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AI spells danger for Hollywood's stunt performers

Updated: 2023-08-14 09:03

Students attend a stunts training session at the Tempest Academy in Chatsworth, California, on Thursday. JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP

LOS ANGELES — Hollywood's striking actors fear that artificial intelligence is coming for their jobs, but for many stunt performers, that dystopian danger is already a reality.

From Game of Thrones to the latest Marvel superhero movies, cost-slashing studios have long used computer-generated background figures to reduce the number of actors needed for battle scenes.

Now the rise of AI means cheaper and more powerful techniques are being explored to create highly elaborate action sequences, such as car chases and shootouts — without humans.

Stunt work, a time-honored Hollywood tradition that has spanned from silent epics through to Tom Cruise's latest Mission Impossible, is at risk of rapidly shrinking.

"The technology is exponentially getting faster and better," said Freddy Bouciegues, stunt coordinator for movies such as Free Guy and Terminator: Dark Fate. "It's really a scary time right now."

Studios are already requiring stunt and background performers to take part in high-tech 3D "body scans" on set, often without explaining how or when the images will be used.

Advances in AI mean these likenesses could be used to create detailed, eerily realistic "digital replicas", which can perform any action or speak any dialogue its creators wish.

Bouciegues fears producers could use these virtual avatars to replace "nondescript" stunt performers, such as those playing pedestrians leaping out of the way of a car chase.

The lack of guarantees over the future use of AI is one of the major factors at stake in the current strike by the Screen Actors Guild, or SAGAFTRA, and Hollywood's writers, who have been on the picket lines for more than 100 days.

Last month, SAG-AFTRA warned that studios intend to create realistic digital replicas of performers, to use "for the rest of eternity, in any project they want" — all for the payment of one day's work.

The studios dispute this, and said they have offered rules, including informed consent and compensation.


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