When Lucasfilm released the “Star Wars” original trilogy prequel “Rogue One” in 2016, it caught some critical flak for their use of canon characters portrayed by dead/aged actors. Scenes with Grand Moff Tarkin (long-late Peter Cushing) and young Princess Leia (Carrie Fischer) employing live stand-ins with superimposed digital likenesses got slammed by reviewers as an indignity. Such arguments would be revisited in December 2020 when “The Mandalorian” on Disney+ had its season 2 finale feature Mark Hamill reprising as Luke Skywalker, but with his face digitally de-aged. One YouTuber recently gained online notoriety for showing these scenes redone in his own “Deepfake” technique. Did Lucasfilm (and parent company Disney) sue?
Apparently not; in fact, the studio did one better by bringing him into the fold according to The Verge. The YouTuber, known by his username Shamook, has been impressing viewers of the video-sharing platform with his Deepfaking of key scenes from “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” as well as “The Mandalorian” season 2 finale “The Rescue.” His videos could have been flagged by Lucasfilm or The Walt Disney Company itself as copyright infringement, but it seems his Deepfake efforts have impressed the higher-ups enough that they offered him work.
Using the Deepfake suite “DeepFaceLabs” and the processing power of cloud computing platform Paperspace, Shamook “fixed” certain criticism in the digitally-recreated features of the aforementioned “Star Wars” characters to make them appear more natural. Digital Grand Moff Tarkin was thought by critics to look too “malnourished” compared to live-action Peter Cushing, and the Deepfake makes the CGI look more “healthy.” In the same film, digital Princess Leia looks more like 1977 Carrie Fischer reshot the scene herself. And the de-aging of Mark Hamill as Luke in “The Mandalorian” looks like how the MCU does things. Surely, this Shamook has mad digital art skills, thinks Lucasfilm.
A spokesperson for the studio admitted as much in their official statement saying, “[Industrial Light and Magic is] always on the lookout for talented artists and have in fact hired the artist that goes by the online persona ‘Shamook.’” And while Shamook himself did not reveal his true name yet on his YouTube channel with its library of Deepfake videos, he did edit his profile to reflect what is now his apparent job with Lucasfilm and it ILM team: Senior Facial Capture Artist. Only time will tell what digital wonders he will do as part of the official “Star Wars” production posse from now on.
Image courtesy of MCUTimes