How They De-Aged Robert Downey Jr. in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
The first time we see Tony Stark in Captain America: Civil War, it’s a younger version of himself in his late teens or early 20s. I was floored when I saw this youthful version of Robert Downey Jr. on the big screen. The techniques used to pull this off were virtually flawless. It really looked like a young Robert Downey Jr.!
So how exactly did the creative team at Lola VFX pull this off? Visual Effects Supervisor Trent Claus explained the process in an interview with THR, saying that it all started with Downy Jr.’s performance:
"Instead of completely replacing the actor with a digital double, this method allowed us to retain the actor's performance and nuances. Then we began to adjust the on-set footage of Tony Stark through digital compositing.
“Every feature of the face and body needed to be addressed in some fashion. 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."
As you can see, they really went to great lengths to make sure to get this right. This same effects were attempted in Tron to make Jeff Bridges look younger in the grid, but it didn’t turn out as well as what we saw in Civil War. Claus went on to to talk about the pressure that came along with the task of pulling this off:
"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. 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]."
What they ended up with is incredibly impressive, and the young Downey Jr. looks more lifelike than he does a CGI stand-in. I have to applaud the VFX team for actually pulling it off as awesomely as they did.