When an actor signs on to commit to a particular film, they don’t anticipate that they’ll be dead before the contract is up. Hollywood stars are people too, and the grim reaper waits for no one. When an actor passes on, that’s it, they’re done. Everything that they’ve put out up to that point has had their own personal seal of approval. It really bothers me that now, thanks to amazing advances in technology, we kind of toss all of that out the window just so we can selfishly see them one last time.
When I first saw the video of Tupac’s performance at Coachella, I got goosebumps. I had never seen a concert of his, so when I saw him on stage, I was seeing him for the first time. At the time, I thought it was the coolest thing on earth. Think about the implications this technology has! You can see Nirvana perform live right in front of you! You could record video messages for loved ones to watch long after you had passed! Truly, we’re living in the future.
I don’t feel that way anymore.
I watched the Michael Jackson performance at the Billboard Music Awards, and I was extremely uncomfortable. I had seen Michael Jackson before – music videos, concerts, television shows – so knowing that he had passed on, I closed that door in my life. The opportunity to see Michael Jackson was gone, and it could never come back.. until it did. Hollywood tapped on the gravestone of Michael Jackson, and though he couldn’t personally answer it, technology did.
The performance itself was fantastic, and I know it would’ve had his seal of approval, if he had the chance to give it. Regardless, the whole thing was surreal, and it made me extremely uncomfortable to watch. It wasn’t just me, either, a quick search on Twitter validated my opinion.
That’s why it really rubs me the wrong way now that news has come out about the cost of putting CGI Paul Walker in Fast and Furious 7. I won’t lie – I haven’t really seen any of Paul Walker’s work outside of the Fast and Furious series, but the Fast and Furious movies are a guilty pleasure of mine. I’ve been watching since the first came out, so in a way, I feel like I have some sort of stake in this series (even though I’m well aware that I don’t). So to hear that the “cost of putting Paul Walker’s image” is soaring above $50 million is just wrong.
This is a guy’s life we’re talking about here. He put all of his effort into acting, and when he wasn’t on the screen, he ran a charity dedicated to helping people that have had their lives forever changed by disasters. It’s not too much to just have a stunt driver drive his car off into the sunset? Maybe there’s a situation where they can write in “Walker didn’t want to take part in this one guys, he said he’s got a family to be with now,” and let it be that. I’m even okay with stand-ins. But to know that CGI is being used for any of Walker’s scenes makes me uncomfortable.
One death that Hollywood handled properly was John Ritter. At the time, he was working on 8 Simple Rules. He was having some chest pains and was misdiagnosed as having a heart attack. Once they discovered that he actually had an aortic dissection, he went into surgery immediately, but sadly, he passed.
I remember there being some initial confused as to how to write his character off. They eventually decided to write that he was at the grocery store, had a heart attack, and died. They didn’t use any past footage, his voice, or anything. You can watch the episode in its entirety here.
Simultaneously, Ritter was also a character on Scrubs. Granted, he was only in two episodes, but he could’ve been written in for more. Rather than just never mentioning him again (it had been a year and a half or so since he was last on an episode), Bill Lawrence decided to make an entire episode dedicated to him.
Ritter played JD’s father. He appeared in both seasons one and two, and his tribute episode was during season four. In the episode, Dan, JD’s brother, shows up with chocolate cake. During an inner monologue, we learn that JD’s family prepares a chocolate cake any time something bad happens. JD immediately asks him what happened. Dan hesitates, asking why he can’t just show up with a chocolate cake. JD asks again, and Dan says that dad died. The entire episode deals with JD trying to deflect the news while Dan struggles to cope. The show, when it aired on NBC, closed with “For our friend John Ritter”. Strangely, this screen was taken out of the DVD and Netflix versions.
That’s how it should be in Hollywood. When an actor is gone, they’re gone. Whatever film footage you have of Paul Walker for Fast and Furious 7, or Philip Seymour Hoffman for whatever Hunger Games movie they’re working on – that’s all that should exist. There shouldn’t be any CGI, no voiceovers, etc. You can’t artificially create the magic that these people bring to the screen. They should live in our hearts and our minds, not on our computers.