WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
As the ease and cost of creating high quality DeepFakes and synthetic content plunges you’ll soon see a lot more of this chicanery.
The rise of creative machines that can create decent quality synthetic content, from books and imagery, to videos, is accelerating, and DeepFakes, part of that movement, are advancing amazingly fast in their own right. They are also now at a stage where the technology’s being commercialised by apps and at the point where even regular people can just upload their likeness to apps for free and appear in a whole range of blockbusters, for example, replacing Leonardo DiCaprio in films like titanic with their own likeness. Now, some of the same special effects that cost over $300million to produce in the original Matrix movie have now been done for less that $300… so let’s dive down the rabbit hole.
Earlier this year though, Will Smith filmed a fun, light hearted confessional video in which he explains why — back in the 1990’s when he was at the height of his success as a Hollywood mega-star — he turned down a huge role.
This was back when he was still riding high on the strength of roles in TV shows and movies like the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Independence Day. The role he got offered and declined, however, was that of Neo, the main character in The Matrix who, of course, was ultimately played superbly by Keanu Reeves.
If you haven’t seen Will Smith’s video explanation for why he turned the role down, do yourself a favour and watch now. It’s refreshing to see this level of candour from a star, and Smith starts off by acknowledging this is something he’s not proud of, “but … uh … it’s the truth.”
“There’s a fine line in a pitch meeting between genius and what I experienced in the meeting,” Smith says at one point, recalling the offer the Wachowskis made him related to the role.
He then starts imitating the meeting and the Wachowskis’ pitch, specifically, as he remembers it:
“We’re thinking like… imagine you’re in a fight. You, like, jump. Imagine if you could stop jumping … in the middle of the jump. But then, people could see around you 360 degrees while you stop jumping. We’re going to invent these cameras and then people can see the whole jump when you stop in the middle of the jump.”
Pause. Will waits for a beat. Then he drops the bomb about what happened next.
That’s right. He decided to make Wild Wild West instead.
Fast forward to today and a DeepFake video uploaded by the YouTube channel Sham00K replaces Reeves with Smith, letting us have fun imagining what it would have been like for Morpheus to offer Smith, instead, the choice between a red or blue pill. And we get to wonder what Smith’s reaction to seeing the Matrix itself for the first time would have been like.
You can see the full video above, which still includes Keanu’s hair and voice, so don’t let that throw you, and enjoy. And then pause and give thought to how far and fast this technology has evolved in just the past couple of years… and where’s it’s headed.