The use of digital technology to make an actor appear as a different character is a relatively old one. Andrew Serkis has made a career of playing CGI created characters such as Gollum from the “Lord of the Rings” movies, making the moves and speaking the lines, but appearing very differently than his real self.

More recently, the technology has been used to bring back dead or younger versions of actors. In “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” the magic of CGI was not only used to bring back Peter Cushing from the dead to play Grand Moff Tarkin, with another actor doing the movement and speaking the lines.

The younger Princess Leia was recalled with another actress, but with an image of Carrie Fisher, circa 1977.

Marilyn Monroe lives again

The UK Sun is reporting that a documentary is using the image of Marilyn Monroe, dead since 1963 at the age of 36 from an apparent drug overdose. The same technology that created Gollum and brought back the dead Peter Cushing and the younger Carrie Fisher has resurrected the long-dead actress and singer for the 21st Century. The technology has implications for the art of motion pictures that have yet to be evaluated. Already, savvy actors and other celebrities are having contracts written that deal with the use of their images in dramatic works after their deaths.

The allure of bringing back dead movie stars

The cliché often expressed that the quality and style of the current crop of A-list actors seems lacking compared to those of yesteryear. The notion is a bit unfair, as a number of stars such as Tom Hanks and Anthony Hopkins could have held their own in any era. Regardless, the idea of bringing back Laurence Olivier, Greta Garbo, or even John Wayne has a certain appeal.

Filmmakers could eschew current A-listers, cast no-name talent, slap on the image of a famous actor from yesteryear, and then go to town. A couple of problems present themselves.

One can certainly bring back the image of an Olivier or Peter O’Toole but recreate their talent, and their personas is a little more problematic. These men and others did not become significant stars because of their handsome faces, but because of their astonishing talent.

Could anyone just out of film school act as well as any of these long-dead greats? One tends to doubt it.

The other problem is that tastes in movies have changed since the greats of yore strutted the silver screen. One can hardly imagine, given Hollywood’s current politics, doing a John Wayne cavalry western in which the Native Americans are the heavies. And forget about using the classic actors in R rated love scenes, an act that would be a boon to litigious lawyers for the estates of these people.

In short, the idea of bringing back dead actors will always be a niche move at best. Still, in certain select cases, it does have some appeal.