It was unfortunate for Paul Walker to die in an accident. Very inconvenient too for the producers of Furious 7, which was still being shot! The director faced filming with one less main actor and a missing character. In the end, the problem was solved through the use of CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery).
Apparently, Walker’s brothers have a physique resembling his own, so they acted out the remaining scenes whilst computers did the job of reproducing Paul’s own face. This was then ‘pasted’ onto his brothers’ bodies. The technique helped finish the production with no need for changes to the script and also probably made fans of the Fast and Furious instalments happier than having Walker’s character somehow cancelled out.
Image above: (Left) The real Paul Walker, (centre) Paul Walker’s brother, (right) CGI of Paul Walker’s on top of Paul’s brother
This was not the first time CGI was used in filming otherwise impossible situations, including but not limited to the reproduction of actors who had died before the end of filming. Talking of impossibilities, the process was used to help character Steve Rogers undergo a transformation from scrawny lad to a muscled six-footer in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011).
The second instalment, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), saw all the main actors being scanned for body doubles, which were used for stunts in some complex scenes.
Actor Chris Evans’ whole body was at times shrunk through computer intervention and at other times, only his shrunken face was used, grafted onto the body of his smaller-bodied double – a little-known British actor called Leander Deeny.
Image above: (Left) Leander Deeny, (Right) Chris Evans
These advanced and practical uses of CGI have however, brought about some rather disturbing speculation. Could it eventually be used to keep actors alive long after their real bodies have expired or else even used to keep them looking a particular age? Even more drastic, could we ever eliminate the need for actors on set?! I think no actor would be amused with such a suggestion.
Using advanced graphics, designers might copy a person’s posture, mannerisms and facial movements but they can never replace an actor’s uniqueness. Nor could CGI replicate an actor’s ever-changing and maturing acting process that takes place gradually throughout the years. Even though particular artists are known for their looks or figure that is not what makes a producer or director choose them to play a part. They might need to fit the physical description for some roles, but it is ultimately about their original interpretation and how good they are at bringing to the screen a heartfelt performance.
What I find fascinating about a good actor is just how he/she gets into character with his/her individual flair and how that same actor will interpret similar characters in different ways. This is paramount when it comes to making us believe in the character, rather than the person playing the part.