Photo via Universal Pictures
Movie legends normally retire long before they expire, but we tend to think of their acting career as the end of life. It was a reasonable expectation, but more so with the advances in CGI that can bring anyone back from the dead and insert them into a scene. In the case of Gladiatorresurrection was out of necessity, and now technology is only accelerating with the latest cameos from the flash.
Is everyone in favor of bringing back the dearly departed in the movies? Absolutely not. According The Hollywood ReporterRobin Williams wrote in a trust he left in the event of his death that his likeness could not be inserted digitally into a film until 2039. So it’s not entirely against the idea, but it shows the magnitude of the problem.
After hearing about CGI James Dean’s plans in Find Jacka film that is not yet finished, Chris Evans tweeted in 2019, “It’s awful. Maybe we can get a computer to paint us a new Picasso. Or write some new John Lennon tunes.
Elijah Wood had the same reaction with fewer words when he tweeted, “NOPE. that shouldn’t be a thing.
Despite the fact that there are celebrities and fans against it, Hollywood has moved on and is having a lot of fun with it. It was said earlier that the use of CGI in Gladiator was out of necessity, so let’s start there.
Olivier Reed in Gladiator
Oliver Reed starred as Proximo in the 2000s Gladiator, a former gladiator himself who was granted his freedom by Marcus Aurelius and turned around and bought off General Maximus Decimus Meridius. Unfortunately, the great actor died on May 2, 1999 – before the filming of the film was completed. His remaining scenes were finished with the use of a body double with superimposed computer-generated mapping of Reed’s face.
Laurence Olivier in Sky Captain and the world of tomorrow
Laurence Olivier does not have a huge role in the years 2004 Sky Captain and the world of tomorrow. Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law actually take up most of the screen time, with Law being Sky Captain and all. However, having died in 1989, Olivier was brought back to life using archival footage of him that they digitally manipulated to serve the scene.
Marlon Brando in The Return of Superman
The Return of Superman was released in 2006, two years after the death of Marlon Brando, who played Jor-El in the original version of Superman in 1978. The same way they brought Laurence Olivier back to life with archival footage, they dove back into the original Superman for footage they could use of Brando to digitally manipulate for the 2006 film.
Paul Walker in Furious 7
Paul Walker hits a little differently on this list. He was the face of Fast and Furious franchise that Vin Diesel carried the rest of the way. His death came as a shock when fans learned of the car accident in 2013. Furious 7 came out in 2015 and Paul Walker was still the star. His brothers Caleb and Cody were brought in as replacements, and Walker’s face was superimposed over their bodies. Additionally, some stock footage was also reused for some takes. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when the curtain fell.
Peter Cushing in A thug
With an absolutely legendary acting career that began in 1939, Peter Cushing eventually became an icon of the star wars franchise when he was cast to play Grand Moff Tarkin in the 1977 original star wars. Died in 1994, his character was brought back to life in 2016 for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Guy Henry served as the body double who would be superimposed on Peter Cushing’s likeness like a digital body mask wrapped around the actor, which provides movement and voice work.
Carrie Fisher in The Rise of Skywalker
Carrie Fisher was one of the most iconic legends of the star wars franchise as she reprized her role as Princess Leia. His death in 2016 came as a shock to family and fans of the Lucasfilm empire. When The Rise of Skywalker was being filmed, her brother – director and producer Todd Fisher – was determined to keep General Leia in the 2019 film. They accomplished it using archival footage and while they struggled, which resulted in reduced screen time, they made it work.
Harold Ramis in Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Harold Ramis was a staple of the ghost hunters franchise since its inception in 1984. When he passed away in 2014, it didn’t stop anyone from making sure he was still in Ghostbusters: Afterlife in 2021. The project – which actually started in the early 90s when Dan Aykroyd penned the first screenplay – finally made it to the big screen with Ramis posthumously added using archive clips and photos from the original movie.
Adam West in the flash
Of course, there’s been a lot of internet buzz about cameo appearances in the flashwhich was just released on June 16, 2023. So don’t expect any spoilers here, but Adam West made his way into the film as DC tried to show off its impressive scope of historical footage.
Christopher Reeve in the flash
Some of the cameos of the flash were not very well received. There were quite a few tweets on Twitter talking about how sloppy the CGI was and how bringing in a beloved part of the DC team like Christopher Reeve should be treated with respect, which many fans felt the film was very short.
George Reeves in the flash
Another icon that has drawn the ire of avid moviegoers from their fanbase, George Reeves’ cameo struck a completely different blow. He was Superman in the 50s and after the show ended he had a hard time finding another job because everyone thought of him as Superman, a role he just couldn’t get rid of. He ended up killing himself because of it and ironically, the flash was released on the anniversary of his death. It wasn’t a good decision, whether they thought about it or not.