While the deepfake of Bruce Willis in a Russian advertisement is generating many reactions, one can wonder about the effects of this technology on the entertainment sector in the long term.
In early October, a lot of information circulated that the actor Bruce Willis had sold the rights to his face to the Deepcake company. Although these rumors have been denied by an official spokesperson for the actor, discussions around deepfake technology continue. How could it be used positively for the entertainment industry in the future and could it negatively impact actors?
American actor Bruce Willis announced his retirement last March after being diagnosed with a speech disorder called aphasia. Information according to which Bruce Willis would have sold the rights of his face was diffused by several media, of which the DailyMail and the Telegram. Although this information is false, it has ignited the public imagination regarding the possibilities offered by the deepfake.
Deepfake technology uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to render realistic videos. So far, this technology has been used to impersonate celebrities or other personalities with surprising accuracy. Bruce Willis had previously worked with the Deepcake company on a deepfake project, an advertisement for the Russian telecommunications company Megafon.
The commercial was shot and aired in 2021 and Bruce Willis’ face was superimposed on that of a Russian actor using deepfake technology.
Russian firm Deepcake used an authorized deepfake of the Bruce Willis in the commercial for telecoms company Megafon. The company uses an artificial neural network to impose Willis’ image onto the face of a Russian actor pic.twitter.com/7bizoLsk2S
— Reuters (@Reuters) September 22, 2021
The production team of the commercial, through Deepcake, had to collect numerous documents from Bruce Willis and his consent to use his image. A statement from Deepcake sheds some light on the controversy surrounding the ad: “Bruce couldn’t sell any rights to anyone, they are his by default.”
This implies that Bruce Willis could not sell his rights even if he wanted to, however, his participation in Russian advertising implies the opposite. Maybe not long term, but it could certainly be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
If only certain materials were missing for Bruce Willis to be reproduced so accurately, anyone could be deepfake with the necessary records. For those in the spotlight, most of these materials are already in the public domain.
Some organizations have stated that this technology will affect actors’ earnings and that they may even be deprived of their voice and/or face. Anyway, the sector is booming.
Deepfake technology was used to James Earl Jones, recently retired Darth Vader actor. His voice as Vader may continue to thrive and was recently used on the show Obi-Wan Kenobi from Disney by a company called Respeecher. His voice has even been rejuvenated and adapted to the period during which the series takes place.
The development of this technology challenges copyrights. Could estates that represent deceased celebrities position themselves? Is it ethical to do so? Deceased musicians continue to release titles. Michael Jackson, Pop Smoke and Tupac are notable examples. Even though they recorded the vocals, does that mean they wanted the tracks released? Launching a new project using their likeness is potentially even more controversial, as it’s something they can’t directly control.
The situation of Bruce Willis is much more unique since he can decide on the projects to which he wishes to lend his name and his image. Could we see another level of performance in the future with actors playing actors playing characters?
The continued development of the deepfake will certainly be something to watch, as another perspective is that the characters could live independently of what happens to an actor. Schedule conflicts could be a thing of the past. The death of Chadwick Boseman is a good example. It is clear that no one wanted to replace the actor, but it was essential that the main character of Black Panther continues, as Disney decided to pursue a storyline after T’Challa’s death.
During an interview with Empirethe head of Marvel, Kevin Feigesaid on this subject: “I had the impression that it was much too early to redo a casting”.
“Stan Lee has always said that Marvel represents the world behind your window. And we talked about how, as amazing and fantastic as our characters and our stories are, there’s a human element to everything we do. The world is still digesting the loss of Chad. And Ryan made that history,” Kevin Feige said.
There’s a lot to be said for ethics and process, but there’s certainly potential for massive disruption using deepfake technology.
Article translated from Forbes US – Author: Josh Wilson
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