Robert Zemeckis' Here Will Use Artificial Intelligence To De-Age Its Actors

Robert Zemeckis, Eric Roth, and Tom Hanks have already proven to be a recipe for success, which is why it's so exciting that the trio behind "Forrest Gump" are reuniting for the film adaptation of Richard McGuire's critically-acclaimed graphic novel, "Here." The source material is fascinating, as it tells the story of multiple timelines centered on one New England location — first as wilderness and later becoming the site of a home — where multiple stories play out across generations. In addition to Hanks, "Here" will also star Kelly Reilly, Robin Wright, and Paul Bettany.

As the story takes place over the course of numerous lifetimes, it would have been unsurprising to learn if Zemeckis gathered a star-studded ensemble to round out his cast. However, this is Robert "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" Zemeckis we're talking about, so of course he's got something more technological up his cinematic sleeve. Rather than cast additional actors, Zemeckis has paired with the company Metaphysic as part of their strategic partnership with the Creative Arts Agency (CAA). According to the official announcement, "Through this partnership, Metaphysic and CAA will work together to unlock creative possibilities for artists using A.I. across film, television, and entertainment."

That's right, Zemeckis is utilizing A.I. technology to de-age the actors, and transform them in real-time. For the uninitiated, Metaphysic appeared on "America's Got Talent," transforming real performers into realistic, moving avatars of Elvis Presley, Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, and Terry Crews. Performers stand in front of their state-of-the-art cameras, and the A.I. can transform them into, well, just about anyone. In the case of "Here," it'll be different versions of Hanks, Reilly, Wright, and Bettany.

Is this cool or should we be scared?

"Here" will be the first film of its caliber to extensively incorporate the hyperreal A.I.-generated face replacement into the storytelling. "I've always been attracted to technology that helps me to tell a story," said Robert Zemeckis in the official announcement. "With 'Here,' the film simply wouldn't work without our actors seamlessly transforming into younger versions of themselves. Metaphysic's AI tools do exactly that, in ways that were previously impossible!" Zemeckis also said that he had "tested every flavor of face replacement and de-aging technology available," and found Metaphysic to be the winner.

Metaphysic's newest tool will create high-resolution photo-realistic face swaps and de-aging effects on top of the actors' performances live and in real-time without the need for further compositing or visual effects work. Meaning, Zemeckis can sit in his director's chair and see the changes on the screen, during principal photography without having to wait until he's in the editing bay. 

As the continued debate regarding digital de-aging wages on, it'll be fascinating to see how "Here" turns out. If Zemeckis can pull it off, Metaphysic may very well be the next big visual effects leader in Hollywood ... for better or for worse. Fortunately, all the actors being de-aged in this film have consented to their likeness being manipulated, so at the very least, there's a strong ethical foundation behind this creative decision.