Updated: Nov 14, 2018
Production companies are employing (deploying?) zombies to star in their latest blockbusters, but why? And will these deceased silver screen soon outnumber the living? In a follow up to Philmblog’s recent post Silver Screen Zombies, we now check out the appeal of bringing stars back from the dead and why it might actually provide a comfort to the cinema-goer.
Acting zombies are frequenting our scenes at an increasingly growing rate. Advancing CGI technology has made it possible to bring deceased stars of the silver screen back from dead in order to complete roles they didn’t get a chance to finish, or star in new projects where the chemistry they exude on screen is deemed perfect for a role. Actors from Marlon Brando to Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe to Grace Kelly have featured in films where principal photography occurred after their deaths. But why do directors and production companies feel the need to cast these stars when they have plenty of living actors willing and able to fill the roles?
In her fascinating article Im(possible) Performances, Joanne Frears, a Solicitor and Leader in IP/Technology Law from Lionhead Law Ltd., may have just hit the nail on the head. She argues that the value of dead celebrities (‘delebs’, for short) to a production or advertisement is the that it allows people to buy into the idea of “cheating death”. By seeing the celebrity they have known and loved, often recreated to be in the prime of their life, people draw comfort in the possibility of their own longevity.
It’s an idea that is as old as advertising itself, and taps into the very core of natural human instinct. The one thing all people are hardwired to avoid is death, and those who actively seek it only do when their brains have exhausted all other options. Put simply: in ideal conditions, people would choose to live indefinitely.
We see this sort of ‘anti-death’ rhetoric used constantly throughout society. Health and beauty companies bombard us with advertisements on products that allegedly prevent ageing – where growing old is increasingly becoming byword for ‘dying’ – and car companies constantly highlight the safety records of their new designs which increasingly aim towards invincibility. Even the institutions of the major world religions are founded on the idea of living forever, with every action in this life having consequences for the next or your entry into heaven.
In exactly the same way, deceased actors resurrecting to star in further roles can be used as a genius marketing ploy to tap into ageing markets. Baby Boomers, feeling dispondant that many of the icons that helped shape the culture of their prime are now dying, can relive the glory days by seeing those very icons back centre-stage in new movies. It adds a further level to cinema escapism where, for the time they’re in the theatre at least, they can forget their age, forget that changes have happened since the 60s, 70s & 80s, and be thrust back into a time many will consider the best of their life.
It is therefore the case that using the images of delebs in the prime of their lives is just another way for marketing gurus to draw us in. By seeing our favourite actors thriving on screen once more, we are reminded on the good times we shared with them and can also rest assured that they will be ever present: the computer files that now make up their performances ready to star in their next picture.
The original article Im(possible) Performances, written by Joanne Frears, can be found at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/impossible-performances-joanne-frears/
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