LucasFilm Talks About The Biggest Controversy In Rogue One

It has been almost two weeks since the release of the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One, but much of the talk surrounding the movie is about characters from 40 years ago. Now, in an interview with The New York Times, several of Rogue One's most prominent contributors have given their accounts of the film's controversial decisions.

A behind the head scene of Darth Vader from Rogue One. It did not end up in the movie. Image: Disney

Those decisions have to do with using digital effects to both bring back the late Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin and insert Carrie Fisher's young Princess Leia in the film, just as both of them appeared in 1977's A New Hope.

The first question is why you need to see those characters at all. Kiri Hart, a producer on the film and head of Lucasfilm's Story Group, explained that in the case of Tarkin, he's crucial to the story. "If he's not in the movie, we're going to have to explain why he's not in the movie," she said. "This is kind of his thing" — meaning, of course, the Death Star, which of course Tarkin ends up in charge of by the time A New Hope begins.

However, the filmmakers weren't sure how the CG effect of Tarkin was going to look and, because of that, alternative solutions were planned. "We did talk about Tarkin participating in conversations via hologram, or transferring that dialogue to other characters," said John Knoll, a producer on Rogue One who is also the CCO of Industrial Light and Magic.

The digital effect of Tarkin. Image: ILM via the NYT.

To complete the effect, actor Guy Henry was on set dressed as Tarkin, with full performance capture rigs on his head. "We're transforming the actor's appearance to look like another character, but just using digital technology," Knoll explained. That data was sent to ILM, where they did their best to capture Cushing's nuance. However, they quickly realised that was no simple task — especially after the realisation that the lighting in A New Hope was different than Rogue One. Both things upped the challenge of recreating Cushing/Tarkin considerably, but the team eventually felt like they hit a strong balance. It's "a super high-tech and labour-intensive version of doing make-up," Knoll said.

As for Princess Leia, Hart believes she's an essential part of the story, too. "To deliver on that moment of hopefulness, that is really underscored by the fact that you do get to see her face," Hart said. "That's the best possible use of effects, to enhance the meaning and the emotion of the experience for the viewer." Like Tarkin, Leia was played by an actor on set (Ingvild Deila) and then digitally altered to look like young Carrie Fisher.

Cushing's estate approved the use of the actor's likeness and though it seemingly raises many questions about ethics, Knoll believes its a technique that can and should only be used sparingly.

"It is extremely labour-intensive and expensive to do. I don't imagine anybody engaging in this kind of thing in a casual manner," Knoll said. "We're not planning on doing this digital re-creation extensively from now on. It just made sense for this particular movie."

You can read even more about this in the full Times article.

This story was originally published on Gizmodo


    It's labour-intensive, expensive and still looks fake and gross. I really liked the movie but I think using those two characters was a mistake.

      I agree. Could have been holograms. Wouldn't have looked stupid.

      However, they can always make a better CGI version in the future and overlay it.

      Last edited 29/12/16 5:04 pm

        Yeah but that's a big part of what went wrong with the original trilogy special editions. Best practise is to always do the best job you can the first time, and try to do everything in camera if possible :)

      It was not that bad. Personally, I think Leia was worse. Manly because they could have done that scene without showering her. We all know who it was as soon as we saw the back of her, and because we only see about 5-10 seconds on it, it was jar-jaring ( :P ) to see. On the other hand, we had time with Tarkan, so we AT LEAST got used to it. It would have been better I think if they had gone with Holograms of him though, as it would not have been so in your face.

        I would just rather see real people than CGI at anytime. I saw the movie again yesterday and I still feel the same. But it's cool that it's no problem for you.

      I would have preferred if they had just used an actor with similar likeness. The world didn't end when the Dumbledores were switched. I found Tarkin to be really distracting.

        Yeah I wasn't super bothered in Harry Potter.

        But every time I watch the second Batman (The Dark Knight) it bothers me that they replaced the actor who plays Rachel. :|

        As for Rogue One, I found it to be 'uncanny' but it didn't disturb the movie for me.

    Looked fine to me. I seriously think people are getting up in arms over nothing.

      What is wrong with your eyes man? You've only been gaming since like, forever. You should be able to spot a CGI character at 100m!

        Of course I can spot a CGI character, that's not the question. The question is, did it take me out of the movie? Not at all, it didn't one bit. I was happy to see them recreate Leia. If I had of seen some girl pretending to be Leia? It wouldn't have gelled *at all*. It would have been jarring. At least this way there's actual continuiity.

        You think my radar doesn't jump every time Turnbull does a press conference???? :P

        Last edited 30/12/16 1:01 pm

          Hahaha. But he's a robot, not CGI. There's a difference.

          For me it completely takes me out of the illusion. My brain knows it's not real. That's why CGI aliens etc usually fail completely. Your brain can pick up on all the subtle cues to know what it's looking at is not real, therefore there's no danger to the actors and hence, illusion destroyed.

          At least that's how it is for me. It's cool that you don't experience that way.

            Oh indeed Im not saying its perfect at all. I just appreciate the continuiity :)

            Your brain can pick up on all the subtle cues to know what it's looking at is not real



            Last edited 03/01/17 11:22 am

              CGI Aliens. As opposed to a physical model or costume that is in the same set with the actor under the same lighting conditions (exact same, very important) and is constrained by the same physics. Just watch Aliens to get my drift. They had to show the Aliens in quick bursts because they look a little ropey in long shots but you know that they are really in the same space as the actors and it makes it much more compelling.

              I think about this stuff a lot.

                I guess there's no easy answer to this one

                Some would have problems with CGI aliens because its always hard to get that right, but recently when I watched The Force Awakens I remember thinking "practical effects = cool", but then comes the part when that single alien's tusk looks to be of the same material as its skin whereas I'm sure that was not intentional. It was really jar-jaring (sorry, can't help it).

                  Any time someone brings up the practical effects vs. CGI debate, I ask them to name a movie with CGI from the 70's/80's/90's that still looks great... because Alien ('79), An American Werewolf in London ('81), The Thing ('82), Jurassic Park ('93)... they all still look fantastic.

                Haha yeah I know buddy, I'm just yanking your chain :P

                CGI humans will always be harder to nail than aliens/monsters/animals/etc.... there's so many visual cues that you have to account for and they always have to be perfect, otherwise it's unsettling. The Uncanny Valley was real in the movie, but I thought it worked - Tarkin was meant to be unsettling, and UV (unintentionally?) helped with that.

    Leia worked pretty well. There was a lot of 'uncanny valley' going on with Tarkin though.

      Indeed, I didn't get the anger over Leia *at all*. I quick few seconds, looked perfectly fine to me. Tarkin, of course, he has extensive scenes and looked CGI. I was just happy they went all out and put "Peter Cushing" in the role rather than recasting and giving us Grand Mock Tark-off instead, but we got the real deal as it were, or the closest possibly approximation.

      I actually had the opposite reaction. I thought Tarkin was done really well and didnt notice it so much. Leia on the other hand I thought was rushed a bit because of her lack of scenes and wasn't as clean as Tarkin. But hey everyone's got a different perspective on this it seems...

        Yeah same here
        Tarkin felt 'uncanny-valley', but it didn't bother me too much; however Leia felt totally off.

      Hah. That's funny, because I felt the opposite. I mean, INITIALLY I felt super uncanny valley weirdness towards Tarkin, but it felt like he got better.

      We only got a few seconds of fake Leia and she looked... super weird.

    This seems like the kind of thing that is only controversial to the media, for the medias sake.

    As far as the CGI itself went, I didn't mind it at all. Were they perfect? Nope. Did it draw me out of the experience? Nope. Clearly reactions were split though and your ability to lose yourself to suspension of disbelief probably plays a part.

      Not to mention did it have the express permission of the family and the estate? Yep it sure did. So no moral issue there at all.

        Yeah I like how the author days it raises ethics issues.... How does it do that if them and their families are OK with it?

    I mean we have movies with cgi aliens and monsters alongside real people, why not cgi actors alongside other actors? I guess his estate's permission is the best you can get considering he can't really give permission.

    Whilst there was a little uncanny valley going on, I really appreciate that they went to such effort. It really makes going from Rogue One to A New Hope basically seamless.
    As for the controversy, I do not understand it. They had permission from Cushing's estate and Carrie Fisher herself, and the parts they played were completely true to the characters.
    If you really think about it, you could stretch it to ask why the people outraged aren't upset with Cushing's likeness being used for Tarkin in Clone Wars? Where's the line you draw between the stylized and realistic depiction of a character?

    I'm really glad they've said it's a technique they intend on using sparingly. I found CG Tarkin equal amounts impressive and jarring.

    It's labour intensive and expensive now... but like everything with computers, it'll get cheaper and faster over time as it's iterated and improved.

    Remember when they were talking about how long it took to render the first BayFormers film? Now that level of work can be knocked out in about a quarter of the time.

    The great problem with CGI is that, as it improves, historical versions look worse.
    The only one I can think of that has aged really, really, well is Jurassic Park.

      JP was a shitload of animatronics with only the tiniest amount of digital touch up.

      I think the biggest thing was the face stuck over the girl's stunt double during the roof scene.

        I don't disagree with you... it is used sparingly in the film.

        The biggest sequence is the TRex chasing the jeep... which is about 12 minutes long.
        There's also the scene with the stampede, and the iconic scene where the see the dinos for the first time.

          Indeed. 6 minutes of screen time is dedicated to CGI, while total dinosaur effects shots make up only 14 minutes of the 127 minute film.

   are totally making that up.

            Nah, it sounds unlikely enough to be true, right?
            You can't lie remember, teachers have to take the hemorrhagic oath.

    Most of the effects looked not quite right, from the CGI faces to the shops to the action.
    And the rebel council bickering was worse than galactic council bickering.
    It still wasn't as bad as TFA.

    I think the CGI Tarkin worked really well. It gave him a slightly unsettling appearance, which is exactly what he is.

    I think there's a lot of harsh judgement on what was some pretty incredible animation.

    Really. The CGI was second rate if you look back at Gollum, Avatar, Warcraft....I mean really they could have done a better job. And to tout that it was difficult is just showing how behind the times they are in CGI when it comes to motion capture characters. I was not only unimpressed but embarrassed that they had to make so many excuses for their poor quality. Sorry but Gollum in LOTR was 1000 times better, they could have done Cushing a solid by getting someone who knew what the hell they were doing. None the less I do agree that he NEEDED to be there.

      Well, ILM did the CGI on the remastered editions of the original trilogy and couldn't even get the fake monsters to look real. To be fair, the CGI robot's scenes in Rogue One were all excellent.

      Now if it had been given to someone like Weta Workshop then the conversation would be about the ethics of bringing someone back to life who is indistinguishable from the real actors.
      Hell, I couldn't even tell which scenes in Fast and Furious 7 were the real Paul Walker, even with all the little tricks they used.

      It's funny how well Gollum has aged. Watched the LOTRs movies again recently and he is only just starting to look a little dated. Lets not forget they were released 17 years ago.

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