In an interview with Wired, Keanu Reeves spoke out against the use of deepfake technology in film, citing concerns over the potential for manipulation and distortion of an actor’s performance. Reeves’ stance on the matter is notable not just for his stature as a prominent Hollywood figure, but also for his proactive steps to ensure that his image cannot be digitally altered without his permission.
In his most recent film, the contract included a clause that prohibited the use of deepfake technology to manipulate his likeness in post-production. This is quite significant. That’s because Reeves is both very well-known and popular in the industry which could see other actors follow suit. He explains his stance, “Yeah, digitally. I don’t mind if someone takes a blink out during an edit…But early on, in the early 2000s, or it might have been the ’90s, I had a performance changed. They added a tear to my face, and I was just like, ‘Huh?!’ It was like, I don’t even have to be here.”
Continuing, he expanded on his views, “What’s frustrating about that is you lose your agency,…When you give a performance in a film, you know you’re going to be edited, but you’re participating in that. If you go into deepfake land, it has none of your points of view. That’s scary. It’s going to be interesting to see how humans deal with these technologies. They’re having such cultural, sociological impacts, and the species is being studied. There’s so much ‘data’ on behaviors now.”
As was reported last week, Harrison Ford for the upcoming fifth installment of the Indiana Jones film series has gone the other direction, using the technology as a development tool. So far, deepfake technology has been used to bring back dead actors, and currently, preserve iconic voices for future productions. So it’s of no surprise that the pendulum might swing in the other direction, as seen in the case of Keanu Reeves. The move could also spark up a much-needed conversation when it comes to responsible AI within the film industry and the ethical implications of its use.
For the actor, he has more concerns about AI, than movies. “People are growing up with these tools: We’re listening to music already that’s made by AI in the style of Nirvana, there’s NFT digital art,…It’s cool, like, Look what the cute machines can make! But there’s a corporatocracy behind it that’s looking to control those things. Culturally, socially, we’re gonna be confronted by the value of real, or the non-value. And then what’s going to be pushed on us? What’s going to be presented to us?”
To Reeve’s point, the reality is, AI is advancing rapidly. It hasn’t only captured the public’s imagination, but is already shaking the foundations of many industries. In the case of deepfakes, a causal Google or YouTube search will find dozens, if not hundreds, of examples of deepfake videos. Most viewers wouldn’t be able to tell, they weren’t created by AI if present without the knowledge of its origins. The reality is, it is startlingly how realistic the videos have become, and it seems that for Reeves, it’s a concerning prospect.
One of the most popular examples is the following of legendary actor, Morgan Freeman:
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