Bruce Willis denies selling rights to his face for deepfake 'digital twin'

'Die Hard' actor was diagnosed with aphasia earlier this year

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Bruce Willis's agent has denied the Die Hard actor has sold the rights to his face after it was widely reported he'd struck a deal with deepfake company, Deepcake.

Last week, Daily Mail and other news outlets reported that the two-time Emmy winner sold his image rights to the company in Delaware, founded by Ukrainian-born chief executive Maria Chmir.

This was said to come before his diagnosis of aphasia, a neuro-cognitive disorder that affects speech and ability to understand language.

Deepfakes use artificial intelligence and other technology to create like-for-like portrayals and hyper-realistic videos, often of people in the spotlight. The controversial technology could have a particularly profound effect for celebrities no longer able to act or perform.

The reports said engineers at the AI-powered content optimisation web platform created an "ultra-realistic 'digital twin'" of the actor by putting pictures of his face into their network.

The story had also been picked up by The Telegraph, which reported: "Bruce Willis has become the first Hollywood star to sell his rights to allow a 'digital twin' of himself to be created for use on screen."

A representative for the actor has since told the BBC that Willis has "no partnership or agreement" with Deepcake.

"The wording about rights is wrong," a representative for Deepcake told the British news outlet. "Bruce couldn't sell anyone any rights, they are his by default."

Willis did, however, work with Deepcake to create an advert for Russian telecoms company MegaFon, which used a deepfake of the actor, last year.

"What he definitely did is that he gave us his consent (and a lot of materials) to make his Digital Twin," Deepcake told the BBC of the advert.

"I liked the precision of my character. It's a great opportunity for me to go back in time," reads a quote on the Deepcake website, said to be from Willis.

"The neural network was trained on content of Die Hard and Fifth Element, so my character is similar to the images of that time."

In March, Willis, 67, announced he would be retiring from acting because of his illness,

"We wanted to share that our beloved Bruce has been experiencing some health issues and has recently been diagnosed with aphasia, which is impacting his cognitive abilities," an Instagram post from his daughter Rumer Willis read.

"As a result of this and with much consideration, Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him."

Aphasia is a language disorder that is caused by brain damage — which makes it difficult for an individual to communicate with others either through writing or speech. It also makes it hard to understand people, or comprehend written language.

The disorder is incurable but can be treated with speech therapy.

The Instagram post was signed by all members of his family, including his five children and former wife Demi Moore.

"This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support," Rumer wrote.

"We are moving through this as a strong family unit, and wanted to bring his fans in because we know how much he means to you, as you do to him. Bruce always says, 'Live it up' and together we plan to do just that."

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Updated: October 02, 2022, 5:36 AM