I have a quote in Tim Appelo’s 7.16 AARP magazine piece about digital de-aging of older movie stars. The de-aged actors are Michelle Pfeiffer in Ant-Man and the Wasp, Samuel L. Jackson in next year’s Captain Marvel, Will Smith in Gemini Man, and Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.
Appelo mentions a 3.13.18 HE report that “de-aging tech will help push The Irishman’s budget to $250 million. He has me saying that’s quite a tab “for a straight-goombah period crime drama that will most likely appeal to 35-and-overs.”
Here’s what I sent to Appelo when he asked me for some thoughts a week ago:
“26 years ago I exhaustively researched and wrote an Empire article called ‘Reanimator,’ about how emerging digital technologies will one day be able to bring back actors from the grave and put them in new movies in a highly believable fashion. That’s a far more interesting angle, I feel, than merely de-aging actors. I would love, love, love to watch a new film costarring Cary Grant and Jennifer Lawrence. Okay, maybe that would be too costly, but at least one in which Grant plays a significant supporting role.
“De-aging? Meh, fine, whatever.
“I was genuinely impressed by the de-aging of Michael Douglas in a single scene from 2015’s Ant-Man. But at the same time I’m rather pessimistic about this technology given the enormous cost and the many, many months of work that are being devoted to the de-aging of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and (presumably) Joe Pesci in Martin Scorsese‘s The Irishman. (The film is apparently loaded with glow-of-youth flashbacks.)
“The de-aging process is the reason The Irishman, which finished shooting last March, won’t be released until the fall of 2019, and the reason it’s costing Netflix an arm and a leg. Any technology this expensive and this cumbersome isn’t worth getting wound up about.
“Last February it was reported that the Irishman budget was at ‘$140 million and climbing.’ Last March Page Six‘s Richard Johnson reported that the cost had ballooned to $175 million. Add standard marketing costs (usually $85 to $100 million for a major feature) and you’re looking at a conservative tab of $250 million. All this for a non-fantasy, straight-goombah period crime drama that will most likely appeal to 35-and-overs.
“If and when de-aging becomes more cost-effective a decade or so from now, then all the issues you’ve mentioned might be interesting to talk about. But none of them apply right now. Because it takes too long if you’re talking about using the technology on a given actor throughout an entire film (as opposed to a single scene) and it costs way, way too much money.
“If you could just push a few buttons and de-age Warren Beatty or Meryl Streep or whomever, fine. Then all kinds of fascinating scenarios would kick in. But not now, not today.
“But if someone is planning to produce a film in which a dead movie star costars with young live ones…now that‘s a fascinating angle.”