I do sometimes think that people have their idea of what the actor looks like in their heads, without them actually studying stills. People still rate the SSC TOD Indy sculpt, I think it's dire! Sometimes it's like HT split the difference and hope for the best, then their loyal followers dutifully do the rest.
When they want to they can produce perfection, their Don Corleone still holds up today. They nail Johnny Depp and Robert Downey Jnr. I guess some of us have a better eye than others for what constitutes a great likeness.
I can attest to this, though I understand that people see what they want to see. As a kid who was always in to illustration and art, my focus was primarily on people. Growing up it was my goal to become a comic book writer and illustrator, and I pretty much kept that goal most of my adult life. After my short military run, and in between doing a few dangerous jobs, I even went to two different Art Schools (but ultimately changed my Major to English). In that time, my skill as an illustrator, was constantly practiced and honed. My point is not to brag about how great I am at drawing people, but that it takes a great deal of work to be able to analyze and pick apart the tiniest of details, develop a close relation of eye/hand coordination, and be able to isolate tiny sections of an individual’s face like a puzzle, focus on each piece, the negative space (ie, the overall shape of a thing, or the shape around the thing rather than the thing itself), and to be able to recreate that thing in 2D. Art is a skill, like any skill, that requires years, decades, of never-ending practice (something that I have sadly not done in a very long time), but what was learned through decades of ocular analysis can never be undone (unless one goes blind, of course). Most folks who are excellent at recreating a person’s likeness have an uncanny knack of finding the imperfections in a person’s face (and most people have them) than what makes someone attractive.
I brought up Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and old Alec Guinness before, because those guys never seem to get done right. Ford was a ruggedly handsome guy when he was younger, but far from perfect (hence “rugged” — he has a slightly crooked nose and mouth, and a scar on his chin; his features are not symmetrical — and the overall shape of his face changed from softer, rounder in SW to more chiseled by Empire). Though HT often get the scar, they make his features too symmetrical. They did pretty much the same thing to Hamill with their ROTJ
sculpt. Hamill’s face was more symmetrical when he was in Star Wars, but it was far from it by the time of Jedi.
Ever notice why models (particularly Super Models) are considered Beautiful or Gorgeous...? And why it is often hard for less-skilled people to capture their likeness completely...? It’s because they have nearly perfect symmetrical faces, yet there is still something (there always is) that is just a little different from one side of the face to the other. An interesting technique I learned in school was to cover up one side of a person’s face that is looking straight ahead in a photograph, place a sheet of tracing paper over it and trace over all the details of the exposed side (making sure to lightly trace the line of the paper covering the other side). When finished, remove the covering paper and fold the tracing paper in half along the line running down the middle, then retrace the features that were previously drawn. When you unfold the tracing paper and place it onto a white sheet of paper you will have a complete face — but it won’t look much like the person it is supposed to be. This is what is wrong with HT’s Jedi Hamill — (it is also why the majority of their female sculpts never quite look like the person they are supposed to); it’s as if they looked at one side of the face where he wasn’t as badly damaged, and then flipped it for the other side (after all, he’s the hero — he SHOULD be good looking, or at least cute — like he was in New Hope — but he wasn’t all that cute by Jedi; I remember as a kid how jarring of a difference there was even from SW to Empire — by the time of Jedi, I thought maybe he’d been in another car accident).
Try that technique on a photograph of yourself and you’ll see what I mean. I actually thought the prototype of Hamill that SS made, while still not a perfect likeness, was a lot closer than HT’s prototype. Sadly, production, as is nearly always the case with SS, killed most of what was close. HT’s drop off in production is considerably less in most cases (though their Black Panther 2.0 Bozeman was fairly bad from proto to final), but it’s very, very idealized; it’s the old, the mind not believing what the eyes are telling it sort of thing.
If anyone made it through all of that, congratulations!