Rogue One: A Star Wars Story made some innovative use of technology and CGI to capture the likenesses of deceased actors or actors who have aged since their appearances in the original films, such as Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher.
But Lucasfilm’s first Star Wars spinoff might have also opened a legal can of worms regarding how actors preserve their legacy in the future.
The Hollywood Reporter recently reported on this new frontier of legal complexities that actors will have to explore regarding whether their likeness can be used after they pass away.
"Celebrities need to be thinking about legacy planning, which is different from estate planning," attorney Daniel Scott told THR. "It's the planning around that celebrity's public persona." Possibilities vary regarding the productions, where they were filmed, if the actor has living heirs, or left a will in place to determine such uses. There’s also the tax implications and whether revenue will be contributed to the IRS.
THR also notes that the technology is ahead of the law in this regard, and that most contracts do not account for the rights to use CGI versions of deceased stars, so keep that in mind during the next round of negotiations, Screen Actors Guild.
“CGI might make its way into the typical contract that actors make with studios,” attorney Mark Mizrahi said to THR. “Especially if you're in a weak position — you might sign it away.”
Fisher was slated to reappear as Princess Leia via the digital process in Star Wars: Episode IX, as stated by her brother Todd Fisher, before Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy later clarified that the actor’s final appearance would be her already filmed scenes for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Regardless, this is new territory for actors as the technology behind CGI creations continues to improve. Many will have to think about—and plan for—how their likenesses will be used posthumously.
Fisher’s final appearance will be Star Wars: The Last Jedi, in theaters December 15.
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Star Wars: The Last Jedi, from writer/director Rian Johnson, is in post-production now for a December 15, 2017 release. The film follows-up and continues the story of the next generation of the saga as Rey, Poe, Finn, and Kylo Ren find their place in the galaxy and follow the legacy of Luke Skywalker, Leia, and Han Solo. Daisy Ridley returns to star as Rey, with other returning stars John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Mayhew, Andy Serkis, Anthony Daniels, Lupita Nyong'o Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa. Benicio Del Toro and Laura Dern join the cast in as-yet-unrevealed roles.