Bruce Willis ‘digital twin’ reports spark confusion


Yippee-Ki-AI, motherf**ker! Big news from the world of ‘synthetic reality’ and virtual humans this week, as a “digital twin” of actor Bruce Willis was used for an advertising project in Europe. The real Willis recently retired after being diagnosed with a cognitive disorder called aphasia, so the news seemed like a fascinating example of how a star could continue ‘working’ in virtual form.

AI startup Deepcake was the company behind the project, with a quote from Willis on its website explaining that its neural network was “trained on content of ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Fifth Element’, so my character is similar to the images of that time”.

Very interesting, but then came the confusion, as Willis’s spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter that he “has no partnership or agreement with this Deepcake company”. Deepcake said that it had worked with his reps at talent agency CAA on the project. The ad in question appears to have aired in Russia.

So what’s afoot? Our suspicion is that the initial media reports on Deepcake’s announcement were misleading in their claims that Willis had sold his digital likeness rights to the startup, so that deepfake Bruce could be used in future projects and even films. The truth appears to be that this was a one-off, and Willis and his team will have full control over what happens next.

Written by: Stuart Dredge