Johnny Depp is the latest movie star to have de-aging effects applied to him for a new “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. It’s been about a decade since “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” famously featured Brad Pitt with the drastic de-aging post-production treatment.
Johnny Depp, who is 53 years old, looks around 26 in the newest “Caribbean” film. It’s the same boyish face we saw in those 90’s Depp movies like “Cry Baby” or “Edward Scissorhands” (well, he looks a little different from “Edward Scissorhands”…).
Just over a decade ago, casting directors would have gotten a younger actor to play Johnny Depp’s youthful self. But now if a film has a big enough budget audiences get a nostalgic throwback to the same actor’s younger self. And there’s probably an element of ~wow factor~ due to impressive editing techniques.
So yeah, how is this editing even done? Lola Visual Effects is the primary editing service for the “beauty work” business. Lola works on most of Marvel’s feature films, and pioneered the editing in “Benjamin Button.” The process entails capturing a previous performance by the actor and then manipulating it and editing it into the new movie.
Because Johnny Depp has been famous for so long, editors have a lot of previous roles to work with. However because audiences are so familiar with his (#dreamy) face, they will detect any discrepancies. Trent Claus, the visual effects supervisor for Lola states, “[p]eople can tell when there is something amiss. Even if they can’t put their finger on what is wrong, they can tell that something is wrong.”
They even have a word for this sensation of knowing something is vaguely wrong with the image of the actor, but not knowing exactly what that is. Artists have dubbed this “the uncanny valley.” Lifelike, but not lifelike enough.
What do you think? Is it creepy to edit to make a younger ghost of an actor? Or cool? Check out the newest “Caribbean” movie and see if Depp has fallen into this “uncanny valley.”