"We don’t normally respond to fan or press speculation, but there is a rumor circulating that we would like to address. We want to assure our fans that Lucasfilm has no plans to digitally recreate Carrie Fisher’s performance as Princess or General Leia Organa.
Carrie Fisher was, is, and always will be a part of the Lucasfilm family. She was our princess, our general, and more importantly, our friend. We are still hurting from her loss. We cherish her memory and legacy as Princess Leia, and will always strive to honor everything she gave to Star Wars."
The fact that Disney had to issue such a press release at all is testimony to the public unease on this issue in the wake of Rogue One. If LFL’s digital wizardry has no qualms about zombifying an actor who’s been dead for 20 years, why should they show any (the thinking goes) about resurrecting a mainstay of the SW franchise who died unexpectedly young?
It’s just as unethical as acting impersonating someone who’s been dead for 20 years. Should we regard all the Frankensteins that borrowed from Boris Karloff the acting mannerisms and similar-inspired prosthetics as unethical?
It’s one thing for an actor to take inspiration from another actor’s portrayal of a role. It’s another thing for CGI effects houses to use computers to recreate in minute detail the visage of a human being who is no longer with us.
One is a performance, the other a mask. Without Guy Henry having Tarkin in RO wouldn’t have been possible.
Gary Oldman recreating Churchill’s likeness by prosthetics isn’t just a performance, it is a mask.
If the recreated character existed in real life then it seems to be legitimate. If the character is fictional (which would mean his likeness is that of the actor who played it), within a well established continuity of screenplays that without a doubt constitute an organic unity, then magically it is not legitimate.
Peter Cushing is the only face of Tarkin we know. ROTS portrayed Tarkin with the very likeness of Cushing. TCW and Rebels styllistically recreated Cushing’s facial structure. It is only logical that in a movie set 2 days before SW77 Tarkin has to look as close as Cushing as possible. The state-of-the-art of that possibility is what we had.
Theatre is supposed to be as real as possible. That statement is the sole justification of prosthetics, voice impersonations, scenography, imitation performances, even method acting.
It is strange that no one scandalizes about ancient Rome’s recreation in Gladiator because that city no longer exists. You may argue that Cushing or Fisher are far different than things but within these movie Cushing or Fisher just are not there. It’s only their physical likeness what are there, and yes, their looks and mannerisms indeed are things, resources of the screenplay to accomplish the goal of preserving the illusion. That is even the actual justification for the likeness being a transable asset.
It’s just a guy wearing a sophisticated mask of Tarkin/Leia, no one is making a fake Peter Cushing affiliate to the Nazi Party or do something he wouldn’t have done in real, personal life.
In my opinion it is more about its effect stylistically on the medium rather than ethically. The uncanny valley effect. Simply knowing an actor is incapable of playing that character as they appear, either through death or age difference, is enough to create that shift. Our minds tell us that what we are seeing cannot be real. Even if an effects company were to create a flawless characterisation of an actor, I suspect we would still experience the effect.
This is where it is important for a film maker to use this technology wisely. I feel that recreating Carrie Fisher’s likeness for a character as central to Star Wars as Leia would be a disservice to the film and the story they are trying to tell.