MySci Roundup, Dec. 9: Postmortem Hollywood comebacks?

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We’ve been humming the Foo Fighters’ song “Stacked Actors” all morning, ever since we saw this story from the Daily Mail, via the Huffington Post, in which a past associate of George Lucas claims that the movie impresario behind the Star Wars series is planning to make a movie featuring computer-generated likenesses of various dead Hollywood stars of yesteryear. 

The Daily Mail got the supposed scoop from British comic actor-director Mel Smith, who directed the 1994 film “Radioland Murders” for Lucas. The tabloid quotes Smith as saying that Lucas is “obsessed” with computer generated imagery, or CGI, and envisions using it to reanimate long-deceased actors and actresses. He’s been buying up the film rights to dead movie stars in the hope of using computer trickery to put them all together in a movie, so you’d have Orson Welles and Barbara Stanwyck appear alongside today’s stars,” Smith is quoted as saying.

We should mention that, a movie news website, subsequently talked to an unnamed spokesperson for Lucas’ production company, who sought to shoot down the Daily Mail story as a “false rumor.” Additionally, it should be noted that in a 2002 BBC News interview, Lucas attacked the idea of using CGI clones of dead stars. 

“You could do it but you can’t get a perfect actor,” Lucas said at the time. “

Acting is a human endeavor and the amount of talent and craft that goes into it is massive – and can a composite reproduce that?”

But the proverbial train already has left the station. A 1987 film short, “Rendez-vous a Montreal,” featured relatively crude “synthetic” versions of Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart. As

 this article from the trade publication Digital Content Producer details, after 

actor Oliver Reed died during the shooting of Ridley Scott’s 2000 film “Gladiator,” technicians nevertheless were able to cobble together a digital likeness of him to insert in a final scene. More recently, Monroe and Steve McQueen, among others, have been resurrected digitally so they could be cast in TV commercials, and digital scans of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger were used to recreate him for the 2009 film “Terminator Salvation.” 

As this recent Forbes article details, the enormous success of director James Cameron’s 2009 film 

“Avatar,”  which was to CGI version of actors what the shot-through-the-roof scene in Citizen Kane was to cinematography, may portend the future. Perhaps the most likely candidate for digital resurrection, Forbes reports, is martial arts superstar Bruce Lee. An existing cast of Lee’s face would enable digital artists to create a convincing likeness of him. That means that someday, we may actually get to see a remake of Lee’s, last, unfinished kung fu masterpiece, “Game of Death,” as he intended it (rather than the cheesy version released after his 1973 death, which employed doubles juxtaposed with clips of the real Lee). If there’s a good excuse for George Lucas to rethink his position on CGI reanimation of the dead, that might be it.

Of course, using digital clones of actors involves some tricky legal issues, as this article from explains.

And after you’re done contemplating all that, here’s the news.

Astronomers discover, image planet in solar system similar to our own.  Somewhat similar, anyway. It’s a “supersized” solar system with gas giants and a rocky asteroid belt.

Fetal genome mapped from mother’s blood. This could speed up paternity lawsuits, couldn’t it?

Key protein discovered that allows nerve cells to repair themselves. We’re hoping this will lead to future treatments for spinal-injury paralysis victims.

Remote controlled cyborg rodents. Just the gift for this holiday season.