From Bruce Lee to Paul Walker: how Hollywood pulled off its biggest resurrection acts

Paul Newman is only the latest star to return to the big screen after death. From Philip Seymour Hoffman to Peter Sellers, here are some of the most celebrated performances from beyond the grave

We may never see the likes of Paul Newman again. But we can at least hear the blue-eyed star of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid one more time after it was announced that Newman, who died in 2008, will return as the voice of old-time racer Doc Hudson in forthcoming animated adventure Cars 3.

Newmans performance has been culled from thousands of hours of conversations between Newman and Pixar head John Lasseter about their shared love of motor racing. The recordings were made in 2006 for the original Cars, but were never used.

It is not the first time an actor has returned from beyond the grave to star in a new movie Hollywood has been at it at least since 1959, when Ed Wood used his wifes chiropractor as an unlikely double for the recently deceased Bela Lugosi in the famously terrible Plan 9 from Outer Space. Here are some of the inventive ways producers have dealt with stars deaths.

Bruce Lee as a cardboard cutout in Game of Death

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A cardboard cut-out of Bruce Lees likeness in Game of Death. Photograph: YouTube

Released in 1978, five years after Lee died, Robert Clouses martial arts epic was an appallingly clumsy attempt to capitalise on unseen footage of the kung fu star in his final movie. Lee had intended Game of Death to be his masterpiece, a movie he would write, direct and star in, featuring a video game-like plot in which he battles his way up a five-level Korean pagoda, defeating a different challenger on each floor. But the version seen by audiences features a storyline in which Lees character takes down a racketeering syndicate. With only 11 minutes of footage from the original, incomplete film to work with, Clouse used techniques such as body doubles wearing beards, previously recorded reaction shots and even a plastic surgery subplot, to disguise the new actors. For one infamous scene, producers attached a cardboard cut-out of Lees face to a dressing-room mirror in a botched attempt to squeeze more screen time out of the dead man. The results are excruciating.

Paul Walker with help from his brothers and CGI in Furious 7

In 2015, Universal Studios reportedly spent $50m to complete Walkers scenes in the petrol-head action epic after the series star died in a high-speed car smash in November 2013. Producers used a combination of CGI and Walkers younger brothers Caleb and Cody to complete the movie and allow the actors character, Brian OConner, to be tastefully written out. So eager were audiences to see Walker onscreen one last time that the movie became one of the years biggest hits, grossing $1.5bn worldwide much more than the previous Fast and Furious instalment made. Caleb and Cody Walker admitted they had discussed returning to play OConner again in a future instalment.

Peter Cushing via ghosting in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

If ever there were an actor for whom being brought back from the dead might seem like second nature, it is surely the Hammer Horror icon, who returned as Imperial baddie Grand Moff Tarkin in Gareth Edwards well-received 2016 space opera, despite having died a full 22 years earlier. Just as with Furious 7, audiences were fascinated to glean every iota of morbid detail about how the process was carried out. In fact, it was all done with a Casualty actor Guy Henry, wearing a motion-capture mask that Cushings distinctive features were mapped on to. Henry described the experience as bloody frightening in an interview with the Radio Times.

Philip Seymour Hoffman with help from Woody Harrelson in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

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Philip Seymour Hoffman in his final Hunger Games performance. Photograph: Allstar/Lionsgate

Hoffmans death in 2014 left producers of the dystopian sci-fi saga with a big problem, as the Oscar-winner had not yet completed filming all of his scenes as games maker turned revolutionary Plutarch Heavensbee. Studio Lionsgate decided to rewrite the screenplay to diminish Heavensbees role. A key scene between the rebel leader and Jennifer Lawrences Katniss Everdeen, originally intended as a face-to-face meeting, was retooled with Woody Harrelsons Haymitch Abernathy reading a heart-felt letter from Heavensbee out loud to the Hunger Games winner.

Roy Scheider with a lookalike latex mask in Iron Cross

When the 75-year-old Jaws star died part-way through shooting the thriller Iron Cross, producers created a latex mask to mimic their leading mans famously wonky-nosed features. The rubbery carapace and its unknown wearer appear in only one vital scene that had not been completed when Scheider died. Digital effects were added to complete the process.

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Oliver Reed as Proximo in Gladiator. Photograph: HO/Reuters

Oliver Reed with a double and CGI in Gladiator

After the legendary English bon vivant died in the middle of shooting Ridley Scotts swords-and-scandal epic, the director used previously shot footage and a body double to complete his scenes. The Oliver! star received a posthumous Bafta nomination for best supporting actor for his role as gladiator trainer Proximo. Crucially, the scenes where Reeds face was mapped on to a doubles head with CGI are almost impossible to spot.

Peter Sellers with old footage in Trail of the Pink Panther

Sellers return as bumbling French inspector Jacques Clouseau for a sixth Pink Panther movie was rather complicated by the fact the Englishman had died 18 months prior to the start of production. Not to be put off, producers for the 1982 film used footage cut from outtakes shot for previous episodes to concoct a new storyline in which Clouseau once again tries to retrieve the stolen Pink Panther diamond of the title. Series stalwarts Burt Kwouk (Cato), David Niven (Sir Charles Litton) and Herbert Lom (Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus) were persuaded to return for a movie its director Blake Edwards tried to pitch as a tribute to Sellers genius. Neither the critics nor the Englishmans wife, Lynne Frederick agreed, with the former panning the movie and the latter successfully suing United Artists for $1m.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2017/jun/14/back-from-the-dead-how-hollywood-pulled-off-its-most-unexpected-resurrection-acts

Author: The Latest Online

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