Top 10 Actors Recreated With Special Effects

Written by Akil Goin Nothing can keep an actor from completing a project in the digital age; not even aging, tragedy or death. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 actors that were recreated with special effects. Whether it’s CGI, body doubles, facemasks, creative editing or a combination of them all, we’re looking at actors who, for the most part, didn’t even have to phone-in their performances because they were pantomimed, recycled, or pixeled-in instead. If you want to see your idea become a WatchMojo video, then be sure to submit it through our Suggest Tool at WatchMojo.comSuggest
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Written by Akil Goin

Top 10 Actors Recreated With Special Effects


Nothing can keep an actor from completing a project in the digital age; not even aging, tragedy or death. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 actors that were recreated with special effects.

Whether it’s CGI, body doubles, facemasks, creative editing or a combination of them all, we’re looking at actors who, for the most part, didn’t even have to phone-in their performances because they were pantomimed, recycled, or pixeled-in instead.

#10: Audrey Hepburn
Gap’s “Keep It Simple” TV Ad (2006)

Gap wanted to advertise their skinny black pants, and couldn’t find an actress or model better than Audrey Hepburn to do so. After all, she was the model of sophistication – unfortunately she’d passed away 13-years previously. After earning the permission of her estate and giving a donation to her children’s fund, Gap managed – with help from a visual effects studio – to manufacture their vision of the ideal marketing campaign, by lifting footage from her 1957 musical “Funny Face.” According to GAP’s VP, they chose Hepburn specifically to represent the timelessness of style.

#9: Laurence Olivier
“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” (2004)

A testament to his stage and screen legacy, the producers of this diesel-punk sci-fi flick decided that only Laurence Olivier had the chops to play the movie’s main villain, Dr. Totenkopf. The only problem? Olivier’s been dead since 1989. In their defense, that kinda fits the story, as his character had been dead 20-years in the film, and is onscreen as a hologram version of himself. We think this was a respectful way to add another film to Olivier’s CV, while also putting archived BBC footage of the actor to good use.

#8: Jeff Bridges
“Tron: Legacy” (2010)

Having Jeff Bridges co-star beside a younger version of himself seems like an ambitious challenge that could have potentially failed miserably under not-so-heavy scrutiny. Regardless, it was too cool not to try in the context of a plot involving a character trapped in cyberspace for two decades with his youthful and villainous computer doppelganger. To pull this off, they mapped his face and digitally recreated it based on his appearance in his 1984 film “Against All Odds,” occasionally pasting it onto a younger actor’s body for the action sequences.

#7: Gene Kelly
Volkswagen Golf GTI TV Ad (2005)

Uh, why is Gene Kelly poppin’ and lockin’? Because “Singin’ in the Rain” is so 1952. Actually, it’s to sell the VW Golfs. B-boy master Elsewhere wore a prosthetic facemask along with a wet suit to keep from freezing under artificial rain for hours on a sound stage to recreate and update one of the most famous dance scenes in cinema history. Though some viewers found the ad a little disrespectful, Kelly’s estate approved it so it’s safe to enjoy.

#6: Marlon Brando
“Superman Returns” (2006)

After portraying the character in the 1978 film, the late Marlon Brando reprises his role as Superman’s father Jor-El in this reboot-slash-sequel. After negotiating with Brando’s estate, director Bryan Singer was able to embrace the legacy of the Christopher Reeve movie, and actually manages to show Jor-El from multiple angles and with new mouth movements thanks to CGI and extra footage from the original – which included outtakes as well as unused takes. And overall, we think the effect is super.

#5: Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly
“J’Adore Dior – The Film” (2011)

This commercial is so polished digitally; it’s easy to miss out on the fact that three of the actresses featured in it aren’t really there. But this time-warp ad directed by Oscar-winning director Jean-Jacques Annaud allows Charlize Theron to run into three of the most glamorous actresses in Hollywood history, as she rushes for the runway. Footage of the legendary women’s faces was inserted almost seamlessly into the video, including Marilyn’s bold endorsement of the product.

#4: Oliver Reed
“Gladiator” (2000)

At a cost of roughly $3.2-million for mere minutes of material, Reed’s head was masked onto another actor’s body perfectly, in what may be one of the best creations of a posthumous performance for its time. We’re pretty sure you wouldn’t suspect anything while watching if you didn’t already know that the actor had died of a heart attack before the end of production. This happened while on a break from filming his scenes as Proximo, the freed slave, and the finished product was dedicated in his honor.

#3: Arnold Schwarzenegger
“Terminator Salvation” (2009)

It’s brave to reanimate an actor with facial close-ups in a relatively climactic fight scene, but it was necessary with Arnold, who is too advanced in years to still be playing a killer robot at this point in the franchise. Prosthetic face castings from his 1984 heyday as the T-800 gave the producers the exact shape and measurement needed of the action hero to create the digital makeup, while another bodybuilder’s body was used as the stand-in. The backup plan if Arnie had said no? Just shoot his face off.

#2: Brandon Lee
“The Crow” (1994)

After Brandon Lee died onset from a gunshot accident during production, the cast and crew were so devastated they decided to finish the film in his memory. The CGI was so meticulous that to this day it’s hard to tell which scenes feature Brandon Lee and which feature his disguised body doubles. Brandon’s father, the legendary Bruce Lee, also needed similar trickery to complete his last movie after he passed away suddenly at the age of 32. But his son definitely got the less obvious posthumous film treatment.

Before we conjure up our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:
- Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Louis Armstrong
Diet Coke TV Ad (1992)
- Nancy Marchand
Proshai, Livushka: “The Sopranos” (2001)
- Roy Scheider
“Iron Cross” (2009)
- Steve McQueen
Ford Mustang TV Ad (2004)

#1: JFK, Richard Nixon, Elvis Presley, John Lennon
“Forrest Gump” (1994)

Forrest Gump’s epic life story has ups, downs, and multiple encounters with celebrities, whom unfortunately were not alive to help him tell his tale. Instead, extensive visual effects were used to integrate Tom Hanks with manipulated archive footage of encounters with Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and musicians Elvis Presley and John Lennon. Blue screen, rotoscoping, chroma key and image warping, as well as voice doubles were some of the techniques that Industrial Light & Magic used to bring these iconic historical characters back to life. Movie magic at its most impressive!

Do you agree with our list? Which recreated actors did we miss? For more innovative top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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