Brandon Routh plays Superman in the new Superman Returns movie but he isn’t really Superman. Christopher Reeve is Superman, and Reeve was and shall always be, the definitive Superman. Watching Routh stumble his way through the movie makes one long for the deep talent of Christopher Reeve — who was trained at Cornell and Juilliard and he cut his teeth on the live stage — and you wonder how shallow the talent pool must be in Hollywood when a lightweight like Routh is gifted the role of a lifetime. As you can see in the images below one Superman is intense and in the moment and believable while the other is frail, fake and flailing:

Christopher ReeveBrandon Routh

My want for Reeve made me begin to imagine a future where we will create DNA replications of our pets and ourselves. Even sooner than creating Whole Beings out of DNA Whole Cloth we will be able to replicate performances by resurrecting dead actors and placing them on screen via computerized fabrications of their talent and being.

We will then have the best actor for the best part and not the actor that best fits the suit. Through computers we will analyze actor tendencies, facial expressions, vocal intonation and even the essence of the spirit that made them great. New actors will only work if they can match the talent and the ability of those who have already marked the path. The dead actors become the Praetorian Guard against uncouth, untrained new talent. There will be no lack of dead talent for producers to hire.

There will be no egos to massage. There will not be any need to provide on-set perks for mouldering stars. Movie producers will negotiate fees for “re-characterization” of the dead actors with the appropriate estates. If Marlon Brando’s estate fee is too high for re-characterization, then they’ll just saunter over to Humphrey Bogart’s estate to make an even better deal for his services. Soon the performance fees will be determined by the neediest estate and not the best actor for the role.

Power, money and influence always win and the new young actor with talent can undercut the dead competition by offering to work for scale and negotiating away “all future Dead Rights” at a reasonable rate. I fully expect a Constitutional amendment banning whole-body DNA re-creation of dead movie stars who have made movies grossing more than $100 million because money rules Hollywood. Why resurrect what you cannot control? You can easily control a digital being but a cellular one is not so easy to corral and cast in Porky’s Revenge 8.

The future negotiation of Dead Rights will take us back to the Golden Age of Hollywood where actors were owned by their studios for their entire careers with no way out. Studios will once again have a perpetual “farm team” of virtual dead actors in their stable — where only their essence is enslaved and not the body so no Civil Rights will be violated — and the movie studios can turn around and replicate us, their audience, to watch their virtual actors in their virtual movie houses.

Our virtual selves will have to pay real money, though, for that virtual entertainment experience: The dead don’t perform for free! Soon nothing will remain real or dead for long and we’ll all live forever with some sort of pulse-less — yet eerily tangible — essence and it will all be done in the name of entertainment and fortune seeking stardom.


  1. I think a double isn’t the same as the original. There are variations between people that makes one a star and another one not.
    There have been cases of identical twins where one “has it” while the other doesn’t.
    Capturing that “star quality” is the challenge of the producer using Virtual Dead Actors.
    The Dirt Devil commercial came closest but it used existing footage of Astaire and then erased his real surroundings with crass commercialism.

  2. Great post, David!
    This is an interesting topic that will transform itself from the realm of science fiction to reality in the upcoming years.
    If we think that cloning actors to star in Porky’s Revenge 8 or some other silly sequel can never happen, we will be acting like the people who predicted we’d never reach the moon.
    Science marches on.
    It will happen, if people put their minds to it and there is money to be made.
    We need to start thinking about ways to protect our intellectual property rights as it applies to our DNA and possible clones.
    When cloning becomes a reality, just think about all of the fights that will occur in families as sides form for and against exploiting the deceased’s DNA.

  3. Dave —
    Excellent questions! Here are my answers.
    1. You don’t necessarily need to exhume a body to pull DNA. A lock of hair is enough today. Tomorrow a licked envelope may be enough.
    2. I think if there were an effort to re-create Brando for business purposes — every attempt to find a way to train the infant to become the man would be made — but remember I’m saying Brando would never be allowed to be re-made. He would only be a virtual Brando that could be controlled by the studios.
    3. I believe there will one day be a way to extract John Lennon’s DNA from his descendants. Julian Lennon may have his hundred million from his father yet!

  4. Chris!
    Right on!
    Why shouldn’t Anna Nicole Smith’s dead millionaire husband, J. Howard Marshall, be resurrected from the grave by DNA cloning one day?
    Shouldn’t the millions he left behind in his first life still belong to him in his second, third and fourth lives and never to her?
    I believe soon you will be able to take it with you! Can you imagine how many childhood friends a reconstituted Warren Buffett would have growing up?
    Who says your clone has to arrive after you die? Have 12 of them growing all around you. You know Trump will as soon as it’s possible!

  5. Dave —
    Remember my point is the stars will never actually exist in being — they will be forbidden by law from ever living again so the movie studios can create them in “virtual time” for their use forever.
    They will only exist, live and be manipulated in a computer somewhere on a back lot. The only dealing with the family is to purchase the rights to make the movies, not to actually rebuild the person.

  6. I can see Donald Trump saying something like this one of these days:

    I tell you, David, it’s going to be huge (with a silent “h”) when all of the Trump clones are made.
    The world won’t stop talking about all of the Trumps and how they are the most remarkable and successful clones to have ever been created.
    Just think about how happy the world will be when there can be an “Apprentice” show every day of the week featuring each of the clones.
    The Trumps could be everywhere, all the time. It’s going to be huge! Huge!
    I tell you, if it wasn’t unnatural and a little bit on the alternative side, I’d marry my own clone, just like I’d date my own ultra hot daughter, if it wasn’t illegal, creepy and weird.

    Footnote: Here’s the citation for Trump’s joke about wanting to date his daughter.

  7. I love your scenario, Chris!
    It was creepy when Trump said that about his daughter — it was a real ick moment for all of reality TV!

  8. I havent seen the new *Superman* yet – for that very reason – Reeve is Superman.
    Maybe you have stumbled upon the recipie for eternal life here !

  9. Hi Nicola!
    Yeah, the new Superman is anything but Super. Such a disappointment. It’s also sad there’s a whole younger generation that has no idea who Christopher Reeve even is any longer. If they know him, they only know his life in a wheelchair.
    It will be interesting to see if virtual performers ever get enough “self-awareness” to ever be given the same societal standing as their “real” brethern.
    It will be a keen test of the requirements for human rights protections and the tests will likely come in the back-rooms of the internet porno industry where we will horrifyingly disocver Sir Laurence Olivier is “made” to “star” in some kind of “super porno!”

  10. Could virtual stars be a way to break the actors’ unions?
    Why pay a real person when you could create one using a computer?

  11. Chris!
    Yes, Dead Stars will break the unions. In the Actor’s Union isn’t it like 3% of the membership that pays for everything the union does because all the other members are unemployed or not earning enough to contribute?
    I agree: Why pay an ongoing fee when you can buy or borrow a dead performer’s essence for future use?

  12. Yeah. That’s why I love the live theatre, Dave. Each performance is something that can never be recreated the same way again even is the same show is repeated eight shows a week.
    A film is exactly the same now as it was when it was first made 50 years ago.
    The theatre is much more dangerous than movies or television.

  13. I agree.
    No one can replace Christopher Reeves as Superman. Everyone hailed this new actor because he had similar facial features… But that is ALL he has. It wasn’t enough to carry the film.

  14. Hi Clarity!
    Welcome to the blog and thanks for you comment!
    I agree Routh does not have the experience or “depth of gut” to come close to Superman. Nicholas Cage would have been a better Superman even though he’s a bit older. Cage at least has some charisma and verve that fascinates from the screen.

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    When I was a wee lad — perhaps 8 or 9-years-old — I acted in a lot of community theatre plays and musicals.Acting was an opportunity to escape an ordinary life for one of imagination and history and it was…

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