It doesn't really matter if this is true, since it's inevitable that one day either George Lucas, Robert Zemeckis or someone else down the line is going to make a movie starring only dead Golden Age-era movie stars.
In an interview with UK tabloid the Daily Mail, actor/director Mel Smith, who made the disappointing "Radioland Murders" for Lucas, trashes his old boss for using too much CGI, not knowing anything about comedy and a plan to make a movie featuring dead Hollywood actors. Here's what he claims regarding the last of these:
‘He’s been buying up the film rights to dead movie stars in the hope of using computer trickery to put them all together in a movie, so you’d have Orson Welles and Barbara Stanwyck appear alongside today’s stars.’
Could this be true? If so, how would Smith of all people be the only person to know about it? Such a controversial idea would have had to be leaked before this. Anyway, this completely contradicts a statement Lucas made eight years ago at the Cannes Film Festival while promoting "Attack of the Clones":
"It's something we are trying to stop happening, although you can't stop technology and you can't stop change...A computer can duplicate Tom Hanks, for example, and we already use that technology a little for stunts and difficult scenes. But if you bring back Marilyn Monroe, what you would have is a caricature."
A caricature, or simply a performance that simply isn't the actor's, unless you forced a former performance to fit to a new narrative. But that would be very awkward, like the composite work in "Forrest Gump" on a larger scale -- perhaps less gimmicky but definitely more artificial-looking.
So who knows what Smith is talking about, and besides it's possible that the failure of "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," a film very much fitting with the Lucas traditions of serial tributes and green-screen dependency, which featured a villain "played" by the late Laurence Olivier, has put at least one nail into the coffin of this idea. Commercials have long exploited the technology and everyone puts up a big fuss whenever Madison Ave. tries it -- particularly if the dead actor is a little girl who succumbed to disease as a preteen. I bet if "Sky Captain" made hundreds of millions of dollars, though, even if the public outcries continued, Hollywood would be all over the resurrection of dead celebs.
Hmmm, I wonder if a Hollywood-set zombie movie would be the way to go with this. Of course, you could just use look-a-likes and make-up to make that film. No, there's really no circumstance or plot that would really require this to occur. We tend to enjoy seeing current actors portray people like Welles and Stanwyck in cameos in films like "The Aviator," anyway. How would Cate Blanchett have earned an Oscar if Scorsese just digitally inserted the real Katherine Hepburn into that film? Of course, most of the time such portrayals are considered caricatures, as well.
Can you think of any reason why dead actors should be brought back, or any situation in which this would work well?
Update: obviously Lucasfilm has officially denied the story.