Dear Hollywood, Let’s Nip That “Actors Playing Their Younger Selves” Thing in the Bud, OK?
I know that you guys are all proud of yourselves for creating the technology to slap an actor's younger face on his/her body. I know that Tom Hanks and the creepy Polar Express movie are probably partly to blame.
The fact that what comes out is a cross between a Disney animatronic figure and a Madam Tussauds' wax sculpture worked in Tron: Legacy‘s favor when turning Jeff Bridges into his 1980s-Tron self to create the distance between his older human self and his program Clu. And I'll admit that it was a trip to see Thelma & Louise-era Brad Pitt near the end of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
But actually, it's Pitt who inspired this. His new movie The Tree of Life jumps around in time so much that I half expected to see him play not only Mr. O'Brien as both a young and a middle-aged father, but also to play his own children. However, the casting director Francine Maisler cast three young boys who looked so much like their on-screen parents that they may as well have been the combination of Pitt's sperm and Jessica Chastain‘s eggs. Or at least, their photos on MorphThing.
Tye Sheridan has Chastain's peaches-and-cream complexion, as well as her cheekbones and even the delicate way her character holds herself. Laramie Eppler is a little carbon copy of Pitt, down to the squint and smile (see below). And, as is most fitting, Hunter McCracken — who plays the oldest child, Jack — mixes the elements of his “parents”: Though he has a wideset face that more resembles Chastain's, he shares the Pitt eyes and scowl.
It's the ability to find those small but crucial details that makes for great casting. It's the kind of thing that you see on Kid Casting, which documents the resemblances between actors and the kids hired to play their younger selves in movies, TV, and music videos. It's the attitude that also be applied to “younger self” characters in their teens and 20s.
Instead of recycling existing members of the cast for technical wizardry that's unsettling at best, why not give work to younger, up-and-coming actors? Barring freak lookalikes, the resemblance won't be spot-on to a Pitt or a Bridges, but what makes a “flashback actor” most convincing isn't looks, but how s/he embodies the character in the same (but slightly different) way as his/her older counterpart.