Actor Peter Cushing is apparently one of the most talked-about stars of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The thing is that Cushing has also been dead for over 20 years.
The deceased British actor played Wilhuff Tarkin (also known as Grand Moff Tarkin) in the original 1977 Star Wars film, “A New Hope” (later referred to as Episode IV).
The smile of a Grand Moff: Peter Cushing enjoying a light mood with some Rebel scum on set, 1977. pic.twitter.com/66aqstGEmM
— Andrew Rader (@marsrader) December 19, 2016
Tarkin was the commander of the Death Star, a superweapon developed by the Galactic Empire. As most Star Wars fans know, Cushing’s Tarkin played a key role in the overall operation and longtime protection of the Death Star. Even when it was clear that the Rebel starfighters were coming to destroy the “planet killer,” Tarkin stood his ground and refused to leave.
His decision led to his inevitable death when Luke Skywalker successfully destroyed the Death Star. However, Tarkin’s presence and dominating performance throughout the movie left a mark in the minds and hearts of Star Wars fans everywhere.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) December 19, 2016
The recently-released blockbuster hit Rogue One: A Star Wars Story essentially bridges the gap between the prequel and the original trilogy — telling the story of the Death Star’s debut and how the plans to take it down made their way into the hands of the Rebel Alliance.
With such an integral role in that aspect of Star Wars history, there was no way that this transition story could have been told without Grand Moff Tarkin. Rogue One director Gareth Edwards and award-winning special effects artist John Knoll apparently wanted to take things one giant step further by allowing Peter Cushing to somewhat reprise the role he originated on the big-screen nearly 40 years ago.
— c.taylor (@ctaylor) December 26, 2016
During an interview with the Radio Times, Edwards credited the Oscar-winning special effects artist with the decision to use CGI to accomplish this goal.
“It was a lot of blood, sweat and tears from [special effects and animation studio] Industrial Light and Magic… John was always like, ‘No, we can do this, we can do it, we can do it.’ He was very confident and we… you know, to be honest, a lot of people were nervous the whole time, like, ‘Is this gonna happen?’ And then we went all or nothing in.”
Seeing the CGI version of Peter Cushing acting and reacting on the big screen apparently led to mixed reactions among Star Wars fans and critics. Based on a vast number of the tweets shared on social media, some loved Cushing’s CGI appearance and even credited him as being the best actor in the film.
Now I want Dead Peter Cushing in every movie.
— Dana Gould (@danagould) December 26, 2016
A thought 24 hrs after seeing Rogue One: Peter Cushing gave one of the best, most terrifying performances in the movie & he died 20+ yrs ago
— Not The Actual Rage (@GreatDestroyer_) December 17, 2016
On the other hand, there were quite a few people that expressed their disgust of either how the CGI of Peter Cushing was done or the fact that it was done at all instead of simply recasting the Rogue One role.
Peter Cushing is dead. Rogue One’s resurrection is a digital indignity | Catherine Shoard https://t.co/yeBbkrz7cS
— The Guardian (@guardian) December 21, 2016
I’m so sorry what they did, Peter Cushing
— Joel Mann-bear-pig (@spacedmann) December 17, 2016
Peter Cushing definitely deserved better than that bizarre, lingering reprisal. Give the CG a few seconds screen time, not entire scenes.
— Jackson Palmer (@ummjackson) December 17, 2016
— Christian Volet (@ChristianVolet) December 17, 2016
Some even found ways to sneak in clever one-liners and jokes about the CGI version of Peter Cushing.
Mmm, girl, you must be CGI Peter Cushing because you can’t make eye contact and you’re confusing my children.
— John Ross Bowie (@JohnRossBowie) December 19, 2016
Alicia Vikander steps to mic:
“And the Oscar goes to… Peter Cushing!”
“Peter couldn’t be here tonight, he died in 1994.”
— Mike Ryan (@mikeryan) December 18, 2016
Perhaps one of the most insightful comments about the CGI version of Peter Cushing in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story came from an actor known for exploring a different fictitious sci-fi universe on the big screen.
Brent Spiner, an actor known for playing the memorable android Data in the 1996 Jonathan Frakes-directed film Star Trek: First Contact, chimed in on Twitter earlier this month about Cushing’s “reprisal.”
The one where Data is everybody and Brent Spiner is all the Datas. pic.twitter.com/1hGjXSgabg
— Katie Sawatsky (@KatieSawatsky) December 21, 2016
With a simple yet profound statement, Brent alluded to a concept that seems to be growing more and more popular in Hollywood today.
After seeing Peter Cushing in “Rogue One”, I now have hope that I may do some of my best work long after I’m dead.
— Brent Spiner (@BrentSpiner) December 21, 2016
Of course, most Star Trek: The Next Generation fans would probably enjoy seeing a CGI version of Data make a cameo appearance in an upcoming Star Trek film somehow. There could even be a collaborative scene where 67-year-old Brent Spiner comes face to face with Data from the 90s. However, Spiner raised an interesting point within his tweet that movie fans and critics alike should seriously consider.
Years ago, before the exponential leaps in the advancements of technology and CGI, the death of an actor or actress meant the end of their careers. Their memories and legacies would continue to live on in the movies that they filmed throughout their lives, requiring fans to revisit those classics in order to see those fallen stars on screen again.
In recent years, though, Hollywood has seen the late Audrey Hepburn ride a bus in a Dove chocolate commercial back in 2013. Actor Paul Walker was able to finish filming his last ride in Furious 7 with the assistance of CGI technology and his brothers even after his tragic death in late November 2013.
@HistoryInPix Audrey Hepburn recreated in 3D by company Framestore (Galaxy chocolate TV Advert) pic.twitter.com/rHGiMh3uI4
— svi7ac (@svi7ac) October 28, 2016
20 minutes in to Furious 7 and chill and CGI Paul Walker gives you this look pic.twitter.com/PEAQCZLGz8
— Dave Brain (@Ornsack) January 2, 2016
CGI allowed Peter Cushing to return to the Star Wars franchise in Rogue One 22 years after he lost his battle to prostate cancer at the age of 81. Only time will tell which fallen star will get a chance to rise again on the big-screen in the near future — even if they were last seen a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
[Featured Image by Evening Standard/Getty Images]