As far as the new blockbuster Gemini Man is concerned, the technical innovations necessary to pit 2019 Will Smith against Fresh Prince-era Will Smith sound as much like science fiction as the cloning processes that bring near-future assassin Henry Brogan’s twenty-something self back to life with a mission to kill. Asking Smith to deliver double the charisma was the easy part.
Gemini Man, helmed by the cutting edge director Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Life of Pi), did not employ a de-aging technique like audiences saw in Captain Marvel earlier this year. Instead, Weta (the Lord of the Rings trilogy) built the movie’s clone costar from the ground up out of reference footage from Fresh Prince and Bad Boys. Smith basically shot the entire movie twice — once on set, once on a performance-capture stage — to breathe life into the effect.
“The term ‘de-aging’ usually refers to shooting the actor on set using makeup and then there’s a post-[production] process on top of that to smooth out wrinkles, thin the face, possibly graft in a couple of photographed skin pieces from a double,” visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer told the LA Times in August. “Whereas we are creating from whole cloth a fully digital human. In our nerdy world, the latter is a lot more difficult.”
The payoff sounds like a dream for the Independence Day and Men in Black star, who, in Polygon’s exclusive clip from the film (above), smacks down his double with patented Smith banter. Why was unleashing a clone the most efficient way to kill the DNA provider?
“I’m the best,” says young Henry.
“You’re obviously not the best,” present-day Henry snaps back.
While trailers for Gemini Man sell the visual effect on the back of Will-vs.-Will shootouts, this week’s new clip juxtaposes our mortal hero and his digital clone with room to breathe. Knowing the cat-and-mouse thriller comes from Lee, who’s jumped from tentpole spectacles to character-first dramas like The Ice Storm, Sense and Sensibility, and Brokeback Mountain — the movie that won him his first directing Academy Award — the chance to see Smith take a talkier moment to interrogate himself is as big a promise for the finished product as any motorcycle chase.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, and Benedict Wong round out the cast alongside Smith and his clone. Gemini Man opens in theaters Oct. 11. For an expansive look at movies coming out over 2019’s final stretch, read Polygon’s fall entertainment guide.