When asked about it, Smith shared, “ I think people don’t completely understand the depth of what they attempted and accomplished here. Junior is not de-aging. It’s not my face, and then they smoothed out my face to make it look younger. It’s a 100% digital human, in the same way, that the tiger in Life of Pi, was digital. They used a real tiger to understand the movement, but in the movie, when you’re seeing the tiger, you’re seeing a 100% digital recreation of a tiger. This is not me, de-aged. It’s a 100% digital interpretation of me, as a digital character. It’s the first digital human.” He still played both parts, but then he clarified, “You can’t fake innocence. As a young actor, it’s easier to play older, but older, it’s difficult to impossible to play younger. Once you know some stuff, it’s in your eyes.” So it was the job of the VFX team to be able to sell that innocence and that youth, and they did it amazingly!
One of my favorite parts of the press conference was when Smith was talking about meeting up with director Ang Lee before they started filming to talk about how to separate the Henry and Junior performances. He explained, “What was really great that Ang did was that, before we even met, he had gone through all of my filmography and he grabbed things. He grabbed scenes from Fresh Prince, Six Degrees of Separation, Bad Boys, Independence Day and Men in Black, and he walked me through moments. He’d say, “I love very much what you have done in this moment here, in Six Degrees of Separation. In Bad Boys, this one was good, but don’t ever do this in my movie”. And he delivered it in his best Ang Lee impression, which was pretty dang good.
Talk, of course, turned to the ideas of cloning and the “good and evil” of it. During the conversation, Smith said he felt it was like poisoned honey: “I think we all have the human quest to overcome our pain. We’re all trying to figure out how to eliminate suffering from our lives. There was an interesting phrase that I heard, the other day, that was “poisoned honey.” We reach for poisoned honey a lot, in order to overcome our pain and suffering. When I think about cloning, and we talked about it a lot on this movie, it’s one of those scientific reaches where we’ve already gone down the road, and I’m sure there are absolutely things that have happened in cloning that we don’t know about yet, but are gonna find out about. My opinion is that cloning will ultimately pan out to be poisoned honey. It will be a reach that will potentially come back to bite humanity, in a way that we’ve probably not considered fully.”
But thinking about cloning and especially about digital humans leads to all kinds of crazy and awesome ideas for the future. Smith is thinking something like a “young Will Smith and young Marlon Brando movie that could get made while I’m at home, which would be great.”. And I mean, he’s right, it’d be great, I’d go see it!
Future possibilities aside, this movie is here now and it’s a stunning display of VFX work, acting, and direction. I highly recommend it because it truly is setting the groundwork for things to come!
The action-thriller directed by Ang Lee opens in US cinemas starting tomorrow, October 11, 2019. Do you want to know more about the film before heading out to see it? Check out the review of the film here.