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Keanu Reeves thinks AI and deepfake tech has “scary” implications for performers and says an experience with being “digitally” edited earlier in his career is why he has a contract clause to prevent the alteration of his performances.
In a wide-ranging cover story for Wired that also features John Wick 4 director Chad Stahelski, the actor discussed why theatrical releases still resonate, the lack of visual effects in the John Wick series, his experience working with the Wachowskis on The Matrix and how he got involved with diversifying the metaverse with the Futureverse Foundation.
He also touched on his hesitation around the artificial intelligence space and, talking about the impact of things like ChatGPT, opened up on his position on the rise in deepfake technology. It’s an issue actor Bruce Willis found himself at the center of when the tech was used by Deepcake to create a “digital twin” of the actor for a commercial for mobile phone carrier MegaFon that aired in Russia.
At the time, a rep for the actor denied Willis had sold the rights to his digital likeness. Deepcake, which claims to provide A-list actors with the ability to include their likeness in marketing campaigns without having to physically appear for it, told The Hollywood Reporter that Willis is the sole owner of his digital-likeness rights, which cannot be sold. A rep for the company also explained that its involvement with the actor was set up through his reps at CAA for ad campaigns in 2021 but that all future work will be dependent on Willis.
For Reeves, another company being able to control an artist’s likeness or material is “scary.”
“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,” he said. “If you go into deepfake land, it has none of your points of view.”
Reeves, who at one point in the interview called the metaverse, sensorium, spectacle and “a system of control and manipulation,” noted that with much of this new tech, “there’s a corporatocracy behind it that’s looking to control those things.”
“The people who are paying you for your art would rather not pay you,” he said about threat of AI to human labor. “They’re actively seeking a way around you, because artists are tricky. Humans are messy.”
The John Wick star said he’s interested in seeing “how humans deal with these technologies” like AI chat bots and deepfake tech. “They’re having such cultural, sociological impacts, and the species is being studied. There’s so much ‘data’ on behaviors now,” he continued. “Technologies are finding places in our education, in our medicine, in our entertainment, in our politics, and how we war and how we work.”
As for how he plans to protect his own likeness, Reeves explained that a contract clause he’s been using for years prevents his digital performances from being manipulated without his explicit permission. Reeves, whose digital likeness was more recently used in the video game Cyberpunk 2077, said that it was a result of a project digitally adding an emotional response he didn’t deliver to a performance without consulting him first.
“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,” he said. “They added a tear to my face, and I was just like, ‘Huh?!’ It was like, ‘I don’t even have to be here.'”
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