Not to be left behind in any trend-chasing, Hollywood is scrambling after the promise of artificial intelligence. In this case, one movie is banking its premise on the promise of AI-driven deepfake tech.
In a Tuesday release, the AI-centric VFX company Metaphysic said it was partnering with production company Miramax for the upcoming movie Here, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks and Robin Wright. Metaphysic said it was using its AI tool to make “hyperreal AI-generated face replacements and de-ageing into the very fabric of its storytelling.”
Much of the biggest names behind the 1994 feel-good movie Forrest Gump are coming together for this upcoming movie, though it gets even weirder if you know how surreal the source material is. Here was a 6-page comic strip released in 1989 that author Richard McGuire later adapted into a 300-page graphic novel in 2010. The book centers on a single corner of a room in a nondescript house, and its panels detail that same space billions of years ago as well as thousands of years in the future. The panels are not depicted in chronological order, and characters are nothing more than mere snapshots in time.
Metaphysic’s biggest claims to fame have been celebrity deepfakes, such as with actor Miles Fisher who deepfaked Tom Cruise on TikTok using the tech. The company’s live tool was also used to deepfake Simon Cowell, Terry Crews, and Howie Mandel to sing opera up on stage during a 2022 episode of America’s Got Talent. According to the release, the company is taking some of that technology to create “hyperreal AI-generated face replacements and de-aging” into the film.
There’s no such thing as “hyperreal” AI replacement, but this deepfake, face-swapping technology will be used on actors in “real-time” at 30 frames per second. Though the company claimed it doesn’t require any extra VFX work, that by itself is a very implausible claim, and it seems rather counterintuitive since nobody will be watching a “real-time” rendition of Here anyway. The film’s visual effect supervisor, Kevin Baillie, did say actors could use the technology as a “youth mirror” to see how they might appear in the final version.
The actors in Here will repeatedly de-age throughout the film. Zemeckis is quoted in the release saying they tested “every flavor” of de-aging technology and apparently landed on Metaphysic’s AI-based tech. Martin Scorsese’s 2019 three-hour mobsterpalooza film The Irishman used software called Flux to de-age its multiple septuagenarian and octogenarian actors like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. In an interview with Variety, the film’s visual effects lead said the important thing of that software was it didn’t add extra animation or keyframes onto the actors’ performances.
Hanks is 66 years old, while Wright is 56. Even stranger still, Metaphyic is being so enthusiastically represented by Creative Artists Agency, a Los Angeles-based talent agency with a very rough track record in backing the biggest tech of the moment. The company signed on to represent multiple folks deep in the NFT space, including notorious NFT collector 0xb1 back in 2021. The company talked about facilitating partnerships between 0xb1 and “blue-chip brands looking to enter the NFT space.”
Multiple other celebrities and public personas, from Jimmy Fallon, to Ashton Kutcher, to Reese Witherspoon (who is married to an ex-CAA agent), are all represented by or are involved with CAA, and all were big on NFTs when non-fungible tokens were at their height of popularity in 2021.
NFTs have withered in popularity, and some of those public personalities like Fallon have been sued for backing them before their price inevitably plummeted, but CAA has come out in full favor of generative AI. CAA even has an exec whose company title is “chief metaverse officer.” Joanna Popper, the CMO, said in the release “CAA has always been at the forefront of new technological frontiers and we are excited to work with Metaphysic in bringing the most exciting opportunities to our clients and the industry.”
Here is scheduled for release in 2024.