Taking place nearly 25 years into the Marvel Cinematic Universe's relative past, Captain Marvel included Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury appearing visibly younger than when audiences first saw the super-spy in 2008's Iron Man, de-aged by VFX studio Lola Visual Effects.
While Marvel Studios had de-aged characters before, including Robert Downey Jr. in Captain America: Civil War and Michael Douglas in Ant-Man, this process was improved upon for Captain Marvel, as the younger incarnation of Nick Fury was a main character rather than only appearing in a small role like his predecessors. To streamline the process, Lola eschewed the common practice of relying on a body double to stand in for the actor and instead digitally altered Jackson himself, drastically reducing the amount of time needed to accomplish the effect throughout the film.
"One of the big gains was Lola 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," Visual Effects Supervisor Chris Townshend told TheWrap. "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."
Using images from Jackson's appearances in various '90s films as reference, the production team went frame-by-frame to digitally de-age the actor, with dozens of artists working together seamlessly to complete the task.
"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," Townshend continued. "It really comes down to the artistry of the person sitting there and trying to maintain as much of the original performance as possible.”
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Captain Marvel stars Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Jude Law as Yon-Rogg, Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson, Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser, Djimon Hounsou as Korath the Pursuer, Gemma Chan as Minn-Erva, Ben Mendelsohn as Talos, Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau, Algenis Perez Soto as Att-Lass, McKenna Grace as a young Carol Danvers and Annette Bening as the Supreme Intelligence. The movie is in theaters now.