The retired actor was able to appear in a Russian commercial without ever stepping on set.
A new report from The Telegraph reveals that Willis has sold the rights to digitally recreate his likeness, allowing the actor to “appear” in film and television projects without ever having to step foot on set. The technical wizardry is handled by Deepcake, a new firm that specializes in creating “digital twins” of prominent celebrities.
While Willis is first major celebrity to sell the rights to his physical appearance in this fashion, the trend of using AI technology to recreate iconic performances is clearly picking up steam. James Earl Jones was recently credited as voicing Darth Vader on “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” but the 91-year-old actor didn’t record any new dialogue for the Disney+ series. Instead, he allowed the show’s producers to digitally recreate his voice and signed over the rights to continue doing so for future “Star Wars” projects.
Deepcake recently put its new technology to the test, allowing Willis to digitally cameo in a commercial for the Russian phone company MegaFon last year. According to the actor, the process went smoothly enough for him to feel comfortable selling his likeness for future digital endeavors.
“I liked the precision with which my character turned out,” Willis said in a statement on Deepcake’s website. “It’s a mini-movie in my usual action-comedy genre. For me, it is a great opportunity to go back in time.”
The actor added: “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.”
While the technology worked for a commercial, where a celebrity’s mere presence is often enough to make an impact, it’s unclear if and when it will be sophisticated enough to work for large scale film and television projects. In the meantime, fans of Willis can look forward to the films he completed before retiring, including “Vendetta,” “Fortress: Sniper’s Eye,” “The Wrong Places,” and “Die Like Lovers.”