Future movie actors

Seeing everybody virtually through video software, while also catching up on lots of old movies, my mind goes to odd places. One of those places is the question of digital make-up.

One of the charming things about Hollywood movies is that they work with “found materials”. Cary Grant looks like Cary Grant, and Winona Ryder looks like Winona Ryder.

The particular quirks of nature that formed these unique human beings are factored into the writing, directing, lighting, editing and other choices made by filmmakers. If a different actor had been cast, a good filmmaker would have adjusted those choices.

Yet we entering an age where natural appearance matters less and less. At some point the digital alteration of appearance will become a mature technology.

At that point, all bets are off. If Paul Giamatti has the chops to play a Harrison Ford role, then why not? Even better, if he has the chops to play Humphrey Bogart well, then Bogie is back.

Beyond that, filmmakers will be able to create actor appearances that are tuned to the role, without needing to find somebody who happens to look just right. Screen acting will become a kind of digital puppetry, and nobody will care what the puppeteer happens to look like.

What will be the impact of all this on cinema? Will movies be better or worse? I have absolutely no idea.

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