De-aging in film

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In film and television, de-aging is a visual effects technique used to make an actor look younger, especially for flashback scenes. This is often accomplished via digitally editing the image or using computer-generated imagery (CGI) overlays or touch-ups. Some movies will even create de-aged digital actors from scratch or with a mixture of stand-ins and CGI.

List of films

The following is a list of films, in chronological order of release, that employ de-aging techniques:

Year Film Description
2006 X-Men: The Last Stand Actors Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, who play the mutants Professor X and Magneto respectively, are de-aged in a flashback scene in which the two work together to recruit a mutant girl as a student.[1][2]
2008 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Based on a short story in which the protagonist ages backwards, actor Brad Pitt, who plays Benjamin Button, is initially shown as elderly and is gradually de-aged to look progressively younger as numerous decades of the character's life go by.[3][4][1]
2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine In this superhero film, Patrick Stewart, who plays mutant Professor X, is de-aged for a brief cameo appearance, as the film takes place earlier in the timeline than the previous films of the series in which Stewart participated.[5]
2010 Tron: Legacy A sequel to the 1982 film, set 28 years later, actor Jeff Bridges, who plays the protagonist Kevin Flynn in the original film, is de-aged to appear as Flynn's younger self in flashbacks and as the corrupt program Clu, a copy of Flynn himself, but decades younger.[1][6] Bruce Boxleitner, who plays the title character of Tron, also appears de-aged in flashbacks; his real world character of Alan Bradley, however, appears as the actor's natural age.
2013 Grudge Match A film about Robert De Niro (Billy "The Kid" McDonnen) and Sylvester Stallone (Henry "Razor" Sharp) as boxing rivals. In the beginning of the film, both actors are de-aged to show them fighting each other in their youth/prime. The rest of the film is set several decades later.
2013 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug This film is set decades before The Lord of the Rings film trilogy; actor Orlando Bloom reprises his role as the Elf character Legolas and is de-aged in his scenes, to reflect the fact that the film's Elves do not age.[1]
2014 Kingsman: The Secret Service Michael Caine was digitally de-aged for a scene set in 1975 featuring his character. This scene was ultimately cut from the film and has never been publicly released. [7]
2015 Ant-Man Michael Douglas and Martin Donovan, who play Hank Pym and Mitchell Carson, are both de-aged by 25 years,in a flashback scene set in 1989(but filmed in 2014) .[3][8][6][4]
2016 Pee-wee's Big Holiday In this comedy film, actor Paul Reubens reprises his role as Pee-wee Herman 28 years after the previous Pee-wee film. De-aging was applied to Reubens to make him appear the same age as he was in his last appearance. During filming, Reubens wore powder and tape on his face.[1][4]
2016 Fan In this Indian film, Shah Rukh Khan stars in a double role as film star Aryan Khanna and obsessive fan Gaurav Chandna, who looks like Aryan but is around twenty years younger. Khan was de-aged for the part of Gaurav with a combination of visual effects and prosthetics.
2016 Captain America: Civil War Robert Downey Jr., who plays Tony Stark, is de-aged in a digital recreation of a pivotal moment from the character's youth.[3]
2016 Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Terence Stamp, who plays Abe Portman, is de-aged in the scenes in the loop of September 3, 1943, when he was in the army.
2017 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Kurt Russell, who plays Ego, is de-aged in a flashback scene set on Earth in the 1980s.[8]
2017 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales In this swashbuckler, Johnny Depp, who plays the main character Jack Sparrow, is de-aged for a flashback scene.[8]
2017 Kingsman: The Golden Circle Colin Firth was de-aged for a flashback scene, years before the events of the first film.
2018 Ant-Man and the Wasp Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Laurence Fishburne who play Hank Pym, Janet van Dyne, and Bill Foster, respectively, are de-aged in flashback sequences.[9]
2018 Aquaman Temuera Morrison and Nicole Kidman are de-aged characters using CGI to portray Aquaman's parents, Thomas Curry and Atlanna, in opening scenes set during Aquaman's childhood. In addition, CGI was used to de-age Willem Dafoe for the scene where Nuidis Vulko trains the young Arthur Curry.[10]
2019 Captain Marvel Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg, who portray Nick Fury and Phil Coulson, are de-aged by 23 years for the entire film as it is set in 1995(but filmed in 2018), whereas the previous films in which they had appeared in these roles had all been set in the present day.[11][12]
2019 Avengers: Endgame Multiple actors were digitally de-aged for different sequences. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, and Jeremy Renner were digitally de-aged for their 2012 appearances that recreate scenes from The Avengers (2012) in which they respectively portray Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Natasha Romanoff, and Clint Barton.[13] Michael Douglas, John Slattery, and Stan Lee were also digitally de-aged for their 1970s appearances, in which they respectively portray Hank Pym, Howard Stark, and a car driver. The final cut of the film features 200 de-aging and aging shots.[14]
2019 It Chapter Two Horror sequel in which child actors Jaeden Martell, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Sophia Lillis, Wyatt Oleff, and Jackson Robert Scott were digitally de-aged to reprise their roles from It (2017) in flashback scenes, having visibly aged in the two-year interval.[15]
2019 Gemini Man In this science fiction film, actor Will Smith was de-aged to portray a younger clone of his character.[16]
2019 The Irishman In this epic crime film, actors Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci were digitally de-aged to portray younger versions of Frank Sheeran, Jimmy Hoffa, and Russell Bufalino respectively.[17]
2019 Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker In this conclusive instalment of the fantasy saga franchise, Mark Hamill was de-aged in a flashback scene where he trains his sister, Leia Organa. Organa on the other hand was played by Billie Lourd,[18] daughter of original actress Carrie Fisher who died in late 2016.
2020 Tenet Kenneth Branagh was de-aged in a flashback for his character Sator.
2020 Bill & Ted Face the Music A comic science fiction film starring Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves as Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted "Theodore" Logan. They portray younger and older versions of Bill & Ted.
2021 Coming 2 America In this comedic sequel, Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall were de-aged in a flashback.
2021 Candyman Tony Todd, reprising his role as the original Candyman, appears de-aged at the end of the film.
2021 Spider-Man: No Way Home Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe reprised their roles as Otto Octavius / Doctor Octopus and Norman Osborn / Green Goblin, respectively, and were both de-aged to match their appearances from 2004's Spider-Man 2 and 2002's Spider-Man, respectively. [19][20]

Virtual actors

In some cases, a young version of a character is not played by the original actor but by a virtual actor, even though the actor being represented is usually still alive. This is usually accomplished with some combination of CGI, a body double, and a voice double or archival audio. Examples of actors who were replaced by virtual actors to portray their younger selves include:


  1. ^ a b c d e f Bradley-Tschirgi, Mat (December 1, 2016). "7 movie actors made impossibly young by CGI". GamesRadar. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  2. ^ Staff. "X-Men: Extreme Makeover". Fxguide. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Giardina, Carolyn (May 10, 2016). "How 'Captain America: Civil War' Turned Robert Downey Jr. Back Into a Teen". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Merry, Stephanie (March 18, 2016). "Hollywood's secret beauty trick: The special effects facelift". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  5. ^ Rabin, Nathan (March 7, 2017). "How X-Men Origins: Wolverine Paved the Way for Logan by Being So Terrible". Vanity Fair. Retrieved December 18, 2018. He’s supposed to be playing a younger version of Professor Xavier, but the C.G.I. employed is so jarringly off that he looks about as human as Jar Jar Binks.
  6. ^ a b c Gonzales, Dave (July 4, 2015). "How Terminator: Genisys made a 'synthespian' of young Arnold Schwarzenegger". Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  7. ^ "'Kingsman' Deleted Scene Features a Young Michael Caine". Movieweb. 2015-02-24. Retrieved 2021-04-10.
  8. ^ a b c Giardina, Carolyn (May 30, 2017). "Johnny Depp to Kurt Russell: How 'De-Aging' Stars Became Hollywood's VFX Trick Du Jour". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  9. ^ Seymour, Mike (July 16, 2018). "A Bug's Wife: Ant-Man and the Wasp". Fxguide. Archived from the original on July 17, 2018. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  10. ^ Luxford, James (December 12, 2018). "Aquaman review: Jason Momoa's superhero is flawed but a lot of fun". Metro. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  11. ^ Mike Seymour (March 18, 2019). "Captain Marvel De-Aging by LolaVFX". fxGuide. Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  12. ^ Sciretta, Peter (July 6, 2018). "Kevin Feige Explains How They Planned 'Ant-Man and The Wasp' Alongside 'Infinity War,' the Disney Streaming Service and More [Interview]". /Film. Archived from the original on July 7, 2018. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  13. ^ Sonak, Divij (May 19, 2019). "Avengers: Endgame VFX Supervisor Talks Aging & De-Aging Effects". Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  14. ^ Giardina, Carloyn (July 29, 2019). "'Avengers: Endgame' Contains 200 Aging and De-Aging VFX Shots". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  15. ^ Oller, Jacob (August 1, 2019). "It: Chapter Two features de-aged kids and a new scene direct from Stephen King". Syfy. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  16. ^ Desowitz, Bill (April 13, 2018). "Martin Scorsese's 'The Irishman' and Ang Lee's 'Gemini Man' - IndieWire". IndieWire. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  17. ^ Robinson, Joanna (December 20, 2016). "Robert De Niro Is the Next Acting Legend to Get a Dramatic C.G.I. Facelift". Vanity Fair. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  18. ^ Alter, Ethan (January 7, 2020). "Billie Lourd played Leia Organa and other visual effects secrets from 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'". Yahoo News. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  19. ^ "Alfred Molina Details Doc Ock's Return in 'Spider-Man: No Way Home': 'The Tentacles do All the Work' (EXCLUSIVE)". 16 April 2021.
  20. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (January 7, 2022). "How 'Spider-Man: No Way Home' VFX Team Brought Back Villains From the Multiverse". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  21. ^ Sofge, Erik (2009-10-01). "How Old School Effects Brought Schwarzenegger's T-800 Back from 1983". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  22. ^ Couch, Aaron (January 6, 2017). "'Rogue One'... Actor Hopes the Technology Won't Become 'Commonplace'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  23. ^ a b Agar, Chris (January 12, 2017). "Rogue One: How Princess Leia's 'Hope' Line was Created". Screen Rant. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  24. ^ Alter, Ethan (January 7, 2020). "Billie Lourd played Leia Organa and other visual effects secrets from 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'". Yahoo Entertainment. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  25. ^ Desowitz, Bill (October 19, 2017). "'Blade Runner 2049': How VFX Masters Replicated Sean Young as Rachael". IndieWire. Retrieved June 11, 2021.
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