Hey, remember when people thought George Lucas was making a film packed with dead actors?

Hey, remember when people thought George Lucas was making a film packed with dead actors?

Let's talk about the time Lucasfilm had to come out and deny they were planning to resurrect a beloved actor using CGI trickery. 

No, not this week’s statement, in which Lucasfilm were forced to deny rumours that they were negotiating for the rights to use the late Carrie Fisher’s likeness in Star Wars Episode IX.

No, for this forgotten controversy, we have to go all the way back to 2010.

In fact, it wasn’t just one deceased actor that George Lucas was supposedly planning to resurrect, but a whole film full of them.

The rumour originated with British comedian Mel Smith, of Not the Nine O’Clock News and Alas Smith and Jones fame.

Smith was also a director, and he helmed the 1994 screwball comedy Radioland Murders under the tutelage of producer and co-writer George Lucas.

When Smith was interviewed by The Daily Mail in 2010Radioland Murders — which failed to impress critics or find an audience — was brought up, and Smith had some choice words for his old mentor.

“The film was a disaster,” Smith said. “George doesn’t understand comedy, so the movie flopped. At least it taught me how to use CGI. George is obsessed with it and used too much in the last two Star Wars films – which I thought were ghastly.

“He’s been buying up the film rights to dead movie stars in the hope of using computer trickery to put them all together in a movie, so you’d have Orson Welles and Barbara Stanwyck appear alongside today’s stars.”

Despite his obvious disdain for Lucas, Smith’s story was believable enough – remember, the debate about using CGI to recreate the likenesses of dead actors had already been going on for decades at this point, and the then-upcoming Tron: Legacy was expected to break new ground for digital effects with its de-aged Jeff Bridges.

A number of outlets picked up Smith’s quote and ran with it, including Ain't It Cool News, IFC, Collider, io9, The Mary Sue, Screen Junkies and Indie Wire, and most were highly critical of Lucas and his supposed scheme.

The coverage was enough to prompt a Lucasfilm spokesperson to respond, telling On The Red Carpet that “this is a false rumour”.

That, it seemed, was that, and the rumour was soon forgotten. Smith died of a heart attack in 2013, and Lucas’ film full of forgotten stars never did materialise.

Now, of course, the debate has been well and truly reignited by the use of Peter Cushing’s likeness in Rogue One and the passing of Carrie Fisher.

(It's funny, isn't it, how fans who think it's far-fetched for elements of A New Hope to be echoed in The Force Awakens have no problem going over the same arguments again and again in real life?) 

It’s tempting to think that Rogue One might have been the film Smith heard whispers about in 2010, but alas, it was first pitched by ILM chief creative officer John Knoll after the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012.

For now, at least, it looks as though Cushing will be the only actor to get the Lazarus treatment from Lucasfilm, with the company insisting in a statement released this week that it has “no plans to digitally recreate Carrie Fisher’s performance as Princess or General Leia Organa”.

As for Lucas’ alleged plans to resurrect the likes of Orson Welles and Barbara Stanwyck, well, who knows what he’s getting up to on his own time…

Force Material is a podcast exploring the secrets and source material of Star Wars with hosts Rohan Williams and Baz McAlister. Listen and subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Stitcher, PlayerFM and Castro; stay in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; and support the show by browsing our range of shirts, hoodies, kids apparel, mugs and more at TeePublic.

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