I remember sitting outside a theater for something like three or four hours, waiting to get into the first "Star Wars." And let me be honest here, I saw it eight times. But I will never forget the first time I saw the opening shot, the spaceships flying onto the screen. My jaw dropped. No one had ever seen anything like it. I saw the movie again the other day. It looks like it's one step beyond the special effects in the original "King Kong."
We now take for granted that just about anything can be done in the movies these days. And isn't that what movies are supposed to do, especially during the summer. Take you someplace you've never been, show you something you've never seen. The latest "Jurassic Park" movie opens this week, with dinosaurs that probably look better than the real thing. "Pearl Harbor" was full of shots of airplanes and ships that no longer exist. Hundreds of unreal people fell to their deaths off a Titanic that didn't exist. Again, we now take all of this for granted.
Now the stuntmen are not particularly happy about this. You can now put someone in a huge harness, and then digitally remove the harness from the shot. Sort of takes away the macho part of all. But now what about the actors themselves?
Much has been made in recent weeks about a character in the movie "Final Fantasy." She is billed as the first real digital actor. In fact I think something like one fifth or one quarter of the film's budget was spent on getting her hair right. She's been on magazine covers, and her creators hope she will go on to other roles. John Casablancas who used to run one of the main modeling agencies, now has created virtual models.
Okay, now all of this is fun, but again, how does this affect real actors? Well if you saw "Gladiator," Oliver Reed, who played the man who first made Russell Crowe a gladiator, died before the filming was complete. Using the new technology, one last scene was created. Nancy Marchand, who played Tony Soprano's mother on "The Sopranos" passed away, and the producers created one more scene. There's always been talk about being able to make a new Clark Gable movie, or Marilyn Monroe movie by creating a new virtual actor and using their voices from old movies. No one ever really took it seriously, but now that really isn't that far off.
This is, after all, the heart of the summer movie season, so our plan tonight is to have a little fun. Chris Bury will be anchoring, and he'll be talking to director Barry Levinson, critic Roger Ebert, and actor Robert Patrick, now of the X-Files, but maybe best known as the bad terminator who kept changing from person to metal and back again in "Terminator II." So grab some popcorn, although I actually prefer Goobers at the movies, and join us tonight.
Leroy Sievers is the Executive Producer of Nightline.