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ghost casting

CGI renderings of deceased icons promise big bucks; the Mouse House won't be giving up the ghost anytime soon.

Disney aren't the first. Whenever stars have inconveniently died during filming, studios have sought to bring them back. But what we're facing now is a whole different ball game: the resurrection of long-dead actors who cannot consent to their performances.

Peter Cushing's appearance in Rogue One followed by Carrie Fisher's sudden death on December 27th have posed some awkward questions. Disney denies that it is in negotiations with the estate of Carrie Fisher to resurrect General Organa "at this time", but it remains to be seen whether they can resist the temptation to restore the much-loved actor.

The New York Post has also claimed that CGI tech is being used as a solution to Benedict Cumberbatch's busy schedule. The newspaper reported that a body double will be used during filming for the oppressively titled Avengers: Infinity Wars Part One so that the equally oppressively titled Bendyface Crumblecrunch can have his features superimposed at a later date. Disney – keen to avoid accusations of somehow 'cheating' audiences – have denied that this will take place.

Could Hollywood Become a Ghost Town?

The financial and moral implications at stake for the movie industry are huge. As we know, celebrity deaths spur big increases in sales of music and films – Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson regularly earn tens of millions of dollars annually despite being dead.

California law already stipulates that film-makers must seek permission from the estate of a dead actor if they want to use his or her image. Now performers are seeking to further guard their intellectual property rights. Robin Williams, who committed suicide in 2014, has forbidden the use of his image for commercial purposes until 2039. Other actors understandably want to prevent their CGI likeness being used in a sexual or a violent context. "They understand their legacy will continue beyond their lifetime."

It's one thing to watch a performance created with reverence and respect – like Industrial Light and Magic's version of Peter Cushing – but quite another to see your idol's image profaned by grubby film-makers in pursuit of a fast buck.

The Uncanny Valley: a place of Nightmares

Contemporary CGI renderings of humans are not quite there yet. Interestingly, in being almost there, they can somehow end up being really quite disturbing.

If you are unfamiliar with the uncanny valley phenomenon, you should definitely check out 'Saya', the Japanese animatronic receptionist. She has 27 artificial face muscles, allowing her to adopt a multitude of varied expressions, fully all of which look like she wants to eat you.

Analysis

Creepy robots aside, there is something that feels just a little wrong about enlisting a deceased actor to sell a product or film.Yes, what studios are buying is a brand – I accept that. But it's also the image of a person. CGI renderings aren't able to give informed (or in fact any) consent to the ways they are used.

As legislation scrambles to catch up with the CGI sorcerers, it's likely that we will see many more revivals of affectionately-regarded icons. And they won't all be ones we like or approve of.

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