LucasFilm has been forced to address rumours they are planning to use Carrie Fisher’s digital likeness in Episode VIII. The technique was used controversially in Rogue One to bring Peter Cushing back from the dead as death star commander Grand Moff Tarkn. Cushing famously played the Grand Moff in the original Star Wars movie (1977).
An Official Star Wars statement released online yesterday was forced to address fan concerns about the potential for Episode VIII to feature a digital General Leia:
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.
Carrie Fisher (right) starred in the original Star Wars (1977) alongside Peter Cushing (left)
Peter Cushing’s digital self rendered 22 years after his death to play a central role in Star Wars: Rogue One
The character of General Leia is expected to play a central role in episode VIII and IX so how Lucas Film plan to deal with this dilemma remains a mystery. The BBC’s Newsnight programme only a few hours ago broke the story that Disney are in negotiations with Carrie Fisher’s estate to use her digital likeness in future star wars films. This could be an attempt to shore up the legal paperwork for a digitised Leia in Episode VIII and Episode IX or it could just be Disney covering all bases in the event they need to use a digital render for a future movie or video game. The controversy surrounding Peter Cushing is limited to the use of his image when he is no longer in a position to give his permission to do so. While it is likely that actors moving forward are going to have contract clauses stipulating their studio owns the rights to an actors likeness, that courtesy was not offered to Cushing when he died. Carrie Fisher, nonetheless, was quite pleased with her own more youthful digital self that made a brief appearance at the end of Star Wars: Rogue One.
John Knoll is the Lucas Film special effects expert and Director of Industrial Light & Magic. Industrial Light & Magic were responsible for producing the digital versions of Cushing and Fisher in Rogue One.
“What we had Tarkin doing in this film I think was entirely appropriate narratively for this story, and we weren’t doing anything that I think Peter Cushing would’ve objected to. I think this work was done with a great deal of affection and care. We know that Peter Cushing was very proud of his involvement in Star Wars and has said as much, and that he regretted that he never got a chance to be in another Star Wars film because George [Lucas] had killed off his character” he said.
Knoll also went on to add, “And this was done in consultation and cooperation with his estate. So we wouldn’t do this if the estate had objected or didn’t feel comfortable with this idea.”
Even the late Peter Cushing’s secretary Joyce Broughton had nothing but praise for the digital recreation of her former employer. She told Variety, “I have to say, I’m not a ‘Star Wars’ fanatic, but I did think whoever put it together were absolutely fantastic,” going on to also say “It’s not just a silly sort of thing. It’s really good!”
Carrie Fisher also seems to have had no problems with either her image being used or Norwegian actress Ingvild Deila standing in to provide a base structure upon which Knoll and team would render the young Princess Leia. It’s that version of Leia we all remember fondly and perhaps are being so protective of. It’s that Leia, afterall, audiences around the world grew up loving back in 1977.
Knoll reportedly got a call from Lucas Film boss Kathleen Kennedy after Fisher had seen Rogue One. Kennedy told him “Well, Carrie loved it”.
Star Wars Episode VIII is currently in production and is written and directed by Rian Johnson (The Brothers Bloom, Looper).
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