The actor calls the technology “a great opportunity to go back in time.”
Action movie legend Bruce Willis has just become the first Hollywood actor to sell his rights to the possibility of a “digital twin” to the US firm Deepcake, according to The Telegraph. With the use of deepfake technology, Willis has offered his likeness to be used onscreen for future projects, following his first experience with the digital media manipulation in a commercial for Russian phone service, MegaFon, last year.
Deepfake technology allows for the use of a person’s likeness to be superimposed over another individual. Through the use of machine learning and AI, it’s possible to create a visual and audio “twin” of someone in videos. Though the ability to recreate someone so nearly-flawlessly does raise a few ethical questions, the technology has already been utilized within the Star Wars universe with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, as well as The Mandalorian Season 2. In 2021, Willis gave permission to Deepcake in order to appear in a commercial, allowing his face to be “digitally transplanted onto another performer.” Now, the actor has officially sold the rights to his likeness to be essentially “hired” by Deepcake for future productions.
Recently, the 67-year-old actor went public with his diagnosis of aphasia, which is described as a language disorder that causes issues with reading, listening, and speaking. He and his family made an announcement in March that Willis would be “stepping away” from acting after over four decades of films, which was no easy decision for the star. With the use of deepfake technology, Willis was able to make a cameo in a Russian commercial only last year without ever stepping foot on a set. On his experience with Deepcake, Willis said:
“I liked the precision with which my character turned out. It’s a mini-movie in my usual action-comedy genre. For me, it is a great opportunity to go back in time.
With the advent of modern technology, even when I was on another continent, I was able to communicate, work and participate in the filming. It’s a very new and interesting experience, and I thank our entire team.”
Since the ’80s, Willis has been one of Hollywood’s archetypal titans for the Action Movie. It was his role as Detective John McClane in the holiday thriller Die Hard that put Willis on the map as a perpetually scowling action hero. Due to its box office success and instant classic status, McClane became the star of a franchise, while Willis went on to garner fame as a typically cynical and wise-cracking good guy in films like Armageddon, The Fifth Element, and Sin City. On occasion, he took on roles that poked fun at his rough persona, recurring as a cheeky heartthrob in the sitcom Friends as well as Malcolm Crowe in M. Night Shyamalan’s iconic horror Sixth Sense.
The company Deepcake offers its services for a portion of the fee necessary to have a star, like Willis, featured in a production. With this technology, the ability to see stars in roles after they’ve died can become a reality, which is a little hair-raising in its infancy but isn’t unheard of. Deepfake can be used to de-age actors, as well as bring back old Hollywood stars. The company suggests deepfakes allow production teams a sort of convenience, removing the hassle of scheduling conflicts, travel expenses insurance, and more.
While all advancements have the potential to be used nefariously, there’s no denying deepfake technology offers an intriguing solution to the future of television and movies. Willis may be the first of many celebrities willing to have their legacies live on. You can watch the behind-the-scenes of the commercial to see how Willis’ deepfake was put into action below: