Computers Make Actors Younger and Prettier — Do They Help Them Act?

Posted on March 20, 2016 at 3:32 pm

The Washington Post reports on the use of computers to make Paul Reubens look almost as young in his new movie, “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” as he did in his first Pee-wee movie, 36 years ago.

In postproduction, artists digitally retouched his face to turn back the clock. It’s called beauty work, and it’s been around for more than a decade. But it’s a hidden craft, practiced by artists who make every frame look sublime by toiling for long hours — while remaining invisible….According to multiple artists, a popular job is to take care of those pesky eye bags. Artists can also add muscle definition, zap blemishes, fix teeth and tame rogue strands of hair. The request can come from a record label, a director, a producer or a movie star, depending on the situation.

We are all too used to seeing the effects of plastic surgery on famous faces in movies, and all too often seeing the way the artificial stiffening and smoothing impairs actors’ ability to show emotion. Paul Reubens joked that he could have had a facelift and saved the production $2 million in computer “beauty work.” Pee-wee is a comic character who is known for being expressionless. But what happens when this tweaking is used in dramas and comedies? An adjustment of an eyelid or the corner of a mouth can make a big difference in expression. If it impairs a performance, will actors agree to it? And if it improves the performance, will the coders be thanked at the Oscars?

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