Legendary Die Hard star Bruce Willis denies that he sold his rights to his likeness to Deepcake, a deepfake company.
Earlier in the week, news exploded on the internet that Bruce Willis sold his likeness for future use. This would have been a new precedent for a popular and living celebrity to sign away their exclusive rights to their likeness. Deepfakes are becoming commonplace to digitally emulate celebrities, but rarely in an officially licensed and commercial capacity.
But it seems this news has been debunked. Did Bruce Willis really sell his likeness to Deepcake? Read on below for the facts.
Back in August 2021, Bruce Willis was reported to be working with Deepcake to produce an advertisement for Russian telecom Megafon.
Russian firm Deepcake used an authorized deepfake of the Bruce Willis in the commercial for telecoms company Megafon. The company uses an artificial neural network to impose Willis' image onto the face of a Russian actor pic.twitter.com/7bizoLsk2S
— Reuters (@Reuters) September 22, 2021
The technology used for his deepfake twin was very convincing and Willis was apparently impressed by the technology:
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.
Willis continued by stating that the technology recreated his younger features, as he appeared in Die Hard and The Fifth Element.
This would not be the first time Bruce Willis has worked with a tech company to create his digital presence. Back in 1998, Willis provided his voice, features, and motion capture for the Playstation game Apocalypse, published by Activision and developed by Neversoft.
However, the representatives of the world-famous actor has denied this sale of his digital likeness to any company. The BBC reports that Willis’s spokesperson confirmed there was no partnership or agreement with the company. A Deepcake representative has also stated that only Bruce Willis has the rights to his face.
Bruce Willis and the Russian AI company Deepcake deny reports of a deal to create a "digital twin." https://t.co/F9FsiyzuIv
— TheWrap (@TheWrap) October 2, 2022
Deepcake expanded on the details to clarify what actually happened to produce the Hollywood star’s digital likeness:
What he definitely did is that he gave us his consent (and a lot of materials) to make his Digital Twin. The wording about rights is wrong… Bruce couldn't sell anyone any rights, they are his by default.
Digital recreation of faces and voices are becoming more accepted, but the practice is still controversial. The use of artificial intelligence (A.I.) has become increasingly prevalent as the technology becomes more reliable.
Just recently, James Earl Jones retired from voicing Darth Vader. Jones had gone on to license his voice for future Star Wars projects, which will use his archived recordings as the Dark Lord of the Sith.
In fact, this was already the case for the most recent Star Wars series on Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi. All the show’s episodes with appearances of Darth Vader featured A.I. voice recordings created by Respeecher. This was also the case for recreating Mark Hamill’s voice and likeness for episodes of another Disney Plus series The Book of Boba Fett as Jedi Grandmaster Luke Skywalker.
However, the controversy arises from the use of A.I. technology leading to taking away the livelihood of human beings. And it is not limited to actors. A.I. is being used to create imagery as a form of art. But this is largely being contested, as the A.I. is drawing from existing art and photos from the internet, effectively a roundabout way of committing art theft, according to groups opposing its use. Plus, to this date, the U.S. Copyright Office (USCO) has not recognized A.I. to be legally counted for copyrights and trademarks due to the lack of human authorship.
In March 2022, Bruce Willis retired from acting due to being diagnosed for aphasia. Aphasia is a degenerative neurological disease that affects speech, reading, and overall communication.
Although Willis and his representatives have now confirmed the star did not sell his likeness, it is still possible he and other actors will use deepfake in the future to continue their careers and businesses.
Bruce Willis has appeared in over 70 movies over his stellar career. The 67-year old actor became a household name for his role as John McClane in the Die Hard series of films.