SPOILER WARNING. Seriously. Stop now if you haven't seen the film yet.
I heard Cushing had been digitally reborn for R1 just before I saw the film. I wish I hadn't. I couldn't help but watch his scenes with a hypercritical eye, looking for the contours of the uncanny valley. I don't know that I'd have noticed much if I hadn't already known.
The New York Times has an interesting piece about the process of bringing Grand Moff Tarkon back to life. As the producers point out, it wasn't something they could avoid. “If he’s not in the movie, we’re going to have to explain why he’s not in the movie,” said Kiri Hart, a Lucasfilm story development executive and “Rogue One” co-producer. “This is kind of his thing.”
In striving for a balance between a digital figure who seemed real and one who looked precisely like Cushing, the “Rogue One” creators said seemingly minor tweaks could make significant differences — and these details were tinkered with constantly.
For example, the original “Star Wars” film (also known as “A New Hope”) was lit differently than “Rogue One,” raising questions of how to adjust the lighting on the character.
Hal Hickel, an Industrial Light & Magic animation supervisor, said that lighting him “the way he was in ‘A New Hope’ improved his likeness as Tarkin, but it worsened the sense of him being real because then he didn’t look like any of the actors in the scene.”