Actors are back from the dead, but only as puppets


The Hollywood Blog

By Adam Margolis

word “Nostalgia” has a specific meaning in Hollywood
today. Interestingly though, the word a
ctually comes from two Greek
roots, the first being, “nostos” which means returning home; and the
second root is “algos” which means pain or longing. It was a term that
was taken very seriously from the 17th century all through the 19th. In
fact, “homesickness” or Nostalgia was something that doctors looked at
very seriously. There have even been reported deaths caused by

      So now what has this word come to mean in the land of
Hollywood? I think we can all agree that Nostalgia is commonly accepted
to mean a feeling of longing past times, but in media it means big
dollars. From Charlie’s Angels to Transformers to Garfield to Magnum PI
(Seriously they are making that into a feature) Producers have figured
out a way to capitalize for people’s longing of the past. Remember how
great it was to turn on the Transformers on Saturday morning…now
forward 15 years…your sitting in a movie theater, eagerly awaiting the
next trailer when all of a sudden you hear a sound or piece of music
from something familiar. You rack your brain and inhale with a burst of
excitement as your it triggers the memory of being 7 years old, without
a worry in the world, shaking with anticipation as your favorite
Saturday morning cartoon is about to start. Suddenly, the characters
that you once loved so long ago are BACK and BIGGER and BADDER and more
REALISTIC. This is great right? But now that the whiff of success is
lifting from these Nostalgia-driven ideas, Hollywood doesn’t want to
let go....

I think we are entering a new era of Nostalgia. The gap
between the memories of favorite characters and remakes is closing. A
lot of these nostalgia ideas like to use what worked in the past, while
reinventing the characters and world for a modern audience. Some of the
films, shows or commercials even come off as respectful satire. But as
the technology continues to improve at rapid speeds, the way the media
plays off of Nostalgia is changing.

      Recently, a commercial for the Orville Redenbacher Popcorn
company was produced, using a Computer Generated version of the popcorn
icon. In the ad, Mr. Redenbacher, who passed away in 1995, can be seen
walking and bouncing around a modern office. He casually pulls popcorn
out of the microwave just after making a comment about his mp3 music
player. The CG (computer generated) version of Redenbacher is so
realistic, that I had to rewind the tivo to take a second look. This is
a very controversial selling method and also proof that in a capital
market, people will even be raised from the dead to sell a product.

      I’m sure that the Redenbacher estate was aware and gave full
permission for the use of Orville’s image, but how can anyone truly
know what the man would have wanted. I appreciate the technical
achievement of the commercial but it left me with a sense of discomfort
(having nothing to do with the look of their popcorn). I almost felt as
if I had witnessed tampering of an Indian burial ground. Orville
Redenbacher wasn’t even around for the birth of the mp3 and its
thousands of available players, yet here he is, bopping away to some
tune on his ipod.

Mr. Redenbacher is just one dead celebrity who making a comeback
among many in recent years. Long after her death, Marylin Monroe was
advertising perfume. Steve McQueen has even regained his status as the
ultimate guy to be like, his image appearing on ads for watches,
Cologne and even Ford Mustangs. In a recent issue of Maxim, Bob Marley
was modeling a suit (that he most likely would have never worn while
alive). There are early reports that actors like Humphrey Bogart or
Bruce Lee will eventually be brought back to the big screen to pick up
where they left off, and maintain the same youth health for
eternity. Director, Rob Cohen who did “Dragon the Bruce Lee Story” and
“XXX” will be directing the CG Bruce Lee in a Dreamworks produced
picture. Cohen States,

“The big headline is that I am NOT using clips from the film; I am
creating an entirely photo-realistic Bruce Lee with new, advanced
digital technology. Digital Domain who did "XXX" and "Stealth" with me
are on it big time. We are in the vfx development stage.

This will be the first digital actor and I am very excited about the challenge.”

Cohen has the rights to Bruce Lee’s films and the support of the Lee
family. He says that he is going this to honor Bruce and to share his
spirit and skill with a new generation.

      Logistically, replacing real actors with CG ones makes
sense. No serious demands or paychecks…no on-set tantrums, no tabloid
stories to ruin releases. It seems to make sense from a producing
standpoint. HOWEVER, as we’ve learned over and over and over again, in
many sci-fi movies and stories, there is no replacement for a real
human spirit.

      But the real issue is, who should be making decisions on
behalf of these deceased celebrities, if anyone at all? Shouldn’t the
dead be left alone and the memories that they left behind for us be
left in tact? Will CG versions of our favorite stars from yesteryear
change their personas? I believe that if this becomes a common practice
the lines between reality and CG manifestations will become forever
blurred. History is called history because it stays in the past. I know
that the vast majority of actors and ideas are shit these days, but I
challenge people, producers, advertisers, etc…to come up with new, good
ideas, rather than continually looking to peoples Nostalgic thoughts
for modern ideas.