AI Concerns Hollywood Actors Ahead of Labor Talks: Digital Doubles and Fake Trailers Raise Questions.
Digital doubles and fake trailers generated by artificial intelligence (AI) have raised concerns among Hollywood actors ahead of labor talks. The emergence of AI-powered technology has allowed individuals with limited resources to create convincing movie trailers featuring renowned director Wes Anderson and popular franchises like "Star Wars," "Harry Potter," and "The Lord of the Rings," with notable actors such as Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.
The use of AI in this manner has become a point of contention, which will be discussed during labor negotiations between the SAG-AFTRA actors union and major studios, set to begin on June 7.
AI technology has already created divisions within the industry, causing a rift between studios and striking film and television writers. The writers' concerns revolve around ensuring that AI will not be utilized to generate scripts. SAG-AFTRA aims to protect its members' control over their "digital doubles" and ensure proper compensation from studios. Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union's chief negotiator, highlights the significance of performers' names, likenesses, voices, and personas, emphasizing the need for fair compensation when studios utilize these aspects.
The issue of AI-generated content extends beyond trailers and deep-fake videos. Unauthorized videos featuring celebrities like Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves have gained substantial viewership, contributing to the technology's reputation as "scary" due to its potential to create content without actors' involvement. Regulators in the United States and Europe have called for measures to prevent misinformation, bias, copyright infringement, and privacy breaches as interest in generative AI continues to surge following the launch of Microsoft Corp.-backed OpenAI's ChatGPT.
Actors and writers foresee scenarios where studios could exploit generative AI to cut costs and increase revenue. The technology can generate new content by feeding existing material, such as erasing age marks or modifying mouth movements for multi-language programming. Actor Leland Morrill expressed concern over situations where only part of an actor's work is used, allowing AI to create the remainder of the character, leading to unpaid actors once they are no longer on set.
Producer, writer, and former actor Justine Bateman, who holds a computer science degree, has been vocal about the potential risks associated with AI. She cautions that companies might enable fans to create their own "Star Wars" movies, adding themselves to the production for an additional fee. Furthermore, studios could potentially create new seasons of popular TV shows from the past, such as "Family Ties," by utilizing AI technology.
Certain actors have granted specific uses for AI. The upcoming "Indiana Jones" movie features scenes in which 80-year-old star Harrison Ford appears 40 years younger, achieved through the use of images captured during the filming of earlier "Indiana Jones" films in the 1980s. James Earl Jones, aged 92, allowed AI to replicate his iconic voice for Darth Vader, ensuring the character's continued presence. AI was also employed by Disney to incorporate the late Carrie Fisher into the 2019 film "The Rise of Skywalker," with the approval of her daughter.
SAG-AFTRA's Crabtree-Ireland acknowledges that actors have varying levels of comfort with AI usage, which is why the union will advocate for informed consent during negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), representing studios like Disney and Netflix.
The AMPTP has yet to comment on its position regarding the use of AI with actors. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has been engaged in negotiations with the AMPTP and has been on strike since May 2 due to disputes over AI and compensation.
If SAG-AFTRA fails to reach an agreement on AI and other issues, actors may consider going on strike.
However, if the actors go on strike, the major studios can easily replace all those actors with super-realistic AI-generated actors that will act better, look better, produce much more, and cost much less.