Peter Cushing, *Rogue One*, and “fake news” will soon get worse

I was watching the excellent Rogue One when suddenly I thought “Wow, they sure found an actor who looks just like Peter Cushing.”  As the scene, progressed my thoughts changed to “Tyler, are you sure that Peter Cushing passed away?”  As I watching the credits, I saw a thanks to the “Estate of Peter Cushing, OBE,” and so I went back to wondering about the actor, but then why did they thank the estate?

The reality is this:

…the face of Peter Cushing, the imposing British actor who died in 1994, lends an especially memorable presence to “Rogue One” by helping to “reprise” his “Star Wars” character, Grand Moff Tarkin, the Imperial governor who practically rules by force of glare, intonation and cheekbone.

…Under director Gareth Edwards, “Rogue One” represents another marker in the decades-long quest for the best CGI-fashioned human replicas. The filmmakers auditioned actors to “play” Cushing’s Tarkin, settling on BBC soap actor Guy Henry. This Tarkin is thus free of the dreaded “dead eye” effect. Lo, though the effects wizards walk through the “uncanny valley,” Tarkin registers as quite alive — even if his facial proportions sometimes read as ever so slightly off from the Original Trilogy. We are nearing the reality of a fully fleshed-out, CGI-enhanced performance long after an actor has passed.

If “Rogue One” wins an Oscar for effects, Cushing should be in no small part why.


When will the slope start where amateur video becomes significantly less trustworthy as well?  Or even just “But Mom, I saw him do it on TV!”  While we’re at it, how about a symphony orchestra conducted by “Beethoven”?


Peter Cushing was much better in this movie than the other major Imperial character - who looked like he had been picked up at a discount Peter Cushing store. Average is quickly going to be over for actors.

He must have been watching an entirely different movie than I was. I remember thinking that the CGI was impressive, but that it was really really creepy, mostly because of the herky-jerky giveaway movements that CGI models often make.

It was a noticeable improvement over such films as FF: Ghosts Within, but there was definitely still an"uncanny valley".

it actually reminded me a lot of the animated version of Tarkin that regularly features in the Star Wars rebels cartoon show.

Haven't seen the film yet, but I wonder if the 'uncanny valley' vibe is less of a problem for an evil character.

Or perhaps even a plus

I was in the movie theater watching Rogue One and thinking the actor really looked like Peter Crushing, when the teenager at my side turned to me and said, "That CGI looks so fake."

So younger people may be harder to fool. On the other hand, one once asked me what I thought of the movie Ironman and I said, "The CGI was good."

And they said, "Ironman had CGI?"

It's really interesting to show a movie like "Tora, Tora, Tora" to young people. Then tell them there was no CGI in it.

Just going from memory, I think Tora! Tora! Tora! uses the "zing!" sound effect for bullets that used to be common in old westerns and that makes it seem dated. But you can always tell kids bullets used to make that sound. What do they know?

The movie was praised for the shot of Japanese aircraft taking off at dawn and massing to attack Pearl Harbor. All real aircraft taking off from a real aircraft carrier in natural light. Not Japanese aircraft carriers of course, on account of how they're all on the bottom of the Pacific. But all real none the less. We'll never see that again. I hope we'll never see that again. But we'll probably see plenty more shots of launching CGI TIE fighters though.

I'm beginning to doubt that UFO footage. Maybe even the Bigfoot video. Or whether men ever walked on the moon.

But that face on Mars...

I didn't mind the pseudo-Tarkin for a moment, in the dark, or in reflection.

But the movie seemed so proud of the effect that they lingered on him for too long – triggering the 'uncanny' discomfort for me, suddenly hobbling those scenes with the feel of a rendered video-game cutscene (or Jar-Jar).

The other CGI-youthified characters, where the camera didn't linger, weren't as disturbing. (I believe a couple of rebel pilots were also rendered, but I didn't even notice until someone else pointed it out.)

I also would like to thank the estate of the late Tyler Cowen for allowing me to continue running this blog.

I have just finished my new Tyler Cowen economics textbook, 'Free Trade is Evil"

I have heard lots of complains about the GCI.

"While we’re at it, how about a symphony orchestra conducted by 'Beethoven'?"
Ya yyuha allatheena amanoo, I would rather have a new symphony composed by Beethoven.

Truly, the GMU econ faculty are way ahead of us all of us when it comes to deep thoughts on the manufactured 'reality' we are surrounded by in the media.

Soon, Prof. Cowen's ideas concerning this radical new software called Photoshop, and how it is used to manipulate the images seen on the covers of essentially all magazines printed in America, could even inspire a Bloomberg column.

A column in which he conceivably could reference Woody Allen's 1983 mockumentary Zelig, or that obscure 1994 multiple Oscar winning movie called Forrest Gump, which as noted at Wikipedia, involved things like this - 'To record the voices of the historical figures, voice actors were filmed and special effects were used to alter lip-syncing for the new dialogue. Archival footage was used and with the help of such techniques as chroma key, image warping, morphing, and rotoscoping, Hanks was integrated into it.

In one Vietnam War scene, Gump carries Bubba away from an incoming napalm attack. To create the effect, stunt actors were initially used for compositing purposes. Then, Hanks and Williamson were filmed, with Williamson supported by a cable wire as Hanks ran with him. The explosion was then filmed, and the actors were digitally added to appear just in front of the explosions. The jet fighters and napalm canisters were also added by CGI.

The CGI removal of actor Gary Sinise's legs, after his character had them amputated, was achieved by wrapping his legs with a blue fabric, which later facilitated the work of the "roto-paint" team to paint out his legs from every single frame. At one point, while hoisting himself into his wheelchair, his legs are used for support.

The scene where Forrest spots Jenny at a peace rally at the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C., required visual effects to create the large crowd of people. Over two days of filming, approximately 1,500 extras were used. At each successive take, the extras were rearranged and moved into a different quadrant away from the camera. With the help of computers, the extras were multiplied to create a crowd of several hundred thousand people.'

And you know who invented Photoshop?

That's right. THE RUSSIANS!!

Perhaps just as relevant, was the movie 'Wag the Dog', produced in 1997. The scene where a fake news report was created, was maybe the first time where large audiences were exposed to modern video techniques that showed just how easy it was to manipulate images, scenes and stories. I can still remember the audiences nervous laughter as the realization sunk in, that they could no longer easily distinguish reality from fiction anymore. The scene itself is here:

Photoshoped image follows by photoshoped speech.

There has always been a lot of fake news. Direction seems to be the larger concern here.

This was a great story on the origin of a fake news king. Guy is a Dem yacht magazine writer who originally started writing it as obvious satire. But right wingers actually started believing the crap and sharing it. He is, making tons of money, so presumably won't stop writing stuff. Never underestimate people's ability to believe garbage.

That is, he was a writer for a yacht magazine and also a registered Democrat.

So, an expert at Fake news then.

"Coler says his writers have tried to write fake news for liberals — but they just never take the bait."

Why would they, when they can get that from NPR already?

The "fake news" scare is just yet another example of the left freaking out over the right doing what the left considered its sole prerogative.

From the horse's mouth.

Yes, as he says in the article "The Rush Limbaughs of the left either do not properly exist or reach far, far fewer people."

They don't exist, really. At the very least, 90% of all fake news is Right Wing leaning, despite you Right Wingers in your bubble here thinking that "both sides do it just as much." That belief in itself is a big lie and fake news item.

Sure, except for the all the leftwing news you think is real that isn't.

Dan Rather, Brian Williams, Rolling Stone and the MSM had already saturated the leftwing fake news market.

When I started work in the 80's, reruns of I Love Lucy ran every night. My question for computerists was when those old shows would be digested, and fully synthetic ones generated. New episodes.

We are still far if, 30 years later, it takes this much handholding for the computer to create one live action, slightly synthetic, actor.

Wag the Dog was a pretty good digital technology, fake news, movie. So was Running Man.

How would anyone try that? They had to thank his estate for a few scenes, imagine if to make new Star Trek (Old Series) they had to talk to William Shatner and convince the estate of 10+ guys.

The camera ever lies.

Here's how the future will arrive: a VR porno app with Marilyn Monroe.

Why use CGI when you can use those realistic prosthetic masks of famous people any actor can wear? They use them nowadays even to rob banks and fool eyewitnesses.

Tarkin had already made an appearance in the prequel trilogy played by, you guessed it, an actor wearing prothesis.
As much as I liked his role, I would have preferred a real actor, and less technological showing off that, while amazing, will surely age badly.

The real problem this highlights IMO is the lack of originality with Hollywood. CGI combined with risk averse production leads to more copying, mashups, mining the past endlessly, everything but occasional flashes of original thinking and new ideas. This is where the Great Stagnation really lies.

If we can't trust our eyes and ears, what (or who) can we trust. That's the problem when words have no meaning, or any meaning. Trump has been described as the first president elected in the post-literate era. It's true this is a post-literate era, but I will suggest Trump isn't the first president elected in the era, as the era began long ago, as did our descent. I recall the first time I read that movies (films) are today's novels. No, they are not. Words are permanent, films are ephemeral. The favorite tool of the propagandist isn't words, but films, because what the eyes see in a film deceives the mind. Indeed, the purpose of film is to deceive, to trick the viewer into believing what she sees is real when it's all an illusion. And so an actor long since dead appears to be alive. Novels aren't like that. The words on the page can be read over and over and they won't change, only the reader's imagination (mind) can give the words on the page more than one meaning. On the other hand, words spoken, like films, can deceive when the words have no meaning, or any meaning, and instead are used to appeal to the emotions rather than the mind. Because the understanding of the masses “is feeble,” Hitler said, effective propaganda needed to be boiled down to a few slogans that should be “persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

I've read that Hitler was thrilled about the invention of TV. He would have absolutely loved Fox News and Breitbart.

That's a sitcom quality comment you posted there, Mine. But I don't need hearsay. I personally witnessed several "news" organizations calling the election incorrectly and prematurely. Also, in their own writing, Wikileaks revealed which "news" outlets are actually on who's payroll. They're all femocrats. That's who is doing the heavy lying here.

I haven't seen Rogue One yet, but other human CGI animation is currently in the middle of the uncanny valley for me. I cannot say exacly what's wrong but it feels so fake it is guaranteed to take me out of immersion.

Last happend in The Arrival where they CGI animate Amy Adams hair in one scene.

I won't add a spoiler, but the character that appears at the very end - the relevant actor/actress is still alive but is "so old" that they had to use a younger body double and CGI. Aging is a cruel bitchess godess.

" It's like a predator; it's stalking you. Oh, you can try and outrun it with doctors, medicines, new technologies. But in the end, time is going to hunt you down... and make the kill."

Agreed, I found the face to be uncomfortable. Which was particularly surprising given how good the Peter Cushing likeness was.

The rule for fake news is: believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear.

As true 250 years ago as today.

Not so. Fox News, Breitbart, Drudge, Alex Jones, and Limbaugh were not even around 250 years ago. Propagandists were pikers back then, compared to now.

"Mine" it was the news outlets you haven't mentioned who called the election incorrectly and prematurely for Hillary. But never mind about that. The big bad white right is hiding under your bed - check CNN for the latest on this absolutely true story!

Ray Lopez? Do you have an insight of the story of Tasaday people from Mindanao?

I remember reading a photography book with several essays. I forgot the name but the discussion was the relationship between "photo" and "truth". One of the essays dealt with the Tasaday people (, a lost tribe. Basically, a NatGeo cover photo of some people covered with leaves made it possible. The analogy was: it looks like a duck, has feathers, palms, make duck's a duck. A few years later the hoax was discovered. Photos were nice, but it was a hoax.

The issue is that we can't ban lies, but we can learn from past lies. It's not CGI, even black and white photos can be deceiving if the observer is not thinking. I don't know what to do but teach young people how to think.

@Axa - generally the stone age peoples of the Philippines are in the far north, near Baguio region (and Ferdinand Marcos territory) rather than the deep Muslim south, but even the northern stone age tribes have been called a hoax as I recall. However, this part of your Wikipedia article sounds true (truth-y): "Anthropologist Thomas N. Headland claims that, while it is not true that the Tasaday people were "Stone Age", it is true that they were a separate group that lived as gatherers deep in the jungle who were rarely in contact or trade with the neighbouring people.[12] Tasaday people especially, in around 1960s and 1970s Western Europe, was discussed in the contex of modernism and primitivism. Then that discussion to serve separation of modern from primitive. In this manner, calling modernism is one thing that absolutely is not primitive but its museumification or mummification." - ?? a bit obtuse, but simply translated: a lot of time 'modern' people voluntarily go 'back into the stone age' for a variety of reasons, chiefly, persecution by others (perhaps the California American Indians who 'regressed' to a more primitive state are an example, another might be several tribes in Africa and South America as I've read). So yes, just like a "paleo" diet is now in vogue in the West, you can have a 'back to nature', 'back to the caves' movement among domesticated, sedentary people. Speaking as a non-anthropologist but expert on everything.

Bonus trivia: from skeletal remains the average slash-and-burn hunter-gatherer in North America lived better than the more sedentary and diseased white farmer from Europe. But the latter had more kids, which 'wins out' in the so-called survival of the fittest.

See also: Face2Face: real-time face capture and reenactment of RGB videos, which allows for facial manipulation from a live video using a web camera (and a cloud based neural network.) "This time they're doing it with YouTube videos. First, the "target actor" (that's Bush, Trump, Putin, and Obama) is rendered with a neutral expression. Then, the expressions of the source actor (that's the other guy) are captured via webcam, and those expressions control the animation in the YouTube video."

With voice replication (already fairly advanced) we are just around the corner of videos of anyone and everyone saying anything and everything.

An obvious application for law enforcement dash and body cams.

Speaking of fake news, I watched all 1:26 of Obama's final press conference over the weekend. The White House helpfully omitted the first half hour when Obama was late. He spent 20 minutes filibustering the first question and away he went. If I had any sympathy for him, I would have felt sorry; he was such a pathetic little whiner. I'm sure his "accomplishments" will be the talk of the fake news for years to come.

He's been such a good president. I predict that the corrupt, overly sensitive crybaby child we just elected will make even you long for the days when we had an actual intelligent adult in the White House.

>He’s been such a good president.

Syria says hi!

Thanks, Vlad! But that's nothing compared to Bush's war kills, not to mention the 9/11 casualties he gave us.

Are you sure?

Syria would've said hi to Romney (or McCain) too

LOL, actually I think it wouldn't. It would have been blown off of the map during WWIII. And no one in any other country would want to say hi to anyone in the U.S. ever again.

Obama is a fantastic president, and DT is going to make people realize that pretty soon-- except for Tyler who seems to be writing his columns lately as an audition to have kind of job in DT's administration. Even Tyler may pause for a moment from his Trump lauding though, if DT is the one who gets us into WWIII AKA the War of the Small Hands. Let's all pray that that does not happen.

Obama has almost single-handedly kept the world from erupting in flames, despite ReTHUGlicans opposing a lot of his efforts for peace and stability in Syria and Libya. No wonder he got a Peace Prize. If it hadn't been for obstructionism we'd probably have solved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by now. And China expanding into the South China seas is actually a good thing for trade and standards of living and liberty.

"Obama has almost single-handedly kept the world from erupting in flames"

Syria, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan - Obama uses bombs to keep those places safe and peaceful that's why he won the not-discredited-at-all peace prize. Who cares if we have blowback terrorism deaths in the US - that's a plus for Obama. The important thing is those other, faraway places are safe for poppy farming and bankster expansionism.

"we’d probably have solved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by now"

Those darned Republicans. Obama himself was going to resolve all thousand-year religious conflicts around the world, and then cure cancer. Until suddenly, Limbaugh called him a phony. So he had to give up.

My job used to be painting stuff into and out of movie footage. One of my first gigs was making a dog in a short film look like it was covered in bleeding wounds. Often I had to basically paint frame by frame. (Animating blood seeping through fur is really hard, in case anyone's wondering.) Computers can make that kind of thing easier if it's planned well, but I often was fixing stuff that wasn't planned for. There are LOTS of people working in Hollywood who are not craftsmen, which basically means there's a secondary/tertiary industry of people who exist to fix the mistakes of others.

Anyway, you could have had a realistic Beethoven conducting an orchestra ten years ago. Since there is no film footage of Beethoven anyway, he'd have to be created digitally from scratch. Any of the top VFX companies could do that hyper-realistically at least as early as 2006.

Those companies operate on tight margins. A lot of them have run into trouble for underpaying their staff and otherwise treating them poorly. Even so, a few seconds of realistic 3D animation can cost tens of thousands of dollars. A lot of that expense is NOT computing costs, which means the price is unlikely to go down quickly.

When does the hologram of Jimi Hendrix play "The Star-Spangled Banner" for a Super Bowl half-time audience? I'm still waiting.

Relevant art

Wow, Tyler! I had the same thoughts as you as I watched Rogue 1 Thursday night. I just Googled Peter today to make sure he was dead and then I came across your article.

CGI Tarkin was less distracting than geriatric Vader voice. James Earl Jones is 85, and in Rogue One, Vader sounds that old.

I wonder whether/not this trend will promote cultural stagnation: i.e., does it help (along with things like copyright) unnaturally extend the lifespan of works (or artists) that should change, evolve, be replaced, etc. over time?

I have long thought that there should be classical music of "Lost Mozart" - "Lost Beethoven" - and "Lost Bach" pieces, where new compositions IN THE STYLE of the original master would be judged and have awards bestowed on them.

I now think that AI deep learning combined with new composers will be doing something like this in the very near future.
And the world will become blessed with more man-machine masterpieces.

Can't wait for Bogey and Bacall to start making new movies.

In that area, I just facebooked a picture of a slumped over, sleeping friend wearing shades and a hat. FB tagged him anyway. Spooky.

Odd.... My entire cohorts complaint about the movie walking out was how far into the uncanny valley tarkin was. We picked up on the recycled new hope footage (after tarkin, I was expecting something of the sort). The brief scene at the end was mercifully too short for a viceral reaction to set in...

It's surprising to see that not everyone had the same reaction.

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