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The next voice of Darth Vader will be an artificial intelligence (and this gives clues about the future of cinema)

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In Spain we have a fabulous and often underestimated dubbing industry. One that, yes, causes us to speak English worse than Swedish or Portuguese. We know little about those who put those voices, but if there is a famous one, it is that of Constantino Romero, who voiced Darth Vader in the films of the ‘Star Wars’ saga. Can you imagine that in future films the character was not dubbed by him, but by a machine? That is what will happen at least in the original English films.

I am your father. James Earl Jones has been the English voice of Darth Vader since 1977. According to Variety, the actor — who is now 91 years old — has decided to allow all these phrases to train an artificial intelligence and thus create an imitation of the voice of Earl Jones with which to pronounce phrases from future films in which ‘Darth Vader’ participates, even if they appear after the death of the actor.

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From Ukraine with love. The Russian invasion has not stopped the engineers at Respeecher, a Ukrainian company that is in charge of training an artificial intelligence system to imitate actors’ voices and thus be able to use them in other productions. On their official website they make it clear: their goal is to clone voices “that are indistinguishable from the original speaker.”

Reseecher and Disney join forces. The company had previously worked with Disney on “The Mandalorian” to generate the voice of a young Luke Skywalker, and they also generated the voice of Darth Vader in “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” As explained in Variety, it was reasonable “now that Jones’s voice has altered with age and has moved away from the role.”

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technological terrors. It is ironic to speak of this advance when Darth Vader himself spoke of the danger of certain technological achievements. He did it in ‘Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’ when he uttered those prophetic words before Grand Moff Tarkin and Admiral Motti, who was getting cocky talking about the Death Star. ‘Don’t be dazzled by this technological terror that you have built. The possibility of destroying a planet is something insignificant compared to the power of the force,” Vader was telling him.

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Welcome to the era of AI-generated cinema. The topic comes from afar: at EuroXlivewe have already talked on numerous occasions about how the special effects industry has advanced so much that there are now characters that are generated by computer with the help of artificial intelligence engines. Precisely the technique has been used profusely in movies and series of the ‘Star Wars’ universe (Tarkin and Princess Leia in ‘Rogue One’ were very controversial examples).

The option has also been used in Spanish productions: it is the example of a young Eduard Fernández in ’30 Coins’ that also amazed with its excellent result. The deepfakes that rejuvenate Hollywood stars are already known both in real productions (Michael Douglas in ‘Ant-Man’, Robert Downey Jr. in ‘Captain America: Civil War’, Brad Pitt in ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ , among many others) and in meme format.

AI-generated actors don’t tire or ride chickens. Replacing original actors and voices with imitations generated by special effects (before) or artificial intelligence engines (now) has a debatable advantage: that directors can mold those performances and tones to their liking without the actors (the real ones) ) can say a peep. The films will be produced in the image and likeness of those directors and producers. But of course, that leaves us without that very human part of the seventh art and, among other things, without improvisations, mythical or not.

The future paints more and more AI in the cinema. The advancement of solutions like the one offered by Respeecher is actually the result of our hunger that the same players never leave us. We would love to continue seeing new installments of ‘Indiana Jones’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘Avengers’, ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘Fast & Furious’ but with the usual actors, frozen in time. With Hollywood turned into a sequel factory —it’s what works in movie theaters and on streaming platforms— artificial intelligence combined with special effects seems to herald a future in which we’ll have AI-generated content to bore us.

The question, of course, is where the place will be then for new franchises and new actors and actresses. Bad business.

Image | R. D. Smith

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