10 Times CGI Made Actors Look Way Younger, and The Result Was Uncanny

Image credit: Legion-Media

Have a look how far the "de-aging" technology has come.

Michael Douglas in Ant-Man

Disney has spent lots of money on developing "de-aging" technology — probably more than any other major movie studio. This investment is especially evident in the Marvel projects, which are mentioned more than once in our list. Michael Douglas in Ant-Man was the "guinea pig" for trying out the de-aging technology. In a flashback, we see Douglas' character in 1989, and if it weren't for the close-ups (where the digital effects do become noticeable, especially when the actor is talking), you could think the filmmakers got their hands on a time machine.

Robert Downey Jr. in Captain America: Civil War

Now, here's the famous scene with the young Tony Stark. The creators of Civil War explained the de-aging process: they had to rummage through the footage of Downey's earlier films to get as much of his young face as possible and use this as source material to create a kind of "mask", which was then applied to the actor's aged face. So in the movie, we see the acting of today's Robert wearing a "mask" of Robert from twenty years ago. By the way, the scene was shot on the very last day of filming because Downey Jr. had to shave off the recognizable Tony Stark mustache and goatee.

Carrie Fisher in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The Star Wars spin-off presents a not-so-successful example of digital rejuvenation. Striving to attract even more attention from the audience, filmmakers put in literally a few seconds of Carrie Fisher. The young Princess Leia was a great gift for fans, although, on closer inspection, her face does look a bit unnatural.

Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

In a five-minute flashback scene, we finally get to see Jack Sparrow become the hero we know from the franchise's previous films. As in other Disney projects, the de-aging effect looks terrific from a distance, but the close-ups are a little disappointing (though there aren't many of them since Disney clearly knows how to make the audience believe what they're seeing). And while this might be a matter of personal preference, we believe that today's shabby Captain Jack Sparrow is no less charming than his younger version.

Orlando Bloom in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Elves do not age, but Orlando Bloom is quite prone to this human shortcoming. When Warner Bros. began filming The Hobbit trilogy ten years after The Lord of the Rings, they decided to de-age the actor playing Legolas. Fortunately, Bloom didn't undergo a full-on rejuvenation: his face was only slightly modified in postproduction, though in some scenes, it still has the weird unnatural "glow". Perhaps the filmmakers should've used some extra makeup on Bloom instead of fancy CGI effects — though as we know from the Superman's mustache case, Warner Bros. doesn't mess around, and if they're going to change anything with CGI, they just pour millions of dollars into it.

Anthony Hopkins in Westworld

Technically Westworld isn't a movie but a TV series so it shouldn't be included in the selection — but the series' creators have done such a marvelous job de-aging Hopkins, they must be celebrated with at least a mention in our humble list. The young version of Anthony Hopkins in Westworld is frighteningly realistic. There aren't too many flashback scenes with his character turned young — but that's probably a good thing.

The filmmakers also shared how they did character rejuvenation in the illuminating video.

Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in X-Men: The Last Stand

One of the earliest attempts at digital rejuvenation came in the mid-2000s: a flashback scene in The Last Stand (2006) shows Magneto and Xavier from twenty years ago. The de-aging effect is minimal but still noticeable: both Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen look their age, and CGI mostly "freshened up" their looks. It worked fairly well in the case of Patrick Stewart, but McKellen's rejuvenation wasn't so successful: the actor's face has a slight "glow" and looks like a rubber mask.

Sean Young in Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 presents a showcase of achievements in the field of CGI: the sequel to the cult movie demonstrates all sorts of expensive computer effects, including de-aging. Digital rejuvenation was successfully applied to Sean Young, who starred in the original 1982 Blade Runner. In the long-awaited sequel from 2017, the actress doesn't look a minute older — thanks to CGI.

Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 starts with a flashback from 1980, showing the parents of the future Star-Lord. The father is portrayed by Kurt Russell, who in the scene appears significantly "de-aged". The effect was achieved through a combination of CGI and good old makeup — in fact, the makeup played a major role in Russell's rejuvenation. That is why he looks much more natural than his colleagues who were put through the CGI de-aging procedure in other Marvel films.

Dwayne Johnson in Central Intelligence

An example of the most unfortunate digital rejuvenation is the flashback scene in Central Intelligence, where Dwayne Johnson was transformed from a mighty wrestler into a very fat, ridiculous youngster. The overall effect is creepy rather than funny (especially given the fact they didn't cover the fat guy's naked ass — apparently, for a better comedic effect).