The Clash of AI and Artistry in Hollywood: Nicolas Cage’s Crusade for Equity

by | Nov 6, 2023

Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage has expressed concerns about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the film industry, calling it “inhumane” and a “nightmare.” Cage’s comments have sparked a debate about scanned images and likenesses, as well as the ethical implications of AI. In response, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has initiated a strike to demand fair treatment and compensation for background actors.

The controversy revolves around the proposed use of AI, which would allow companies to possess the scans, images, and likenesses of background actors without their consent or fair compensation. This has raised concerns among actors and industry professionals who argue that it infringes upon their rights and artistic integrity. Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the chief negotiator for SAG-AFTRA, describes the proposed AI technology as “groundbreaking” in a negative way, emphasizing the need for a balanced approach.

During the strike, SAG-AFTRA presented a counter proposal to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) to address concerns about AI and digital recreation. The fate of AI technology in Hollywood remains uncertain as AMPTP reviews the proposal.

The use of AI in movies has been discussed for years, with filmmakers and studios exploring its potential. A recent example is Nicolas Cage’s appearance in the superhero film, The Flash. However, the final portrayal of Cage’s performance did not resemble what he had filmed. Scenes in which he fought a spider were entirely replaced using CGI, raising questions about the misappropriation of art and the alteration of an actor’s likeness without consent.

Director Tim Burton, who directed The Flash, shares Cage’s concerns. In his version of Bruce Wayne, AI technology was used to modify the character’s likeness. This highlights the need for clear guidelines and informed consent regarding the use of AI in recreating iconic characters.

The SAG-AFTRA strike, which began in July, has drawn attention to these issues. Union members rejected an offer from AMPTP suggesting the use of AI to replicate the likeness of background actors during the strike. The offer was seen as a disregard for performers’ rights and fair treatment, fueling the ongoing dispute.

Throughout negotiations, SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP have engaged in discussions, presenting and reviewing proposal packages. With AMPTP yet to respond to SAG-AFTRA’s counter proposal, the outcome of these negotiations will have implications for the future of AI in the film industry.

On September 27, the strike ended, with SAG-AFTRA hoping their efforts have brought attention to the need for fair treatment and compensation for background actors. However, the larger issue of AI technology and artistic ownership remains unresolved.

Nicolas Cage’s concerns reflect a broader sentiment within the industry. The actor understands the importance of protecting artistic integrity and the potential consequences of unchecked AI technology. As Hollywood moves forward, it must balance innovation with respecting performers’ rights.

The use of AI in movies and the ownership of scanned images and likenesses require careful consideration and regulation. While AI technology presents exciting possibilities, the industry must respect the rights and consent of actors while preserving the integrity of their art.

As AMPTP reviews SAG-AFTRA’s proposal, the future of AI in Hollywood hangs in the balance. Time will tell how the industry will navigate these issues and find a solution that satisfies all parties involved while safeguarding the integrity of the art form. The battle over AI and artistic ownership persists, and the world watches eagerly to see how Hollywood will resolve this clash.