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Elvis Lives! In the Digital Realm, Ageless Avatars Are the Future, from Pitt to Bridges

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood June 6, 2012 at 3:15PM

It was inevitable. Now that digital likenesses are so easy to accomplish, iconic figures will live on in the digital realm, making money for their estates. The latest news: Digital Domain Media Group and CORE Media are developing a series of "virtual" Elvis Presleys.
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Elvis

It was inevitable. Now that digital likenesses are so easy to accomplish, iconic figures will live on in the digital realm, making money for their estates.

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

The latest news: Digital Domain Media Group and CORE Media are developing a series of "virtual" Elvis Presleys.  This could allow the King's likeness to appear in films and TV shows--and most likely, commercials.  Digital Domain, the pioneering VFX house behind such films as 'Titanic," "I, Robot," "Transformers" and "Tron: Legacy," set the precedent with their digital version of rap artist Tupac Shakur, who "appeared" during Dr. Dre's show at Coachella Music Festival. 

So much for the careers of impersonators. The digital realm can not only conquer death, but aging. Younger iterations of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen appeared in the "X-Men" series before they were literally replaced by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender; Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett went under the digital knife in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

Jeff Briges, young and old, in "Tron: Legacy"
Jeff Briges, young and old, in "Tron: Legacy"

Big-budget movies already perform digital touch-ups for the biggest stars. But creating the 35-year-old version of 61-year-old Jeff Bridges in "Tron: Legacy" was a challenge, because the actor's skin had thinned and started to sag; DD animator Steve Peeg recommends that stars get themselves scanned as young as possible. Ageless avatars could put Hollywood's top plastic surgeons out of business.

That's the premise of Ari Folman's upcoming animated sci-fi thriller "The Congress," based on a Stanislaw Lem novel. It's about an aging actress (Robin Wright) who has sold the rights to her younger avatar as she lives on.

This article is related to: New Media & Technology, TRON: Legacy, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Brad Pitt


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.