Many actors are idolized during their life; some remain in the memory of their fans forever. And only the chosen ones can appear on-screen even after their death. Sometimes it’s because of the need to finish a movie, and sometimes the creators’ goals are commercial.
We chose 11 amazing stories of famous actors’ “resurrections” in movies and commercials.
Bruce Lee, 1940-1973
- The shooting of Game of Death began shortly before Bruce Lee’s death. Opinions differed, but the creators decided that the footage was enough for the release of the picture. It came out 5 years after the actor’s death.
- In the missing scenes, the movie creators used Lee’s stunt doubles in makeup, as well as technical tricks possible at that time. In one of the scenes, we can see Bruce Lee’s face cut out from cardboard on his stunt double.
Peter Sellers, 1925-1980
- An even more egregious case occurred several years later. British actor Peter Sellers, famous as Inspector Clouseau in the series of movies about the Pink Panther, died before filming began. Yet the movie creators decided to take a chance and release a new film.
- The authors edited a role from parts of the previous picture of the series and raw frames. As it wasn’t enough, they used even earlier fragments. Considering it was the early ’80s, and the series started in 1963, in the Trail of the Pink Panther, Clouseau ages, then gets younger, and the backgrounds are constantly changing. Sellers’s widow filed a lawsuit against the producers and received $1 million for damages caused to her and the memory of her deceased husband.
Brandon Lee, 1965-1993
- 28-year-old actor Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee) died on the set of The Crow because of a tragic accident. During the filming of a scene where the main character was shot, Brandon was wounded in the stomach. It happened due to improperly prepared props. Lee died in the hospital that day.
- The frames that captured the shot were seized by the police and destroyed, and the scene was filmed with another actor. In 1993, there were already accurate technologies to combine faces from filming archives with stunt doubles’ bodies, and makeup facilitated the work of the movie team. As a result, The Crow had huge box office success, and Brandon Lee became an iconic figure.
Oliver Reed, 1938-1999
Oliver Reed, who played the legendary mentor Proximo in Gladiator, died of a heart attack 3 weeks before the end of filming. Ridley Scott could have reshot all of Reed’s scenes with another actor, but he didn’t.
- Reed was “resurrected“ with the help of computer graphics, stunt doubles, and a mannequin. The scene of Proximo’s murder is shot from the back (this is another actor), but the voice belongs to Reed: he again repeats the theatrical phrase
”Shadows and dust.“ It appeared in the movie almost accidentally.
- During the filming of Maximus entering the arena, Proximo shouts after him, “We mortals are but shadows and dust!” The camera wasn’t turned off right then, and after shouting this phrase Reed thoughtfully repeated, ”Shadows and dust…” The episode was cut out during editing, but after Reed’s death the phrase seemed the perfect way to say goodbye to both the actor and his character. A beautiful gesture.
Laurence Olivier, 1907-1989
- Kerry Conran, the director of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, also decided to pay tribute to a great actor. According to his idea, the main antagonist was Dr. Totenkopf (“death’s head”). The villain at the end of the movie really turned out to be a talking head belonging to a deceased actor.
- To create the image of an evil doctor, the movie creators used the appearance of Laurence Olivier — a famous Hollywood actor who died in 1989. Facial expressions were taken from archives, and the rest was filmed with the help of motion capture technology. The voice of Sir Laurence actually belongs to another actor, but it’s almost impossible to tell one from another.
Marlon Brando, 1924-2004
- Marlon Brando died in 2004 but “played” his last role in 2006 in Superman Returns by Bryan Singer. It was important for the director that Superman’s father was Brando, the actor who played the same role in Superman in 1978.
- Materials from the original movie and computer graphics were used. There’s a video on YouTube showing the process of creating this technically complex scene. The face of Marlon Brando was combined with a computer model and animated on the basis of raw filming of the last century. The technologies of the new century did almost impossible work: just compare the actor’s image from the 1978 and 2006 movies.
Heath Ledger, 1979-2008
- The last — and unfinished — Heath Ledger movie was The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus by Terry Gilliam. The actor’s tragic death put the movie creators in front of a difficult choice: to reshoot the movie completely or to use tricks and make changes in the script?
- The team had an idea that once Ledger’s character travels through magical dimensions, he can be a character with a thousand faces. And the faces were quickly found: the first was Johnny Depp, and he was joined by Colin Farrell and Jude Law — Ledger’s friends. As a result, in the “Imaginarium” you can see a whole celebrity set, and the movie itself was dedicated to Heath Ledger’s talent.
Audrey Hepburn, 1929-1993
- The Galaxy (or Dove) chocolate commercial became one of the main events in the world of advertising in 2013. Ethical issues were quickly resolved by Sean Ferrer and Luca Dotti, Audrey Hepburn’s sons. They said that Audrey would be happy to star in the advertising of one of her favorite delicacies: chocolate.
- Work on the project began with the search for a double of the famous movie star. Specialists tried to find someone who looked like Audrey Hepburn and had similar facial expressions and movements. As a result, there were 2 doubles: one with the most similar figure and the other resembling Audrey’s face and expressions. You can find more details on the process of the “resurrection” of the actress here.
Iconic actresses in a Dior ad
- The brilliant Charlize Theron has been the main face of Dior fragrances since the mid-2000s. According to the company, she is the one who embodies the elegant perfume line J’adore.
- In 2011, Grace Kelly, Marlene Dietrich, and Marilyn Monroe “joined” her. In the video, you can see their faces, recreated with the help of graphics. The images the creators used caused some issues because everyone knows for sure what Marilyn Monroe wore when going to bed.
Paul Walker, 1973-2013
- Paul Walker, who tragically died in a car crash, didn’t act in all the necessary scenes of Furious 7. This postponed the release of the movie to April 2015. As a result, the creators immediately resorted to a whole chain of alternative methods of filming.
- First, they got access to the archive of the previous 6 parts of the franchise and used removed scenes with Paul Walker. Then they used computer technology to make the actor’s face. Finally, they officially accepted Cody and Caleb — the actor’s brothers — into the Fast & Furious family. It’s not been revealed exactly how they participated in the scenes, but just look at how Cody Walker resembles his brother.
- As a result, Furious 7 became the most profitable movie of the franchise, as well as one of the most successful box office movies in the history of cinema. It should also be noted that the creators didn’t kill Paul Walker’s character in the movie but allowed him to beautifully ride off into the sunset. A stunning dedication to Paul Walker from the creators of the Fast & Furious movies is officially the most viewed video on YouTube.
Peter Cushing, 1913-1994
- The restart of Star Wars by Disney attracted a lot of attention, not least because of the level of development of technologies used by the giant of the film industry. Yet when it came to shooting the spin-off about the fight of the rebels with the “Death Star,” the studio did a truly fantastic job.
- John Knoll, visual effects supervisor and producer for Rogue One, suggested that director Gareth Edwards didn’t take a similar actor for the role of Governor Tarkin. Instead, he suggested a digital double. Edwards admits that many people were nervous when they heard of such a decision. The result, perhaps, surpassed all expectations. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll understand what we’re talking about: Tarkin doesn’t look like he’s digital at all.