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George Lucas and Bringing Dead Actors Back to Life

George Lucas and Bringing Dead Actors Back to Life (photo)

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Next week’s “TRON: Legacy” stars two Jeff Bridges: one of Bridges’ approximate biological age and one that looks uncannily like the Bridges of thirty years ago (at least until he opens his mouth). The young Bridges represents yet another advancement in CGI special effects which means it’s time to return to that fear that pops up every so often: that digital creations could some day replace actors altogether. I tend to think this sort of thing is hogwash, that even the most technologically advanced cinematic creations need some humanity at their core.

But you know who apparently doesn’t think that’s hogwash? George Lucas. The man who was responsible for the infamous CGI creation Jar Jar Binks (as well as the far more successful all CGI Yoda in “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith”) is apparently looking to bring dead actors back to life in the form of zombie-like CGI creations for a future project. Aint It Cool first spotted the key info, in an interview with British comedian and director Mel Smith. According to Smith, who directed Lucas’ 1994 film “Radioland Murders”:

“He’s been buying up the film rights to dead movie stars in the hope of using computer trickery to put them all together in a movie, so you’d have Orson Welles and Barbara Stanwyck appear alongside today’s stars.”

The article doesn’t probe any deeper into the subject, which means we don’t know how Smith got wind this information, but let’s assume it’s true for now. After all, AICN posted its story on Saturday and the post is still up on the site Monday afternoon with no qualifiers, disclaimers, or retractions, which suggests a certain amount of veracity to Smith’s story. I thought Harry Knowles’ comment in his post about this news was interesting as well:

“I’ve not been privy to any of Uncle George’s plans, but I’ve seen some amazing things done with classic movie stars by a few talented filmmakers, in terms of tests that pretty much told me, this is definitely going to become a reality for us movie-goers.”

Obviously I’m not privy to any plans or to any tests by talented filmmakers. But I was privy to “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” the 2004 film that transformed old footage of Laurence Olivier into a new performance. At the time of this scene, Olivier had been dead for fifteen years:

There are two issues at stake with any sort of performance like this and they’re two totally separate things: whether or not the character is believable and whether or not the character is the cinematic equivalent of grave robbing. I mean, talk about not letting the dead rest in peace! I’m not going to sit here and pretend that Orson Welles was some pristine artist or that I know he would have hated the idea — the man, after all, made his fair share of wine commercials in his own lifetime. But the idea leaves an icky taste in my mouth, one even ickier than the one left by things like Olivier’s appearance in “Sky Captain” or Fred Astaire’s posthumous vacuum cleaner commercial.

Plus, presuming any project Lucas was working on would involve new CGI creations of Welles, Stanwyck and the like, and not simply digitally-futzed-with versions of preexisting footage, you’re now essentially making the actor’s choices for them. Like I said, I’m not going to pretend to know what Welles’ would have thought about all of this. But if you cast a CGI Orson Welles in your movie, and then have him move, act, and react according to your design, you’re claiming some amount of authority over his process. How much hubris do you need to have to say “I know how Orson Welles would have played this scene?”

At least with the young Jeff Bridges, old Jeff Bridges is around to give his input. And if there is a certain robotic quality to BridCGes, it makes sense: the character is a sentient computer program anyway. But I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to swallow the idea of other people putting new words into the mouths of beloved dead actors. How can they know what they would say or how they would say it? They can’t. Because the answers to those questions are buried in the place that computers can’t understand and never recreate: the human soul.

UPDATE: Movieline received word from Lucasfilm that this is a “false rumor.” You mean Mel Smith lied? How is that possible?

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.