Creating a character can be a tricky, intricate, in-depth process for many actors. Whether they go Method or improv their way through a performance, every moment, every detail and every character flourish matters. Now, imagine doing all of that work, but as a CGI character. Not only do actors who transform for a CGI-rendered performance undergo a physical change, but that transformation can also really affect their performance. As such, it’s easy to forget who is acting under all that make-up or digitally designed CGI goodness. It’s totally understandable, though. With advances in technology, bringing to life fantastic characters infused with the vibrant personality of a singular performer means the actor and the CGI character become one.
In light of this, some actors who have transformed for their roles as CGI characters are barely recognizable in their human form. Others have been aged down thanks to CGI, and still others have been transformed into CGI versions of themselves that are so lifelike, it’s tough to tell which is which.
Well, wonder no longer, because we have for you some actors presented side-by-side with their CGI counterparts so you can truly marvel at their transformations.
Andy Serkis is arguably the most prolific working actor versed in CGI. He delivers the most intense yet measured performances while in the gear necessary to bring his CGI characters to life. Serkis earned attention in the Lord of the Rings trilogy for his performance as Gollum/Smeagol, but his performance in the recent Planet of the Apes will leave you in awe.
Lupita Nyong’o underwent a major transformation via CGI for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As the character Maz Kanata, Nyong’o’s voice remained, but she became the diminutive, knowledgeable smuggler and cosmic pirate with huge goggles and bright orange skin.
When he’s not busy making us swoon, Idris Elba is appearing in CGI form in films like The Jungle Book. For the live-action remake, he appeared as Shere Khan, the villainous tiger stalking Mowgli while asserting his dominance over the other animals.
Benedict Cumberbatch appeared in the Hobbit trilogy as two different characters. While both were CGI rendered, only one left an indelible impression on audiences. The formidable Necromancer was scary enough, but memorable? No way. That honor goes to Smaug, the enormous, gold-hoarding dragon to whom Cumberbatch lent his voice.
Robin Wright appeared as an ultra-lifelike CGI rendering of herself for the film Beowulf. It’s almost impossible to tell which version of Wright is which, right?
To the delight of many a hardcore Star Wars fan, Carrie Fisher appeared in an aged-down CGI version of herself as Princess Leia at the end of 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Vin Diesel took it down a notch from the high-octane world of the Fast & Furious franchise to the decently rip-roaring adventures in Guardians of the Galaxy. However, Diesel took on a different form for this film as Groot, a ferocious living tree of few words (three, in fact).
Just like his Pirates of the Caribbean co-star Bill Nighy (who you’ll see later in this slideshow), actor Geoffrey Rush transformed to play Captain Barbossa in the first POTC film. Audiences might remember his ghostly transformation early on — definitely one of the creepier CGI transformations.
Oscar winner Alicia Vikander went through a serious CGI transformation in order to turn into the sentient machine Ava in Ex Machina. With just her face and hands retaining a human-like quality, an actor transformed into this futuristic vision has an unnerving effect on audiences.
One of Rickman’s final roles was the know-it-all Blue Caterpillar in Tim Burton’s reimagining of Alice in Wonderland for Disney. While Rickman underwent a transformation into one of Lewis Carroll’s most recognizable characters, his voice remains the same — and that’s a good thing indeed.
We’ve been getting peeks of Brolin as the formidable Marvel Cinematic Universe baddie Thanos in films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers, but soon we’ll see him in all his furious purple glory in Avengers: Infinity War.
Stevens’s first major foray into CGI acting suits him well. Transforming into the Beast for the Disney live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, Stevens had to wear a bulky suit and walk on special shoes to get the gait and size of the Beast just right for the film.
Zoe Saldana may be used to undergoing transformations via heavy makeup, as she did in Guardians of the Galaxy, but her transformation through CGI for Avatar was incredible. As Neytiri, her performance as an otherworldly being was somehow enhanced through her own balletic movements as well as the enhancing effects of CGI.
Bill Nighy totally transformed when he signed on for the second Pirates of the Caribbean film, Dead Man’s Chest. Adding a tentacle-filled beard and heavy pirate gear, CGI turned Nighy into a veritable sea monster as Captain Davy Jones.
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