Martin Scorsese Will Use CGI Sorcery to Make Robert De Niro Young Again in ‘The Irishman’
A helpful mantra to repeat to yourself while reading this article might be “I trust Martin Scorsese. I trust Martin Scorsese. I trust Martin Scorsese.” And whatever you do, try to envision Benjamin Button and not, say, a certain baffling posthumous CGI rendering featured in Rogue One. That said, here’s the news: Martin Scorsese is planning to use advanced CGI technology to de-age Robert De Niro in The Irishman — come to think of it, they’ve been planning this movie for so long that de-aging De Niro seems reasonable.
You might recall that De Niro himself brought this up last year, when he revealed that Scorsese was investigating the potential application of CGI technology — similar to what was used in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — to transform the actor into his younger self. That still seems to be the plan according to producer Gaston Pavlovich, who tells Cinema Blend that they’ve already run some CGI tests to make De Niro look like he did in The Godfather Part II…which was 42 years ago:
Well, it’s an extraordinary technology that we’ve been looking at. You don’t use prosthetics, make-up, they have acting and the technology is able to have them go through different time ages without the prosthetics. So we’ve seen some tests and it looks extraordinary. We were able to film Bob and just do a scene, and we saw it come down to when he was like 20, 40, 60, so we’re looking forward to that, from that point of view, for ‘The Irishman’ … Imagine seeing what De Niro looked like in ‘The Godfather 2’ days, that’s pretty much how you’re going to see him again.
We can rebuild him! We have the technology!
Anyway, despite Scorsese’s involvement, it’s hard to be optimistic about a CGI-rendered De Niro. It’s not that de-aging actors is impossible, and there are companies that specialize in this work and do it beautifully, like Lola VFX — the studio behind Benjamin Button, wimpy Steve Rogers in Captain America, young Michael Douglas in Ant-Man, etc.
But this can also go terribly wrong, as evidenced by Lucasfilm and ILM’s revival of a certain character in Rogue One. The end result was unnerving: An uncanny valley of slightly twitchy video game realism, made all the more crazier when you find out that they had a real-life actor performing the role on set; the VFX were applied over him, but he still looks entirely computer-animated.
The idea of watching a three-hour Scorsese crime movie is exciting, especially one that explores the life of a former hitman who worked for notorious mobster Jimmy Hoffa. But the idea of watching a three-hour Scorsese crime movie starring a potentially unpleasant digital version of De Niro sounds…not great, Bob! Still: I trust Scorsese. I trust Scorsese. I trust Scorsese.
Keep repeating that until The Irishman hits theaters in 2018.