Life, and death, in the age of digital imaging and social media.
As I noted in my review of Rogue One, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film was the digital return of Peter Cushing in the role of Grand Moff Tarkin, despite his 1994 death.
In the wake of Carrie Fisher’s sudden death, speculation is that this technique could allow the character of Princess Leia to continue despite the loss of the talented actress.
It’s impossible to predict how big a role Leia might have in the final film of Star Wars’ triple trilogy, Episode IX, which is due for release in mid-2019. There could also be spin-off stories, a la “Rogue One,” that will continue even after Episode IX’s release.
If filmmakers were contemplating a role for Fisher in any of those movies, they’re facing a huge hole in their scripts. And one option to fill it could be the strategy that was used in “Rogue One”: creating computer-generated, motion-capture characters.
The possibilities have launched a move by celebrities to protect their images from beyond the grave.
“Celebrities are increasingly involved in making plans to protect their intellectual property rights,” said Mark Roesler, an attorney and chairman of CMG Worldwide, an agency representing celebrity estates. “They understand that their legacy will continue beyond their lifetime.”
Roesler said at least 25 of his clients are engaged in actively negotiating the use of their or their loved ones’ computer-generated images in movies, television or commercials. Employment contracts govern how they can be used in a particular film or commercial, while a performer’s will can address broader issues.
Some actors or heirs worry that overexposure will tarnish a celebrity’s image, Roesler said. Some explicitly rule out posthumous depictions involving sex or violence, while others focus on drugs or alcohol.
“We have seen people address marijuana,” he said. “We’ve seen liquor addressed.”
California law gives heirs control over actors’ posthumous profits and requires permission for any of use of celebrity likenesses. With the improvements in digital imaging technology, actors and actresses are assessing how to protect their legacies regarding how images are used.
Robin Williams, who committed suicide in 2014, banned any use of his image for commercial means until 2039, according to court documents. He also blocked anyone from digitally inserting him into a movie or TV scene or using a hologram, as was done with rapper Tupac Shakur at Southern California’s Coachella music festival in 2012 – 16 years after his murder.
In related news, The Walt Disney Company may be receiving a $50 million insurance payout due to Fisher’s death.
Sources said that Disney had taken out $50mn of so-called contract protection cover as insurance for the event that Fisher was unable to fulfil her obligations to act in the new Star Wars films, with the policy now likely to trigger.”
If true, the $50 million payout — which Lloyd’s of London is on the hook for — would be the “market’s biggest ever single personal accident insurance claim.”
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