Will CGI replace all actors in the future?
We’re living in a wild time, Hollywood can turn anyone into anyone. CGI and special effects is more impressive than ever. Are we going to get films that don’t even call actors on set anymore, will they all be made on a computer?
In the age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where all your colourful, wondrous superheroes and villains come to life, CGI on actors is more prevalent than ever. Not only can Paul Bettany become Vision or Ralph Fiennes become Voldemort, but cinema can now create any actor it want.
Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort
One of the most infamous examples in recent years is the late Paul Walker. Walker, the co-star of the Fast and Furious franchise met an untimely death in a car accident during the time where the film’s seventh instalment was still being filmed.
After permission from his family, it was decided to craft a fitting tribute to the actor using CGI. A CGI face of Walker was created and put onto the body of a completely different person. If it wasn’t for the process making headlines, audiences would’ve been none the wiser.
This creative choice brings up the consideration of where Hollywood is going. Are filmmakers of the future not going to bother casting? Is it going to be as simple as getting the permission of the actor to use their likeness, sending them a big cheque and popping their face onto the coffee guy on set?
Actors like Robin Williams have actually put legal protections on using their likeness. CGI can’t be used in any capacity to bring the beloved actor back to our screens. Paul Walker is an example of permission being granted, Williams is an example of it being denied.
As this method of filmmaking gains more attention, actors will start either signing contracts to say “yes, you can” or “no, you can’t” in the whole CGI game. Of course, both these examples are of actors whom have passed away.
None other than Tony Stark, Robert Downey Jr. himself, is a living example of this practice. Believe it or not but RDJ wasn’t actually on set all that much for Iron Man 3. Remember the final scene of the film, where he stands on the edge of his destroyed home and gives an epic monologue? Well, he wasn’t actually there, it was a stunt double with Stark’s gorgeous face slapped on.
RDJ and people of similar calibre, the people who are both in super high demand, and super busy have the opportunity to just cash in on people paying to use their likeness.
Saturation issues aside for a moment, imagine how much money RDJ could make staring in twice as many films a year and only having to be on set half as much. That’s a money-making method we would seriously consider if we were an A-lister.
Still though this involves paying a stunt double, what if you don’t even want to do that?
Recently Esquire Middle East wrote about the movie Gemini Man, starring Will Smith and ‘ANOTHER’ Will Smith.
In this movie, Smith goes up against a younger version of himself, a version entirely made by CGI. No stunt double here, every appendage, every hair follicle, every sinew is made by a computer.
CGI in Hollywood has three ‘levels’ right now. You have altering the actual actor to look slightly different such as Voldemort or Samuel L. Jackson in Captain Marvel, you have changing a stunt double to look like someone else, like Paul Walker, and you have an entirely synthetic actor like young Will Smith.
Samuel L. Jackson de-aged in Captain Marvel
Will these processes outshine good old acting though? Do remember, it’s only the theatrical talent of an actor that prompts filmmakers to want to use their likeness. Marvel had no intention of replacing RDJ during Iron Man 3, it was more a case of making sure he got as much screen time as hoped for.
The way the landscape looks right now, CGI actors won’t replace actors, but they will supplement them. It’s impossible to replace an actor, they’re personalities off screen as much as they are on screen.
Take Carrie Fisher at the 2009 and 2016 Comic-Con for example, actors can turn up in the flesh off-set to entertain their fans, to build hype. The 20 or 30 people who worked to design the CGI Carrie Fisher would not generate as much hype. It’s important in cinema to build an off screen personality people vibe with, something that the non-existent young Will Smith could never do.
Right now, actors are not a dying breed. CGI in fact makes them stronger than ever, they can have more screen time, look younger, or just use their time more effectively. Once the world’s most CGI actor wins an Oscar is probably when we will see a major shift in the industry.