Has George Lucas been buying the film rights to dead celebrities to put them back on the silver screen? A similar feat was accomplished recently as Jeff Bridges plays opposite a younger version of himself (see Synthespian Wannabe: Tron Legacy's Jeff Bridges).
British comedian Mel Smith, a friend of Lucas', stated:
"George has been buying up the film rights to dead actors in the hope of using computer trickery to put them all together, so you'd have ORSON WELLES and BARBARA STANWYCK alongside today's stars."
This kind of effort has been tried before, with different technology. In a 1991 commercial for Diet Coke, ad agency Lintas: New York used simpler techniques to bring dead stars back to life. Humphrey Bogart in All Through the Night (1942), Louis Armstrong in High Society (1956) and James Cagney in snippets from Public Enemy (1931) and The Roaring Twenties (1939) were placed in the commercial spot.
(Diet Coke sold by dead celebrities)
The footage was taken to R. Greenberg Associates, who edited Woody Allen into old film footage in his 1983 movie Zelig. Through a process called "rotoscoping," technicians isolated the images of Bogart, Armstrong and Cagney from the vintage movie clips. Then the legendary stars were computer- stitched into the contemporary nightclub scene.
The work was painstaking. Cagney was shorter than the modern blond actress with whom he is seen ordering a Diet Coke. So the editors blew up the image until his height matched that of his co-star. The Golden Age actors were carefully colorized frame by frame to match the hues of the fresh footage. In the stunning final product, Bogart wanders among the nightclub clientele, exchanging greetings with a patron probably not even born when Bogie died in 1957. Louis Armstrong blows away on his trumpet, sharing a knowing glance with Elton John.
If the story about Lucas is true, he's trying to do more than that. It would involve a digital recreation of the actor. But just think of what could be done. Industrial Light and Magic could create different versions of an actor from different films; you could have 37 year-old Bogart (from The Petrified Forest, 42 year-old Bogart from Casablanca and 55 year-old Bogart from Sabrina. Here's looking at you, and you, and you, Bogie.
(Bogie in Casablanca)
ILM will need some additional sfnal gear to do this effectively. It's not enough that your digital recreation look like Bogart; it needs to act like him, and for that you'd need a personality construct like that described in William Gibson's 1985 novel Neuromancer:
Molly had gone back to the loft hours ago, the Flatline's construct in her green bag, and Case had been drinking steadily ever since. It was disturbing to think of the Flatline as a construct, a hardwired ROM cassette replicating a dead man's skills, obsessions, knee-jerk responses.