Bruce Willis was forced to retire from acting earlier this year after being diagnosed with a language disorder called aphasia, but we may see him on screen for future projects thanks to the use of deepfake technology. Last year, Willis worked with an AI-powered technology firm called Deepcake so his likeness could be used in a commercial without stepping a foot on set.
Engineers at the company used AI technology to create a 4K “digital twin” of Willis by loading 34,000 “image fragments” from movies like Die Hard and Fifth Element into their neural network. That data was then used to superimpose his face onto the face of understudies with “surgical precision.” Though making Willis’ replica was a 14-day process, Deepcake claims their engineers only need “three to five days” to recreate him for new projects.
In August 2021, Willis’ AI twin made his debut when his face was “grafted” onto understudy Konstantin Solovyov so he could “appear” in commercials for the Russian telecom operator MegaFon without even leaving the country. Check out both spots below.
“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,” Willis said in a statement about the experience. “With the advent of modern technology, I could communicate, work and participate in filming, even being on another continent. It’s a brand new and interesting experience for me, and I grateful to our team.”
Shortly after Willis announced his retirement, a Los Angeles Times report revealed he had been exhibiting signs of mental decline for several years, including the inability to recall lines and not being fully aware of his surroundings on set. Despite Willis’ deteriorating condition, he was still in demand for low-budget action films. He still has a few more left in the can including Detective Knight: Redemption, which is due out later this year.
Unsurprisingly, the Star Wars universe has embraced the use of artificial intelligence. Deepfake technology has already been used to de-age actors, and James Earl Jones’ vocal duties as Darth Vader will reportedly be taken over by AI voice technology. Looking toward the future, we’ll have to see how Willis’ “digital twin” gets utilized in projects beyond cell phone advertisements.