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To CGI Leia, or Not to CGI Leia

It’s not really a question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the pixelled slings and motion-captured arrows of outrageous special effects, or take arms against a sea of computer-generated actors… aye, there’s the rub(ber eraser icon used to delete wrinkles).

In Episode 15 of Nerdstalking, in our review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, I disagreed with Ross when he suggested that it would have been better to have a look-alike actor play the role of Grand Moff Tarkin, instead of the CGI Tarkin we ended up with. Even though it wasn’t a perfect recreation of the late actor Peter Cushing, I said I still appreciated that it looked so much like him, that it WAS him.

I’ve had cause to rethink my position, in light of the passing of Carrie Fisher, and the possibility that they will use a CGI Leia to continue the role in Ep. 9 (Fisher finished her scenes for Ep. 8 before she died). That “appreciation” that I mentioned, the wanting of the filmmakers to use CGI to at least give me a character that looks near exactly like Peter Cushing as Tarkin… it’s a manifestation of the kind of selfishness that has plagued the Star Wars saga since A New Hope. It’s that kind of thinking that ultimately drove George Lucas to sell the whole franchise, just to be rid of it.

We’re willing to sell the acting talents of Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing down the river, for a little bit of the nostalgia we feel when classic Star Wars characters look exactly the way we remember them. People say we’re respecting the actor when we conjure their performance out of a computer. I’m sure Disney will back a dump truck full of cash onto the Fishers’ front lawn, but I have to say that if I was an actor with any pride in my craft, I would say “Hell no!”. What’s really being stated is that Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher were so lousy at acting that a computer/stand-in can do it! Either that or, since they’re so old (concerning older Leia in the main saga) that a computer/stand-in can handle it fine.

A comparison of Carrie Fisher and the CGI Leia from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
CGI Leia at top, real Carrie Fisher at bottom

What about the quick jot of a raised eyebrow when a subordinate comes in to tell the Grand Moff that some rebels have escaped? Maybe Cushing would have to display annoyance, fear, and conniving all in that one glance, bringing the weight of a hundred Hammer films to bear. What about the slight furrow of the forehead when Leia’s ex-lover steps out of the Millenium Falcon? Maybe, briefly on her face, we get a glimpse of the torn feeling that Carrie Fisher has for Harrison Ford, something we now understand from her accounts of their relationship off-set. All of these emotions and mannerisms and attitudes are lost now, as far as these characters are concerned. And some stand-in, a mo-cap helmet and a computer program cannot, cannot replicate them with any degree of real, human accuracy.

The creation of CGI Tarkin, from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Not exactly the best conditions for an “actor”

The filmmakers lose in any scenario going forward with the new trilogy. If they go with CGI Leia in any amount of scenes, they’ve got a waxwork figure that can (badly) mouth the words the character needs to say, but without any of Fisher’s wit, sass, or bald-faced humanness. If they hire, say, Meryl Streep to fill the role (once up for the part of Princess Leia, BTW), then they have a fan rebellion on their hands. In my estimation, they have only one real option: write General Leia Organa out. Start Ep. 9 with a grand funeral, and send off the sister of Alderaan like the royalty she was.

I’ll throw to the Bard again, as a closer:

But for a hope of something after death?
Which puzzles the brain, and doth confound the sense,
Which makes us rather bear those evils we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Aye that, O this conscience makes cowards of us all,
Lady in thy orizons, be all my sins remembered.

**UPDATE: In an unprecedented move, no doubt to address the intense pressure my post must have caused, Disney and Lucasfilm have since issued a statement that they will not be digitally re-creating either Princess or General Leia in future movies. You can read their statement here at StarWars.com.

4 Comments on “To CGI Leia, or Not to CGI Leia

  1. I say kill her off in the story. Having said that, I don’t think it’s a problem to have a bit of CGI here and there and I really don’t think that there’s going to be a tonne of call for young Leia to appear in. She isn’t needed in the Boba Fett movie unless they cover when Han is frozen and not at all in the young Han movie. Recasting would be stupid. This isn’t James Bond. If you recall, there was a time in the ’60s when all the marketing had ‘Sean Connery IS James Bond 007’ but audiences ultimately accepted new actors in the role. But Bond lives forever and there is no time-line in the story-arc. Tarkin doesn’t need to reappear ever now and Leia could just be killed off…or become Darthette Leiador behind a mask! Or they could recast Leia with Margot Robbie. There, it’s all sorted out. Too bad Ross was so silent on this subject. I guess this isn’t Facebook.

  2. It’s interesting: in our podcast episode, Ross points out an inconsistency in Leia’s behaviour in ‘Force Awakens’. When the team return to Leia, she runs up and hugs Rey, and ignores Chewie, a longer-time friend. But perhaps this sets up that Leia is destined to become a Force Ghost and haunt, er I mean advise Rey on her further journeys in the saga… something that could be easily and competently accomplished through a CGI Leia. So it might be a sign that Leia does indeed snuff it in Ep. 8.

  3. Welp, my post must have really rattled Disney brass, because the very next day after posting it, the company has released a statement that they will not be digitally creating either Princess or General Leia in future movies. I will update my post to reflect this promise.

    So the remaining options, if they want to continue the character, is either recast the role or put her to rest. From the tenor of their statement, I would bet against the former and expect the latter: to respect the memory of Carrie Fisher, they will give her iconic character a graceful exit from the franchise.

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