How Young Leia And Tarkin Were Recreated For Rogue One


ABC Nightline went in-depth at Industrial Light & Magic, Lucasfilm’s special effects studio, to see how they recreated young Leia and Grand Moff Tarkin for Rogue One.

Yesterday, ABC Nightline drew back the curtain on the magic of Leia and Tarkin’s CG reincarnations in Rogue One. Check out their in-depth journey at ILM below.

ABC Nightline obtained access into Industrial Light & Magic, Lucasfilm’s special effects studio. Among the ILM folks the interviewer, Clayton Sandell spoke to was John Knoll: Visual Effects Supervisor and father of Rogue One‘s story idea.

First, Knoll explained to Sandell why the story developers chose to bring back these two specific original trilogy characters:

"“Tarkin, because he is central to the story of the Death Star, what it is, how it came to be. And Leia because we end up on Rogue One, you know, minutes before the beginning of Episode IV.”"

Then, Knoll reflected how hard it is to create CG humans. Since we, as human beings, see other human beings every day, he says, we are “very attuned to seeing anything that looks off.”

Image Credit: Screenshot (photo library Elaine Tveit)

Paul Giacoppo, Digital Character Model Supervisor, added to Knoll’s statement:

"“Creating digital humans is one of the hardest things you can do. And so, we were very, very immediately excited and immediately terrified.”"

Next, Nigel Sumner, Visual Effects Supervisor, explained the process of creating CG Tarkin and Leia to Sandell. It sounds simple: the actor and actress – Guy Henry and Ingvild Deila – wore head-mounted cameras and motion capture dots that plotted out their faces’ every move for the computer. Those movements were added to additional CG layers of the original characters faces. Finally, voila: Peter Cushing and young Carrie Fisher are once again on the big screen.

Image Credit: Screenshot (photo library Elaine Tveit)

According to Giacoppo, the trick is to make sure every muscle of the resulting CG face looks real.

"“If you look in the corner of his [Tarkin’s] mouth, see how they [his lips] kind of peel apart? That stickiness is just a natural quality that lips have… when it’s not present, they look slightly artificial and… muppet-like.”"

Thanks to all of ILM’s hard work, young Leia and Tarkin look almost exactly like their original incarnations in Episode IV. The results received the blessing of Peter Cushing’s family and the approbation of Leia’s original actress, Carrie Fisher. In Sandell’s interview, Knoll said Fisher saw the footage of her younger self in Rogue One before she died last week.

Star Wars has a history of pushing special effects’ boundaries. Fortunately, Lucasfilm is continuing that tradition under their new Disney ownership. But their biggest challenge may be yet to come if they decide to recreate Carrie Fisher for her role as General Leia in Episode IX.

Next: Episode VIII Will Explore Kylo Ren's Humanity

Thanks to ABC Nightline and Clayton Sandell for this amazing interview.