if they touched on these issues at all. At least, more seriously than I did.

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