We seem to have entered a strange new era, a time when death is truly only the beginning. At least for celebrities, actors, and musicians. More and more, technology is being used to virtually resurrect the popular dead, to bring them back to life so they may continue to entertain from the beyond the grave.
Macabre? Perhaps. Below you’ll find eight of these celebrities who, despite having shuffled off this mortal coil, have made new appearances in various media.
At this year’s Billboard music awards, Michael Jackson performed his new single “Slave to the Rhythm” from his posthumous album Xscape, despite being dead for five years.
However, it wasn’t the hologram it was hyped up to be, but merely a projection using the rather common Pepper’s Ghost technique, which dates back to the 16th Century.
Video warning: language.
Audience members at Coachella 2012 got a surprise when Tupac Shakur, dead since 1996, appeared on stage alongside Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. This, too, was made possible with the Pepper’s Ghost technique and CGI.
Here’s John Wayne, who died in 1979, appearing in a Coors Light commercial.
This one is perhaps a little more basic; instead of CGI, this clip uses footage of John Wayne from one of his movies, and makes it appear as though he were interacting with R. Lee Ermey.
Orville Redenbacher was resurrected to star in this gourmet popcorn commercial in 2007. Unfortunately, it took a few steps too many and dove straight into the uncanny valley.
Elvis Presley may have died in 1977, but his presence never once went away, and in fact he’s made many stage “appearances” over the years.
Not only did he perform a duet with Celine Dion on American Idol in 2007, seen above, he’s been virtually hitting the road on tours around the country for years now, using footage of concerts he performed when he was alive.
On video, that American Idol performance is pretty convincing. Here’s how it was done.
And here’s Fred Astaire, brought back to life to dance with a…vacuum cleaner.
This one, like the John Wayne commercial above, uses edited clips from old footage to make it seem like he’s using a Dirt Devil.
In another commercial, this one for Galaxy Chocolate, Audrey Hepburn returns using a combination of CGI and a body double.
Despite Gladiator being one of my favorite movies, I didn’t notice this until it was brought to my attention some time last year. In the movie, Oliver Reed plays the former gladiator Proximo, who buys the main character Maximus and thrusts him into the life of the savage Colosseum tournaments.
Unfortunately, Reed passed away before filming completed. To finish his scenes, in particular the one above, the filmmakers used a combination of CGI techniques, a mannequin, and unused takes.
This trend of resurrecting deceased celebrities is only beginning. As technology improves, we’ll see more convincing performances, more actors and musicians and, I imagine, historical figures. However, not everyone feels that doing this is in good taste, given that the person being “resurrected” has absolutely no say in how his or her image is being used.
Personally, I’m not sure what my opinion on this is; whenever we listen to music or watch movies created by the deceased, for example, are we not essentially resurrecting them in some way?
Is a projected image of Michael Jackson or Tupac really all that different from an old music video on YouTube? In both cases, you’re watching a performance by someone who is no longer alive.
How do you feel about this?