In March 2022 Bruce Willis announced his retirement. The ‘Die Hard’ star revealed he was suffering from aphasia, a speech disorder caused by a brain injury, prompting the 67-year-old to decide to quit the film business. Even though the action icon won’t put herself in front of the camera anymore, he could still appear in future Hollywood movies, as a deepfake. Bruce Willis has sold the image rights to his face to the company Deepcake, which specializes in making digital copies of celebrities, which are then to be used in commercials or even major Hollywood productions.
The Russian mobile and internet provider MegaFon already used this service and in August 2021 published a commercial with Bruce Willis’ deepfake copy.
A deepfake is media content, whether photos, audio or video files, which is modified with the help of artificial intelligence in such a way that it gives the impression that a completely different person is seeing or hearing it. Usually, the face of a famous person is transferred to the body of another person. In the video, it then appears as if the celebrity was actually in front of the camera, with his or her appearance recreated using complex computer algorithms and then placed over the real face like a kind of digital mask. This is also the case with the commercial above.
The person who looks like Bruce Willis in the video is actually a placeholder actor. The Bruce Willis clone developed by the Deepcake company was only inserted in post-processing. This was created by the algorithm analyzing 34,000 images of the Hollywood star, reports the online magazine specializing in marketing topics the drums.
“The neural network was fed content from Die Hard and The Fifth Element. That’s why my character looks similar to the pictures of that time,” Bruce Willis commented on the website deep cake. Based on this, the software can now derive how the action star would look from different camera angles and in different lighting conditions and thus create a realistic copy.
This technology could theoretically be used in the future to at least let the face of the action icon appear in brand new films, and without the actor having to lift a finger. Apparently there are no concrete plans yet, but in an interview with Reuters, Deepcake CEO Maria Chmir said that there will probably be a division in filmmaking in the future: productions with digital copies and those with living, “protein-based” actors.
The only question is whether the audience would really accept this. It’s still hard to imagine as of now, but other technologies that were initially viewed with skepticism have also made the leap into the mainstream. Or who would have thought ten years ago that we would see a young (!) Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker again? But that too became an (artificial) reality. Artificially rejuvenating actors using CGI has become a Hollywood standard. Maybe in a few years deepfakes will become the new normal. That would be a bit scary though…