Since much of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes place immediately before the events of Episode IV: A New Hope, director Gareth Edwards wanted to include two vital characters from the 1977 film, helping to connect the two films. One was Grand Moff Tarkin and the other was Princess Leia.
In the not-so-distant past, the director would've cast different actors to play the roles that were originally portrayed by Peter Cushing (who died 22 years ago) and Carrie Fisher (who passed away last month); however, today's technology allowed ILM to digitally create and superimpose Cushing and Fisher's 1977 likenesses onto lookalike actors Guy Henry and Ingvild Deila, respectively.
Of course, not everyone is satisfied with the final results, but any negative opinions about CG Tarkin and Leia hasn't affected the box office one bit.
Interestingly enough, if CG Tarkin hadn't worked as well as it did, Lucasfilm had put together several alternate plans. "We did talk about Tarkin participating in conversations via hologram, or transferring that dialogue to other characters,” John Knoll, chief creative officer of Industrial Light & Magic, revealed to the New York Times.
So, who had the final call on CG Tarkin and Leia? Knoll says the decision was left to Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. "Some of it was my just asserting that, 'No no no, let’s not pull the [plug] on this, we’re going to get there, this is going to work,'' he said (via io9) "But ultimately the decision was Kathy’s whether she thought it was working well enough to stay close up, full screen, for a duration."
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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters now. Directed by Gareth Edwards, it's the first of the new standalone features from Lucasfilm and Disney, which take place outside the core "Skywalker Saga" of films noted by an Episode number. Rogue One tells the story of the small band of rebels that were tasked with stealing the plans to the first Death Star. The story spins directly off the opening crawl from the original Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. In that crawl, it read: "Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet."