Keanu Reeves Warns Us About the Dangers of AI Editing Actors

Keanu Reeves speaks out on digital editing actors' preformances
'John Wick: Chapter 4'Credit: Lionsgate
Is there a limit to using AI tools to enhance an actor's or film's performance?

We have been talking a lot about digital editing actors’ performances. From deepfaking actors like Bruce Willis to virtually dubbing out curse words or translating films to another language, AI has become Hollywood’s favorite friend.

While there are good reasons to use deepfake edit performances to save your film from going way over budget, some actors like Keanu Reeves have a problem with this technology.

During a recent interview with Wired for John Wick: Chapter 4, Reeves spoke against deepfake technology in Hollywood, saying “When you give a performance in a film, you know you’re going to be edited, but you’re participating in that. If you go into deepfake land, it has none of your points of view. That’s scary. It’s going to be interesting to see how humans deal with these technologies. They’re having such cultural, sociological impacts, and the species is being studied. There’s so much ‘data’ on behaviors now.”

Keanu Reeves speaks out on digital editing actors' preformances
'John Wick: Chapter 4'Credit: Lionsgate
Reeves made it clear that he isn’t against the necessary edits that need to be made to an actor’s performance to make them look good while also choosing the footage that best serves the story, but going beyond those edits takes the “agency” away from the actors.

In his fight against the dangers of deepfake technology, Reeves confirmed that he has a clause in each of his movie contracts that prevent studios from digitally manipulating his performances.

“People are growing up with these tools: We’re listening to music already that’s made by AI in the style of Nirvana, there’s NFT digital art,” Reeves said. “It’s cool, like, ‘Look what the cute machines can make!’ But there’s a corporatocracy behind it that’s looking to control those things. Culturally, socially, we’re gonna be confronted by the value of real, or the non-value. And then what’s going to be pushed on us? What’s going to be presented to us?”

“It’s this sensorium. It’s spectacle. And it’s a system of control and manipulation,” Reeves continued. “We’re on our knees looking at cave walls and seeing the projections, and we’re not having the chance to look behind us.”

How we use AI in film and TV should be a tool that helps us enhance the stories we are telling, but Hollywood isn’t doing that. Instead, Hollywood is seeing AI as a solution to a non-existent problem. They are so committed to nostalgia, IP recognition, and something familiar that they are willing to take away anything real and meaningful, and strange in favor of something profitable. 

Keanu Reeves speaks out on digital editing actors' preformances
'John Wick: Chapter 4'Credit: Lionsgate
As filmmakers and film lovers, we have to go against Hollywood’s mindset of profit over art. Sure, making a profit is nice, but it shouldn’t always be the goal behind your project. That way of thinking will ruin the culture and the medium. We must be brave enough to support and make projects that we want to see. 

I should clarify that I am not against AI technology helping with film productions. AI tools exist for a reason and should help us make an easier workflow. What is dangerous is building a reliance on these tools. We need human minds and hearts behind these projects. We need human stories that speak to our existence rather than turning moon-eyed for spectacle filmmaking.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!       

Your Comment


Profit and audiences guide the market. Hence the dominance of the MCU. But I think there's a limit to how successful deep fake endeavors will be simply because the acting won't be as good. And there's a limit to the value of nostalgia. Nobody would be excited to see a new movie with a young Clark Gable. And can you imagine Schwarzenegger with Alzheimers in a wheelchair attending the premiere of a new movie starring his younger self? Marketing matters.

February 16, 2023 at 3:41AM


'AI tools exist for a reason'.
No, they exist, because it is possible.
Deepfake is not a solution for some deep rooted problem in filmmaking.
It fixes close to nothing, but opens up a lot of possibilities, some good, some bad (and it appears most of it is used by bad actors. And with 'bad actors' I don't mean actors who perform louzy.)
It will surely change the whole media, entertainment and political landscape.
So the real question is: what landscape do we want? How do we keep AI in check? And wow can we wield its potential in cool creative ways?

February 16, 2023 at 2:28PM

Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer

All I can say is thank God someone out there cares about being "real". The more AI and high-tech we get, the worse movies keep getting. Maybe I'm old - but ask ourselves where is the industry going and how many people actually care? I have a theater in the basement, more people enjoy my 10+ year old movies than anything new...the cases are wearing on 20 year old stuff.

February 25, 2023 at 8:22AM