Previously we – and huge swathes of the entertainment media – reported that Bruce Willis had pulled off a coup and – in a first for such a high profile star – had sold the rights to his likeness. Or at least allowed Russian deepfake specialists Deepcake to use it in (at the time of counting) at least two TV advertisements for Russian telecom’s company Megafon.
While there’s no denying that a) Bruce Willis’ likeness does appear in the adverts and b) It creates an interesting precedent for future stars to do likewise (and stars who are either too old, infirm or potentially no longer with us to once again step into the limelight) it turns out that the story now goes even deeper than that as Willis’ agent has denied that the star ever sold the rights to his likeness at all.
So who did what with whom?
So what has happened? At the time of writing that’s unclear. However it seems likely that rather than ‘sell the rights to his likeness’ Willis – or parties close to Willis – may have simply granted permission for Deepcake to create the ad.
However, Willis’s agent told the BBC, “Please know that Bruce has no partnership or agreement with this Deepcake company.”
This despite Deepcake telling the BBC it had worked closely with Willis’ team on the advert, saying “What he definitely did is that he gave us his consent (and a lot of materials) to make his Digital Twin,” they said. And then there’s that glowing endorsement from Willis himself which is currently still live on Deepcake’s website…
UPDATE: The quote from Bruce Willis – or at least Bruce Willis’s Deepcake digital twin – has now been removed.
Who asked who for what, and who agreed to what is therefore currently up in the air.
While it’s technically feasible for Deepcake to create the likeness completely without permission from Willis at all, this does seem unlikely. And would, of course, face a legal challenge from Willis and team.
Nevertheless, the potential for Willis – who has retired from acting following his diagnosis of aphasia, a language disorder that produces difficulty reading, listening, and speaking – to continue acting through virtual tech, remains an intriguing concept.
We await further updates.