Lucasfilm has ‘no plans’ to CGI Carrie Fisher into future Star Wars movies

Spoilers for Rogue One follow
I finally saw Rogue One this weekend. (My excuse for waiting so long is the fact that I had a busy holiday although I wanted to see it badly.) I really loved the movie, although the ending gave me the sads and there was one major distraction my son and I noticed – CGI Grand Moff Tarkin, who was made to look like the original Tarkin, played by actor Peter Cushing, who died in 1994. They used another actor as stand in and then digitally recreated Cushing’s face. I would have preferred another actor in the role rather than this bizarre homage to the late Cushing, because the character looked like a well rendered game avatar. In fact I wondered if there was some weird backstory I was missing where Tarkin was actually a robot or hologram, but he was supposed to be human and it was as obvious a gaffe as the robot baby in American Sniper. At the end of the film, which you probably know was a sort of prequel in the Star Wars universe, we saw young Princess Leia, also an obvious CGI creation but a more forgivable and brief one, tying in the stories of these martyred rebel heroes with the original Star Wars saga.

Now that we’ve lost our venerable Princess Leia it’s only logical to assume that she’ll be digitally inserted into future Star Wars movies, because you know that they had no qualms about doing just that for a major character in Rogue One. The people at Lucasfilms say that’s not going to happen though, and that although Carrie Fisher loved her CGI character in Rogue One they’re not going to create a whole storyline around her like they did for Tarkin/Peter Cushing. Here’s how John Knoll, chief creative officer at Industrial Light and Magic, explained including Cushing’s face and the moral and ethical issues around that.

“They fear a slippery slope,” Knoll said of the technology’s ethical critics. “‘Well if they’re going to do this now, where’s the end of it? Soon we’re going to have all sorts of dead celebrities endorsing products.’

“I’ll say, well, first of all that’s not what we did. 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.”

“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.” (Cushing’s former assistant, Joyce Broughton, who now oversees his estate, applauded ILM’s efforts. “It’s not just a silly sort of thing,” she told Variety. “It’s really good.”)

To achieve the effect, Knoll and team cast actor Guy Henry (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) to perform the role on set while where wearing motion-capture equipment, including a helmet-mounted camera that would track facial expressions and vocal movements. They then used visual effects to apply the motion to a digital model they’d constructed of Tarkin/Cushing using photographs and footage of him from A New Hope. “Essentially we’re using the computer graphics as a tool to alter his appearance,” Knoll explained.

[From Yahoo!]

At least they did it in cooperation with his estate and believe he would have approved. It’s still somewhat questionable to me. Imagine if they had digitally recreated Richard Harris as Dumbledore for all future Harry Potter movies instead of hiring actor Michael Gambon. That would have been bizarre, but it’s an issue that is going to come up more often as the technology improves. It’s not quite there yet but at some point we won’t be able to tell the difference.

Here’s more, including Lucasfilm’s statement on Carrie Fisher.

Knoll on Carrie Fisher approving her younger CGI self in Rogue One
“This again is something we wouldn’t have done without her permission and blessing,” Knoll said. “She knew about it. [Lucafilm President] Kathy Kennedy managed the relationship with Carrie, so I didn’t talk with her directly about it. But [Fisher] saw a work in progress, saw a finished result, and she loved it. Kathy called me right after she showed it to [Fisher] and said how fantastic she thought it was. So she was very much in favor of it.”

In related news Friday, Lucasfilm denied a BBC report suggesting the company had already begun negotiating with Fisher’s estate for rights to her digital image for future Star Wars installments. Fisher had completed filming 2017’s Episode VIII and was expected to have a substantial role in 2019’s Episode IX, but Disney and Lucasfilm were scheduled to huddle with filmmakers this week to discuss how to adjust the story following Fisher’s death.

Here’s the complete statement, as posted on
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.

[From Yahoo! and]

Ok so they have “no plans” to digitally recreate Carrie Fisher. That’s not ruling it out, but still it’s better than leaving the rumors out there and making it seem like they’re going to build the story around her, a la Tarkin. I hope they don’t do that again, it really took away from a fantastic movie. Still, it’s not like they can replace her with another actress, that would also be hard to take. Episode VIII, which is out this December and for which Fisher completed all her scenes, is going to be bittersweet.



photos credit: Lucasfilm via Slashfilm, Starwars.Wikia, and Getty Images

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25 Responses to “Lucasfilm has ‘no plans’ to CGI Carrie Fisher into future Star Wars movies”

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  1. Digital Unicorn (aka Betti) says:

    I LOVED Rogue One, it was far far better than the Force Awakens – the dialogue was great, it flowed well and the acting far outclassed TFA (esp the female lead – sorry Daisy fans but she was terrible in TFA). I was somewhat freaked out over the Peter Cushing but was even more freaked over the ending with Carrie (the CGI was much more noticeable).

    But am glad Disney are not doing it – RIP Carrie and Debbie.

    • teacakes says:

      Felicity was perfect as Jyn, I’d initially wondered if she was a better choice than Tatiana Maslany (who fits the ‘action heroine’ type more readily) but having seen Rogue One, I wouldn’t change a thing about the lead. She’s tough, cynical and angry but also really young and almost childlike in parts – Felicity absolutely nailed that.

      Plus I absolutely love that she wasn’t sexualised. A++ on that presentation!

      • lucy2 says:

        Felicity was great.
        I would love to see Tatiana get a huge movie like that too. I binged the last season of Orphan Black over the weekend, she never fails to amaze me.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I thought the Tarkin CGI was very realistic! Didn’t distract me at all. I may be in the minority, but I think it really *was* a nice homage.

    • TheSageM says:

      Me too, I was really impressed!

    • Ellie says:

      I didn’t find it offensive or obvious either. I like Star Wars a lot but not enough to know all the characters from the the originals. So I was shocked when my boyfriend pointed CGI Cushing out because I had not noticed it wasn’t a real person. It doesn’t seem particularly ethically bankrupt to me — he passed away a long time ago, wasn’t a main character and his estate was cool with it. It seemed more awkward to me when Fast and the Furious brought back Paul Walker’s character through CGI/his brother for some reason, maybe because it was a lot sooner after his death.

    • Lucy2 says:

      It didn’t really visually bother me that much either.
      We’ve already had deceased celebrities CGI’d to sell products, which I think is wrong. I understand why they did it with Cushing and it sounds like he would’ve been fine with it, but I don’t think this is something that should be used frequently.

      • Cannibell says:

        Team “They did a good job and it didn’t distract from the story.” That said, I’m not geeky enough to have known who’s dead and who’s alive (Carrie (z”l) excepted of course). It seems though, that there’s enough diversity in the Star Wars universe to comfortably accommodate skillfully deployed CGI. I also saw it this weekend, enjoyed it very much and had a wistful and sad moment at the end when Leia accepted the “gift from the rebellion.”

      • teacakes says:

        I definitely agree that it shouldn’t become a frequent thing, because God knows CGI can result in some lazy storytelling even when it’s just objects and explosions.

        But in Tarkin and Leia’s case, I understand why they needed it for this movie.

    • evie says:

      I agree. The Tarkin CGI didn’t bother me at all where I felt the Fisher CGI pulled me right out of the moment in the movie. I’m glad they’re not planning to repeat that for Episode IX.

    • janetdr says:

      Me too! I had a moment of What?! and then quickly realized that he had to be there – too much dissonance with the story otherwise. I thought it was very well done. The young Leia moment as well, although it reduced me to a soggy mess as I saw it after she passed.

    • Mia4S says:

      I think a lot would depend on how they use it for Leia. Certainly not a whole movie, but can they manage a satisfying arc with Leia off screen? Maybe. Maybe an onscreen death in the face of her real unexpected death would be too much? As beautiful and devastating as the end of Rogue One was, we know they called cut and Felicity, Diego, and the rest went to lunch. Watching Leia’s end in the face of real life might be just a bit too much.

  3. Mia4S says:

    When I went for my second viewing of Rogue One (which I love!!) I was in a group of six people….and none of them picked up on the fact that Tarkin is CGI! It worked well for a lot of people.

    Tarkin was a few scenes, I don’t think it’s at the point where they could do a full emotional performance. Sadly I do not think they are going to get to tell the story they wanted to tell. It doesn’t mean Episode 9 can’t be good, it’s just that a considerable shadow will hang over it. Written well that could be quite poignant.

    • SusanneToo says:

      Yeah, I was like “I thought Peter Cushing died a while back. Is that an incredibly good lookalike?” It was very well done CGI.

    • Gemma13 says:

      I didn’t know he was dead either. I could tell he looked off, but I thought maybe he was supposed to be a sickly old man. If I had known he was dead then I think the CGI would have been more apparent to me as it was the others.

      Rouge One was a throughly enjoyable movie. I didn’t know it was a prequel to a sequel and all that going in. About halfway through I finally figured it out 🙂 at which point I became disappointed since we wouldn’t be seeing Diego Luna in any other Star Wars movies.

      • Mia4S says:

        “we wouldn’t be seeing Diego Luna in any other Star Wars movies.”

        I wouldn’t be so sure about that.

        Of all the characters, his and K2S0 would be the easiest to work into other anthology movies. He’s a spy and an infiltrator so he could almost literally pop up anywhere if the timeline is right. I wouldn’t be shocked at all, and I’d be all in for it!

  4. teacakes says:

    I love Rogue One and I have no shame about it.

    Also CGI Tarkin looked rather demonic, but I didn’t realise that was because he was a literal CGI! Leia’s appearance was rather more of a shock because by then, I’d gone from sobbing and internally shrieking in fear to ‘OH MY GOD IS IT?!!!?!!!’ at the sight of that iconic white dress and veil, and then full-on shrieking in shock when she turned around. But in the good way – that glimpse was brief and I didn’t really have time to register Uncanny Valley there

  5. Lucy says:

    I found the Tarkin CGI to be amazing. Didn’t distract me at all, and some people in the audience didn’t seem to notice it wasn’t a real person. I even got a bit emotional when I saw young Leia (not because of Carrie’s death, though. I saw the movie before it happened). I felt like it added to the story, it wasn’t just some random appearance. Felicity is a true chameleon, she never plays the same character. And well, of course, there was also Diego Luna. I’m so happy that everyone seems to love him.

    • teacakes says:

      Diego ♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡

      I’ve seen more than one person saying he and Felicity need to do a movie where they play lovers, and I can’t help but agree. Jyn and Cassian eyef-cking each other at Yavin 4 gave me some serious flutters!

  6. Jade says:

    Tarkin had to be there and the CGI was pretty good. Credit to the FX team. But I’m also of the thought that Princess Leia’s CGI was jarring. So I have to disagree with Celebitchy here. I wonder if it’s because it’s easier to CGI an aged face that has wrinkles. A young, smooth face when CGIed could tend to look like a cyborg (smoothed out with no imperfections).

  7. robyn says:

    So sad and shocking she died. She seemed to have so much more zest to give.

    I was a bit disappointed in the previous movie when older princess Leia basically had a desk job as I would have loved to see her kick some butt the way Harrison Ford did. I think an untapped resource are the mature women physically fighting in action movies. I think people would watch, especially if they didn’t photoshop faces and appreciate wrinkles the way they do in men. Hey … it would be cool!!!

  8. Juluho says:

    I found the CGI unsettling, I appreciate that it was a masterpiece of CGI but I can’t get behind it. I agree with the Dumbledore example, Richard Harris was wonderful and so was Michael Gambon.
    I loved the diversity of the movie, but I spent the last 45 minutes in a grimace. It was like they asked George RR Martin to finish the script. (Which would explain why he hasn’t finished the #%#^^ Winds of Winter).

  9. Morgan says:

    I found the CGI Peter Cushing to be distractingly similar to the toy repair guy in Toy Story 2 — couldn’t unsee it. It was okay, but I’ve seen Star Wars many, many times and I think the whole Empire command structure is undefined enough that they could’ve used another actor to fill the role. He does have a memorable face to tie Rogue One to New Hope , but a little one-off scene would’ve worked better than giving so much screen time to weird CGI.