Wherefore art thou, Peter Cushing?

The “real” Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin? (Image copyright LucasFilm.)

If you read my review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, you will recall that I labeled the digital re-creation of Peter Cushing (and a young Carrie Fisher) as terrific, in all senses of the word. The technology that made it possible is both amazing and frightening, considering the effect it will undoubtedly have on cinema, and acting itself. (For more information on that process, read this New York Times article.)

But from both a philosophical and a technological standpoint, it’s important to remember that Cushing and Fisher were not “real” in the original 1977 Star Wars either. The “motion capture” that facilitated their performances was – just like today’s digital processes – a scientific invention. And that invention (by Louis Le Prince in 1888) was made possible by an even earlier one by Nicéphore Niépce and Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre. It’s called photography. And, ironically, that invention, with its roots in the 1820s, is still more emotionally powerful and realistic than the technology of today.

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