Hollywood is Turning Back Time to De-Age Actors for Film Flashbacks

No, it’s not highly advanced cloning or time travel- well, not yet anyways.

More and more recently, moviegoers have been seeing blasts from the past on screen as Hollywood manages to de-age actors through incredible VFX work. When the narrative calls for a flashback, this can sometimes pose a challenge as actors age over the course of franchises.  But digital movie technologies have an innovative fix for this.

This week, the Hollywood Reporter took a look at some of VFX planning behind the most recent amazing appearances of de-aged actors, like Kurt Russell as Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean 5.

According to the article, the digital version of Kurt Russell created to bring him back in time was based on his appearance as Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China. The VFX team for Guardians studied photos of his 80’s look- the hairstyle, the physiology of his face- to help create a young Ego for a flashback.

Then, they “cast” Aaron Schwartz, the actor who would perform the body capture for Kurt Russell, as young Ego. The two actors were dressed in identical costumes and had motion-capture trackers on their faces. After Russell would perform the scene, Schwartz would step in and recreate it. Then they would build in the younger Kurt digitally, creating the blast from the past audiences saw in the film.

This trend has been allowing filmmakers to expand their films in many directions, including flashbacks as well as looks at the future (with the aged-up Hugh Jackman in Logan). It gives us new hope for visual storytelling, such as the appearance of a young Carrie Fisher in the now iconic ending of Rogue One. As digital technologies continue to advance, there’s no limit to what fantastical things we will be able to see on screen.

What do you think of this VFX trend? Were you surprised to see a young Kurt Russell in Guardians vol. 2? Let us know your thoughts! And check out our Jack Burton Sixth Scale figure to relive the radical action of Big Trouble in Little China with the look that inspired Ego’s younger self.