Is that actor “live” or is he Memorex?

“Philip Seymour Hoffman may be digitally replicated for unfinished ‘Hunger Games’ scenes.”  This headline from today’s Washington Times, following on the prolific actor’s death, caught my eye. Not so much because of the use of digital technology, but because it cued up a talent branding idea I (and I’m sure others more technically advanced than I) have been thinking about for a while.


But first, a little background. Hoffman was found dead a few days ago, apparently  from a self-induced drug overdose (autopsy results still pending) . The star actor had been scheduled to finish filming some of the scenes his character, Plutarch Heavensbee, was part of in a still-in-production sequel episode, “Mockingjay – Part 2” of the widely acclaimed “The Hunger Games” series.

Well, obviously, a live Hoffman was not going to be available, so the Hollywood tech meisters were called in to help out. Evidently Hoffman was not that prominently featured visibly in the still-to-be-filmed scenes, so by adjusting camera angles and with some distancing, they could make him appear present, but without significant details. Add a couple sound-alike voice overs and, voila! Resurrection.

Not to wax too congenially over a man’s death and subsequent return to the film production set, but I have long thought about (in fact, shortly after watching Keanu Reeves in the  special effects-laden 1999 “Matrix” movie ) what some day might be possible with all the BIG NAME stars, living and dead. What if the stars themselves, or even their rights-holding estates, could license digital characters of themselves for any movie. Make them Digital Brands, so to speak. Obviously, it’s already been done in a cartoonish way for certain animation projects, but I’m talking about an apparently “real life” reproduction that walks and talks in an actual movie … and never grows old.

What about a whole new series of John Wayne or Humphrey Bogart movies, featuring them in their cinematic primes ( “Casablanca 2,” anyone?). Maybe Richard Dreyfuss could take us along for the sequel to his 1977 “Close Encounters” trip. There’s no limit and, ultimately, production costs and headaches ( talent contracts, stars misbehaving, shooting days, etc.) would drop, while profit margins should skyrocket.

Hollywood, if you haven’t thought about this….give me a call. If you have, get on the stick and let’s have your production and software teams move it forward. I’d sure like to see DiNero and Bogart as a cop team chasing the bad guys.

Oh, and here’s some background for those needing it on this post’s headline, Is that actor “live” or is he Memorex?

It’s from a Memorex TV advertising slogan from the 70’s. It was a cassette tape commercial featuring noted jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald, in which it compared the sound quality of her voice taped on a Memorex cassette with the “real thing” – in this case, her singing “live” in studio. Both her live singing and the recorded version broke a wine glass featured prominently on camera. Both were so real sounding that people (and the commercial) had to ask, “Is it live or is it Memorex?”

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