The advent of robots that are able to sub-in for many of the job positions that human beings currently hold has altered an economic calculus within our society and an important stability measure as well.
Those who enjoy the status of being gainfully employed and those who dream of limitless future career possibilities are being forced to make some serious adjustments to their individual life plans.
A future in which robot employees replace the human kind has thus far been seen in the food service, manufacturing, and financial industries.
Interestingly, though, just like the rest of us Hollywood presently finds itself in a stare-down with the Brave New World of tomorrow. A similar form of technology to the one that is being applied to the overall labor market is rapidly advancing in the world of entertainment, and the same dynamics are present. Consequently, realistically threatened is one occupational position in particular, that of the Hollywood actor.
Recent advances in digital effects, combined with artificial intelligence, are bringing into reality the all digital actor, i.e., a complete and convincing digital reproduction of a real life human actor.
Similar tech-based techniques have been used to bring about a return to the small and big screen the images of actors who are no longer with us. A digital version of Peter Cushing was used to reprise his role in the Star Wars film “Rogue One.”
It is becoming more and more routine to scan the face and body of an actor prior to starting a project, so that a digital stunt double can be used, if necessary, as a stand-in for action scenes.
This year, for the entire length of the film, the major studio movie release “Alita: Battle Angel” utilized a computer-generated actor to play the central role of a cyborg.
Two major fall releases, “Gemini Man” and “The Irishman,” will use de-aging digital effects to create younger versions of the stars of the films. The two films are examples of a new actuality in Hollywood, where actors can portray a character of any age, notwithstanding their own individual birthdays.
“Gemini Man” star Will Smith, who is now 50-years-old, recently explained his new film’s plot to the entertainment press. The actor is depicted in the movie as battling against a younger clone of himself. The technology allowed the creation of a digital double of Smith that has the ability to act in scenes simultaneously with the star.
“There’s a completely digital 20-year-old version of myself that can make movies now,” Smith shared with reporters.
Another fall movie, “The Irishman,” features 75-year-old Robert De Niro and 79-year old Al Pacino playing labor union leader Frank Sheeran and union activist Jimmy Hoffa, respectively. Both actors appear in the film at disparately different ages in their lives via the use of digital de-aging effects.
The same technology created younger versions of actors Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer in “Ant-Man” and “The Wasp,” Samuel L. Jackson in “Captain Marvel,” and Anthony Hopkins in the first season of “Westworld.”
At a time when Hollywood studios routinely focus on the franchise rather than the individual star, and when so much of production is being brought to fruition via computer graphics, it is logical that in the future many entertainment executives will use logistic and financial reasoning to pursue a fully computer generated production, including the outright replacement of live actors themselves.
Research in the methodology and artistic refinement of digitally duplicating human beings is rapidly advancing. A studio specializing in digital humans, Digital Domain, created the character Thanos for the film “Infinity War,” and has been doing extensive research and development in a division aptly called the Digital Human Group.
The idea of non-human actors presents distinct advantages for modern-day filmmakers who would love to see a set free from tiresome retakes, bloated budgets, and demanding divas.