Actor Behind Reanimated Grand Moff Tarkin Speaks Out on Technology’s Future
Our modern digital Prometheus: when the technical wizards behind the CGI of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story learned that they could reanimate deceased actor Peter Cushing to reprise his role as gaunt-cheeked Empire command Grand Moff Tarkin, they never stopped stopped to think if they should. The resultant spelunking into the uncanny valley was as polarizing as it was unexpected. Some were wowed by the boundless possibilities of computer programming and the effective triumph over the permanence of death; others immediately flashed back to high school memories of reading Mary Shelley. The debate over the ethics of artificially contriving performances from dead actors continues to rage, and a figure close to the situation has now weighed in.
British thespian Guy Henry was the lucky Peter Cushing-shaped head that director Gareth Edwards tapped to provide a physical foundation for Grand Moff Tarkin, and in a new interview with the Hollywood Reporter, he spoke about the experience and expressed some misgivings about the death-defying CGI technology’s future. Henry describes the near-absolute secrecy to which he was sworn, and the pressure of doing right by Cushing’s legacy:
I’m genuinely not an impressionist. I’d be doing my very best to do my Tarkin, the rolled “r” and the voice as best I could, and Gareth would say, “OK, relax on that. Just be a bit more Guy now.” I had to trust that they saw something in the reel of my work that convinced them it could be the tribute to Cushing everyone wanted it to be. It was very, very frightening, in all seriousness.
As for the moral implications of Weekend at Bernie’s-ing an actor who’s been dead for decades so his presence can be an Easter egg for fans, Henry had some thoughts as well. When asked if he believed Hollywood would make this technology more prevalent, he responded, “I can't really see why they would. Suddenly to make a new film and get James Dean in it? I can’t see that’s likely to happen. This was very specifically to recreate this character in a way that served the story of Rogue One.” He later added, “I think and hope it won’t be a commonplace thing.” Henry also clarified that he had no knowledge of whether this technique might be applied to generate future performances from the recently deceased Carrie Fisher, either. The virtual specters of actors past will stay at bay... for the moment.