Captain Marvel’s VFX Supervisor Explains the De-Aging Process

Marvel Studios is no stranger to de-aging actors for flashback scenes. But since Captain Marvel is completely set in 1995, Samuel L. Jackson needed 25 years shaved off in order to realistically depict him as a younger Nick Fury. Obviously, this process is an arduous one that requires plenty of capable hands, including visual effects supervisor Christopher Townsend. In an interview with The Wrap, Townsend explained the ins and outs of restoring Jackson to his mid-’90s prime.

Conventionally, scenes with de-aging require the use of a body double for an actor’s younger face to be superimposed onto. However, the task of “youthening” Jackson for an entire movie was in no way conventional for Townsend and his team.

“That process works if you’ve got five, eight, maybe 10 shots,” said Townsend. “But in a movie like this where we’ve got about 500 shots, there was no way from a production point of view we could do that. One of the big gains was Lola [Visual Effects] coming back to us and saying, ‘we don’t need the body double.’ That was huge for us because it cut down our shooting time by at least half.”

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Instead, the visual effects team relied on visual aids from ‘90s Jackson films like Jurassic Park, The Negotiator, and Die Hard with a Vengeance. In the long run, Townsend insists that his crew’s primary goal was authenticity.

“The thing I said to the gang at the beginning is from that first shot you see of Sam, you’ll go ‘Woah! Young Sam!’ But my intention was after that, nobody thinks about it,” noted Townsend. “And hopefully that’s what we’ve achieved if we’ve done our job right, and that the audience never questions it and doesn’t even consider it. The real challenge is making it so that there’s continuity from one frame to the next so that it feels smooth, and it never feels like the face is jiggling around or moving. It really comes down to the artistry of the person sitting there and trying to maintain as much of the original performance as possible.”

How do you think the de-aging effects turned out in Captain Marvel? Let us know in the comment section below!