In capturing a young, mid-’90s era Samuel L. Jackson for “Captain Marvel,” the team at Lola VFX started by watching his classics of that time: “Jurassic Park,” “Die Hard: With a Vengeance,” and most notably, “Pulp Fiction.”
Even though Quentin Tarantino’s film came out in 1994, just a year before when “Captain Marvel” is set, the de-aged Nick Fury is not based on Jackson’s look as Jules Winnfield, and there’s a good reason why.
“We had to throw out ‘Pulp Fiction’ almost immediately just because of the facial hair,” Trent Claus, the visual effects supervisor at Lola told TheWrap. “It blocked so much of the reference that we needed, it wasn’t very useful.”
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In de-aging Jackson for “Captain Marvel,” the VFX team did away with a body double and looked to his vast library of films as a reference point. They’re looking for the subtleties in how his cheek might sag in certain places, how light reflects off certain points or how weight hangs on his jaw. It’s a meticulous process that even with a reference from many films, still requires a lot of guesswork and understanding of the physiology of the human face and body.
“It’s not as helpful as it might seem,” Claus said. “Even though you have lots of angles, it’s rare you find the exact right position and lighting and all those things.”
Claus says the film that helped their cause the most was the smaller budget thriller “One Eight Seven.” Though Jackson guessed that they would’ve modeled his look from “The Negotiator,” Claus says it was slightly beyond the age they were looking for.
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The year that the movie was released wasn’t the only thing that they took into consideration.
“If you look at his appearance in say, ‘Jurassic Park,’ which was ’93, compared to his appearance in ‘Pulp Fiction,’ he looks older in ‘Jurassic Park’ than he does in ‘Pulp Fiction,’ just because that’s who his character was,” Claus said. “So we had to factor that in as well. Not only what year was it shot, but what was his character supposed to portray?”
Claus said that for someone who is 70 years old, Jackson has “aged very well.” But that doesn’t always make their job easier.
“That can actually be a double-edged sword. Without the standard wrinkles to remove, that’s kind of the low hanging fruit. If we simply just wipe off the wrinkles from someone, that can immediately take 10, 15 years off them,” Klaus said. “But if you’re working with someone like Sam, who really doesn’t have a whole lot of wrinkles, you really have to rely on physiological changes, changes in structure of musculature, textures of skin, the way the weight hangs on your neck and your jaw, things over time that we’ve studied for so many years now.”
Read more about Samuel L. Jackson’s de-aging process on “Captain Marvel” here.