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The de-aging fad has hit Hollywood like a ton of too-youthful bricks, making the touch-up tech into time-traveling fare hit everyone from world-saving superheroes to overgrown horror kid actors. Now one of the leading forces in the specialty VFX has spilled about working on Avengers: Endgame, which was apparently not just a superlative at the box office. In fact, the MCU capper gave Lola Visual Effects the chance to do its biggest work ever — in either temporal direction.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lola VFX supervisor Trent Claus spilled some secrets on the Marvel blockbuster while speaking at the View international VFX and computer graphics conference in Italy. Since de-aging has typically been used for purely aesthetic reasons, its use has been wrapped up tight. “Most of those are strictly covered by non-disclosure agreements,” Claus said. “It wasn’t until the work was related to the story that we were able to talk about it.”
That feature film work — which started with Captain Marvel (“Nick Fury was our first feature de-aging a major character," said Claus) and developed to about 200 age-changing shots in Endgame alone — works by compositing onto the actor’s face during scenes. That means bumping into the uncanny valley, since there’s a combination of real-life and digital alteration. "It's naturally one of the most unforgiving things that we can do [in VFX]," said Claus.
So imagine taking that to the extreme in a movie that’s made more money at the box office than any other. Endgame makes Hank Pym portrayer Michael Douglas 45 years younger and Chris Evans’ Captain America into a nonagenarian. The former is “the most we ever de-aged an actor,” while the latter is the biggest leap in age the VFX company has ever undertaken.
Rather than create an entirely digital actor, as in Gemini Man with the younger Will Smith clone, Lola’s MCU technique was a combination of digital and practical. "This time, we built neck prosthetics to take it 75 percent of the way there, while we focused more on the face," Klaus said of Evans’ old-man look. Now which genre property will beat the four-and-a-half-decade mark for de-aging? A young Emperor Palpatine series, perhaps?