The VFX techniques that were used to create a youthful Tony Stark are now being routinely used to give actors what amounts to digital face-lifts.
Robert Downey Jr. returns as present-day Tony Stark in Disney and Marvel's Captain America: Civil War. but Downey fans can expect to feel a surge of nostalgia when, in one flashback, he appears onscreen looking very much as he did in films from the '80s, like 1987's Less Than Zero .
The teenage Tony Stark was created by artists at Lola VFX using the latest digital tricks. The company has earned a reputation for such work, having also "de-aged" Brad Pitt's title character in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (a film that won an Oscar for its visual effects). Marvel also employed the facility to create a younger version of Michael Douglas in last summer's Ant-Man.
For the scene in Civil War, the process started during production with Downey performing the scene. "Instead of completely replacing the actor with a digital double, this method allowed us to retain the actor's performance and nuances," Trent Claus, visual effects supervisor at Lola VFX, tells The Hollywood Reporter. " Then we began to adjust the on-set footage of Tony Stark through digital compositing."
That process is akin to using Photoshop on a still image. Says Claus: "It is a similar process to Photoshop that uses some similar tools, but unlike Photoshop which is done on a single image, we have 24 frames per second of footage.
"Every feature of the face and body needed to be addressed in some fashion," he says of the work that went into creating the youthful Tony. "One thing that happens to all of us is that the skin of the face gradually lowers in certain areas, and needs to be 'lifted' back to where it was at the age in question. But other changes are incredibly subtle, such as increase in the way light reflects off the sheen of the skin, a reduction in the appearance of tiny blood vessels under the surface of some parts of the face, or more blood flow in the cheeks giving them that familiar youthful 'glow.' "
De-aging a character by a span of 25-30 years can affect skin texture and complexion and can involve characteristics such as bone structure or posture, Claus explains. "Additionally, when working with the appearance of a well-known actor such as Robert Downey Jr. there is the added pressure of living up to the youthful appearance that audiences remember," he says. "In this case, we analyzed footage of Mr. Downey at the approximate age that we wanted to target, which was around the time of the film Less Than Zero [when Downey was in his early 20s]."
The particular shot was also challenging because of its length and because it involved a close-up. Says Claus: "The shot was nearly 4,000 frames long, with Tony Stark turning from one side to the other multiple times, physically interacting with other actors, and the set itself, and moving closer to the camera for a very long, uninterrupted close-up."
Claus and other VFX pros are increasingly being asked to employ such digital tricks. "Creatives are finding more and more uses for it. It allow actors to play earlier versions of themselves," says Eric Barba, who was at Digital Domain when he served as the Oscar-winning VFX supervisor of Benjamin Button and who currently works at Industrial Light & Magic in Vancouver.
But such digital work isn't being used only to allow an actor to play a character decades young than himself. There's also what's called "beauty" work — in effect, providing actors with digital facelifts — a practice many in Hollywood would prefer to keep secret. "The not-so-obvious examples are probably under confidentiality," says Barba. "There are certain stars that you are not allowed to talk about when that type of work is done — maybe slimming a little bit or cleaning up some imperfections."
"It's much more common than anyone realizes; this is the extension of what's done for magazine covers," says research professor Paul Debevec, who leads the Graphics Lab at the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies.
As digital technology has become more affordable, "if it's a major actor, you can do that for every frame of a film," adds Debevec, who also co-chairs the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' SciTech Council. "Of course one of the worries is that actors are going to have this Dorian Gray problem because the image that we have of them in the films is going to diverge further and further from the way that they look in real life. So they are going to have more trouble on the talk shows and on the red carpet, until those too can be touched up in real time with a yet-to-be invented technology."
It's not just about freshening up a face either. VFX techniques can also be used to create everything up to a full digital double of an actor. Those tend to be created for safety reasons, where a stunt would be either dangerous or simply impossible; or in the delicate situation of the death of an actor. Weta Digital undertook the task of completing Paul Walker's performance in 2015's Furious 7 after his unexpected death.
"That's a whole other level of complexity," Debevec explains. "It's not a matter of digital makeup but actually re-creating a digital version of the person that is three-dimensional, animate-able and relight-able. [In these instances], if you can base it on facial scans, that's the best thing to do."
USC's ICT has developed a light-stage system (a sphere of hundreds of LED lights that's used to create a high-res, 3D scan) that has already been used to scan actors for films from Avatar to Gravity — Downey himself underwent such a scan when it looked as if he would be starring in Gravity. "We first scanned him for Gravity [before George Clooney was recast as Matt Kowalski], and the scan ended up getting used in Iron Man movies instead," says Debevec.
ILM is using a facial-capture system called Medusa, which was developed by Disney Research in Zurich. "We have been putting it to use in production and helping them advance it," says Barba.
Some productions now create 3D scans of lead actors as a matter of course. Explained VFX supervisor Scott Squires in a previous interview with THR. "If there's any inkling that you might need a scan, they scan the actor at the start of production. I've also heard of certain studios having actors scanned just as an archival thing."
There are some plot problems, but not based on the assumption that Tony Stark was born when Captain America was frozen in ice. In the movies, we don't know Maria Stark's age when she had Tony; in fact we don't see her at all.
But we do know the following:
In the first Iron Man movie, we learn from a newspaper clip that at age 17, Tony lost both of his parents in a car accident. The date of the newspaper is December 17, 1991. That would place Tony's birth around 1974.
However, in Iron Man 2. Tony is looking at some old film footage of his father. The film is dated 9-15-73. Yet later we see a young Tony Stark playing in the background. He appears to be between 5-6 years old. This would put Tony's birthdate maybe around 1968.
So there is a bit of a problem as to when Tony Stark was born with these movie screens, but Tony Stark's birthdate is in the 1968-1974 range, which puts his age at the start of the MCU between his very late 30s and early 40s, which seems to be about right.
World War II took place between 1939-1945. In Captain America: The First Avenger. Howard Stark appears to be in his 20s. So he would be in his early 50s when he had Tony. He also looks that age in the Iron Man 2 old film footage. At his death in 1991, he would be about 70. This all seems about right considering how Robert Downey Jr. looks and portrays Tony Stark in the movies. And again we don't know Maria Stark's age, so she could have been much younger than Howard Stark.
To answer your question, the timeline of ages is about right, despite not having Tony Stark's real birth year.
answered Jul 21 '12 at 10:05
@spong Take a look at Shisa's answer below, with files from the films, and you can see that you made one wrong assumption (that the newspaper referring to Starks graduation from MIT at 17 means he is still 17 now), and that pushed your dates off slightly. Other than Tony looking pretty old for a 3 year old in his fathers film clip, the dates actually match up. – Dr R Dizzle Dec 31 '14 at 15:10
This is an issue that the films inherited from the comics. In the comics, some of the characters have been in use for half a century or more. To avoid having everyone get old over that time, Marvel uses a sliding timescale. So Tony Stark is perpetually an adult in the currently-published comics, even though this has been the case for decades. The timescale breaks down when you have fixed reference points in this timescale.
World War II is one of those reference points. The in-universe importance of Captain America, and the wealth of fiction that has been written around him causes issues. In the real world, WWII was
70 years ago and increasing. So a character who in the 60's was written to be a child of someone who is linked to WWII, it makes perfect sense at the time. But over the decades, that link to WWII makes less and less sense in the real world, as the character from the 60's has their personal timeline dragged into the future while the WWII link is perpetually fixed to the real life WWII.
This is what happened with Tony and Howard Stark. Tony's the child of Howard, and this was established decades ago. In Tony's personal history, his accident that resulted in him creating the first Iron Man suit has been updated over the years :
Writers have updated the war and locale in which Stark is injured. In the original 1963 story, it was the Vietnam War. In the 1990s, it was updated to be the first Gulf War, and later updated again to be the war in Afghanistan. However, Stark's time with the Asian Nobel Prize-winning scientist Ho Yinsen is consistent through nearly all incarnations of the Iron Man origin, depicting Stark and Yinsen building the original armor together.
However, they haven't altered the father-son relationship of Howard and Tony. They could have brought Howard forward in time, have him be a government defense contractor during the Cold War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, etc. But doing so means he would no longer be linked to Captain America's origins. Alternatively, they could retcon him into being Tony's grandfather, and introduce a new father for Tony. Rather than alter continuity in some fashion to fix this, Marvel's let the issue fester.
answered Jul 21 '12 at 16:41
Adding more concrete date sources to spoog's answer.
Which makes Howard 53 years old at time of Tony's birth, which is completely biologically possible and narratively probable given his age in the video from 1974 as shown in IM2, when Tony would be around 4.
This also puts Howard as 74 and Tony as 21 at time of the Stark Srs' deaths on 17 Dec 1991. Tony's age being 21 at time of this event is corroborated by props from IM1.
This article from IM only says that Howard's son graduated MIT when he was 17, which implies that he is older than 17 at this point.
And this article explicitly puts Tony as 21 (in the 3rd column) at time of Howard's death.
So yes, Tony and Howard's ages are completely internally consistent.
It is not actually true that men do not decline in fertility. if fact they do. it becomes more and more difficult as they get older. by the time Howard was fifty ( and if her were trying to father a child ) it would take an average of 12+ months. I was curious so I looked at some men's health sites to see if there was a decline. as for women they on average go through menopause at 51 years of age. Since Howard Stark was portrayed as a player this last bit is more or less unimportant. Maria could have been much younger. Please note that the chances of a woman getting pregnant decreases significantly after the age of 30 with an increasing number of birth defects. these taken together mean that Tony Stark was fairly close to being a miracle baby.
answered Jan 7 '15 at 5:12
According to me, it's a great deal to find his real age. But to find this I had read several article and blog post of people about it. Many have claimed that he belongs to a different planet, so he is forever young like the Asgardian Avenger, Thor.
As we all know, when Captain America wakes up after 70 years, he is as young as Thor. All the Avengers had visited different planets with Thor, and that's why they are ageless forever young people. That's why they are showing the same age of Tony Stark.
I also think that like the shapeshifters can change, he can also change his age. So now Tony Stark is in his thirties or maybe in histwenties. After all, he is a great person and the centre of attention everywhere. He is wise, hardworking and knows how to handle all the limelight.
I think that the same case was with his father. I mean not exactly the same, but almost the same, because when he become the father of a child. he was 50. That's weird. Maybe this is the cause of their inventions as they both are great inventors. We know about Tony's breakdown when his whole nervous system was under the control of his ex/former-lover (I forget her name). He has rebuilt it again, so I think he also done something for his age after at all his assets has gone through several breakdowns and he has rebuilt it.
So according to me, he is forever young.
answered Mar 18 '15 at 4:32
"MANY HAVE CLAIMED THAT HE BELONGS TO A DIFFERENT PANET SO HE IS FOREVER YOUNG LIKE THE ASGARDIAN AVENGER THOR." I've never heard this theory before. – phantom42 Mar 18 '15 at 4:47
Also. Check your keyboard. Your caps-lock and shift keys seem to be broken. – phantom42 Mar 18 '15 at 4:51
But also a man can become a father at really any age after puberty. I mean a woman's eggs kinda go bad around 35 or 40 but a man can father healthy children up til his seventies and beyond. So the mere fact that Howard was in his 50's doesn't really matter.
In all the recent DC excitement over the new trailers and promos for the upcoming [Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice](tag:711870), and the slightly further off in the distance Suicide Squad, it's easy to forget that Captain America: CivilWar isn't far over the horizon now either.
We're just as excited about getting to see the tension point of Phrase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe coming to a head as we are watching Batman and Superman slugging out it; cause Civil War has it's own titanic showdown in the form of Iron Man / Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) taking on his teammate Captain America / Steve Rogers (Chris Evans).
But, as the title reminds us, this isn't an Avengers film. It's a Captain America film (Iron Man v Captain America doesn't really have the same ring to it, does it?). And the first official trailer dropped recently and reminded us why: this ain't really about Iron Man, it's more to do with the Winter Soldier / Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) .
Directing-duo the Russo Brothers intended for [Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409) to act as a follow on to The Winter Soldier, not Avengers: Age of Ultron or even Iron Man 3. But just cause Tony Stark isn't front and centre doesn't mean he's not pretty gosh darn important in the Civil War narrative.
Those of us who have read the polarizing comic book arc from which the film takes its source are well aware of Tony's motivations; his guilt over the Stamford Incident and a confrontation he has with a grieving mother whose son was one of 60 children killed in the event.
In the comics it makes sense for Tony to take the pro-registration side because of the responsibility he feels over the death of so many civilians, and it's repeatedly shown throughout Civil War how conflicted he is about turning against his fellow heroes.
And of course the MCU equivalent of the Stamford Incident has already happened; the Battle of Sokovia which occurred during [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](tag:293035). Hence why the Accords handed down to restrict The Avengers in Civil War are dubbed the "Sokovia Accords".
It was Tony's recklessness which led to the creation of Ultron (James Spader) and all the death and destruction he wreaked upon the world, and unlike Iron Man 2 there's no way he's going to be able to wriggle out of this one, because the guilt lives within his mind.
"[Tony Stark] now has a guilty complex and the guilt drives him to make very specific decisions. Tony has a very legitimate argument in the movie that’s a very adult point of view, about culpability, about the Avengers’ responsibility to the world, and the world’s right to have some sort of control over the Avengers. It’s a very complicated emotional arc for Tony Stark in this movie." Tony sees Steve die, his shield cracked
And he terrified of failing his team, as we see in his Scarlet Witch induced vision during Age of Ultron when de-facto team leader Steve accuses him of failing to save them.
This fear, and fear of the unknown, is what lead to the creation of Ultron in the first place. Seeing as that all went tits up the paranoia and guilt will only have been growing within him ever since, leading to his side taking in Civil War.
The original Tony Stark isn't too far from the one we've seen in the comic books, at least in terms of his playboy personality, genius and quick wit. But one thing the films do downplay is his PTSD and alcoholism; a big part of his internal character struggle (see 1979's Demon in a Bottle if you haven't already).
Though we saw Tony fighting with these demons during Iron Man 2, and the PTSD issue was touched upon briefly in Iron Man 3. they've not really been explored in too much depth. Another issue that's been raised since the trailer dropped involves the following exchange between Tony and Steve:
The breaking apart of the Steve / Tony relationship is central to Civil War in the comics because at this point they are close friends, but we've not seen as much of this in The Avengers films. By the time Age of Ultron rolls around they've found a middle ground of sorts, settling into the teammates spectrum, arguments turned playful rather than malicious. but real friendship? There's not much meat behind that particular argument.
Because of Tony's inherent dysfunctions it's been posited that he has a different concept of friendship from Steve. Whilst Steve stands with his best friend of many years, Tony is an isolated genius who is "unfamiliar with functional human relationships".
He's got a bag of Daddy Issues stemming from both the emotional distancing of his actual father and the betrayal by surrogate father figure Obadiah Stane in Iron Man, so it's possible that he's projecting these issues onto Steve's perceived betrayal in Civil War.
Of course there's still a lot of narrative and canonical time needing bridged between The Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron and Civil War, and likely we'll see this particular issue being clarified some more when Civil War rolls around in a few months.
Hopefully they'll make Tony's motivations less oblique in order to properly set up the conflict, but in the meantime it always helps to look a little deeper at the particulars of Tony's state of mind and how it's changed over the last few films.
One thing is for sure, it's gonna be a pretty intense showdown when Captain America: Civil War lands in the US on May 6, 2016. Check out the trailer below!
A scene featuring a CGI version of a young Robert Downey Jr. in "Captain America: Civil War" got its inspiration from several 1980s movies that the actor also starred in. (Photo. Marvel)
In Captain America: Civil War . one scene shows a young Tony Stark in a pivotal moment with his father, which eventually plays into the movie's story.
But exactly how did the special effects team of Civil War create that?
They watched movies from the 1980s, particularly several that starred a younger Robert Downey Jr.
The movies they paid the most attention to were Weird Science, Less Than Zero and Back To School, which all featured the actor.
"We went a little closer to [his look in] Less Than Zero ," visual effects supervisor Dan DeLeeuw said to The Wrap. "No one wanted the spikey hair from Weird Science like I did!"
Although the scene in Civil War only lasts 3 minutes on screen, it consists of a whopping 4,000 frames. Even more challenging is that the older Stark appears with the hologram of his younger self, together on film at the same time.
For that scene, the production used two doubles: one for adult Stark and one for the young Stark. Downey, though, played both parts, opposite each double, with his younger version requiring motion capture equipment attached to his face. He had to mimic the performances of the stand-ins for both doubles, too, which at one point, also meant shaving off Stark's mustache and goatee to stand in for his younger self.
Here's a photo of Downey in Less Than Zero :
Fortunately, Downey has a long history of movies and was in the business when he was about the age the younger Stark is in the hologram that viewers see in Civil War. So mostly using footage from him in Less Than Zero. the effects artists did several passes of his younger face over his older face until they got it just right.
"Each pass is sculpting in a way," said DeLeeuw. "Pulling off material, pulling off age. When it feels right, you go back and clean it up."
The result looks pretty impressive in the final product, Captain America: Civil War, which is playing in theaters now.