Actor James Earl Jones Gave Green-Light for His Voice to be AI-Generated in “Star Wars” Properties
What does this mean for the future of actors and AI in movies?
James Earl Jones Hangs Up His Hat
At the age of 91, actor James Earl Jones has decided to step back from his role as Darth Vader in the famous “Star Wars” trilogy, allowing Skywalker Sound to use voice archives to create AI-generated dialogue for the character in appearances moving forward.
For the prequel series on Disney+, “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Skywalker Sound hired the Ukraine-based startup Respeecher to craft the dialogue using their AI technology and Jones’s recordings from previous performances. Essentially, they take the recordings and “teach” an AI how to replicate the patterns and tone of Darth Vader that scared so many for so many years.
AI in Hollywood
AI voices have been a point of controversy for a while. For example, “Roadrunner,” the documentary about the late Anthony Bourdain, used AI technology to replicate Bourdain’s voice, reading letters he had written during his life. This sparked backlash online from those who found it unethical to use someone’s voice posthumously.
“Star Wars” has gone beyond generating just voices — using AI to achieve a variety of feats. In 2016’s “Rogue One,” filmmakers digitally resurrected Peter Cushing, who died in 1994, for his role as Grand Moff Tarkin. In the same movie, they used CGI to put Carrie Fisher’s face on a double. They later used the same method after she passed away.
That same CGI was also recently used to digitally de-age Mark Hamill for his role as Luke Skywalker in the Disney+ show “The Book of Boba Fett.”
It has not been confirmed if Jones will be paid for the continued use of his voice in this manner, but his family did say they were pleased with the work done on “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
See what others are saying: (Vanity Fair) (ABC News) (AV Club)
California Lawmakers Pass Bill Protecting Children From Manipulative Tech Companies
The bill’s proponents liken it to other consumer welfare rules like nutrition standards and car seats, but opponents warn it could endanger users’ privacy.
The First State Children’s Code in the Country
California state senators passed a bipartisan bill Monday that would require online sites and apps to proactively design their products with child safety in mind.
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has not voiced his opinion on the bill, but if he signs it into law, it will make California the first state to implement legislation of its kind in the country.
AB 2273, the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, does not give many specific directions to tech companies, but it may create the potential for legal challenges if they don’t take adequate steps to ensure the safety of their younger users.
Some of the bill’s measures intend to block minors from viewing explicit content, limit the collection of their personal information, and restrict web services from gathering children’s geolocation data unless “strictly necessary.”
The law would also clamp down on “dark patterns,” a general term for manipulative design features meant to encourage minors to give away personal information unnecessarily.
“The digital ecosystem is not safe by default for children,” democratic state lawmaker Buffy Wicks, who co-sponsored the bill with Republican Jordan Cunningham, told The New York Times. “We think the Kids’ Code, as we call it, would make tech safer for children by essentially requiring these companies to better protect them.”
AB 2273 forces web services to enable the highest privacy settings by default for minors.
Additionally, it requires services to establish the age of child users with a “reasonable level of certainty.”
If signed, the law would go into effect in 2024.
Are the Internet’s ‘Wild West’ Days Over?
California could set the example for other states, or the federal government, to build digital guardrails for minors, and tech companies may find it easier to proactively update their child protections across the country to avoid the difficulty of enforcing different policies in different states.
Another bill, AB 2408, which would let parents sue social media companies over addictive features, failed to pass the California legislature earlier this month.
The United States already has a 1998 federal law that protects children’s privacy, but it only applies to those under 13 years of age and only when they use online services specifically targeting children.
AB 2273 was based on similar legislation passed last year in the United Kingdom, the “Children’s Code,” which created comprehensive safety standards for minors, such as preventing adult strangers from contacting them or disabling social media features that could show a child’s exact location on a map to other users.
Baroness Beeban Kidron, a key figure behind the U.K. law, leads a nonprofit that sponsored AB 2273. He and other advocates have compared the law to nutrition labels, testing for cribs and car seats, and similar consumer welfare regulations.
The bill, however, has its detractors.
Eric Goldman, a professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law, has argued that AB 2273’s age verification requirements, though well-intentioned, could become intrusive on the very users whose privacy the bill is seeking to safeguard.
“The actual process of age authentication usually involves either (1) an interrogation of personal details or (2) evaluating the user’s face so that software can estimate the age,” Goldman wrote in an op-ed. “Neither process is error-free, and either imposes costs that some businesses can’t afford.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNBC) (The Verge)
Shane Dawson Says Cancellation Felt Planned By The Universe
The YouTuber said that by being forced to take a digital break, he had a chance to step back and “see what the bigger purpose is.”
Dawson Speaks Out
Two years after facing intense backlash online, YouTuber Shane Dawson said he found a positive side to being “canceled.”
In the summer of 2020, Dawson faced intense scrutiny after people resurfaced his old controversial videos where he wore blackface, made racist jokes, and said inappropriate remarks about children. He lost a slew of subscribers as a result and stepped away from YouTube for over a year following the scandal.
Dawson has since returned to posting, sharing long-form content every few months on his channel to millions of viewers, though his audience is not nearly as large as it was before the backlash. He also started a podcast earlier this year.
While speaking on Perez Hilton’s podcast this week, Dawson said his cancellation actually came at a time when he needed to rethink his life online.
“I really think the universe and God, or whatever, really planned it this way because I was at a point before I got canceled where I didn’t wanna be around anymore,” Dawson said. “I was so burnt out.”
“Wait, you were so burnt out that you were depressed and suicidal?” Hilton followed up. “Just from overworking?”
“Well it wasn’t just from overworking,” Dawson added. “It was, well, I’m a workaholic.”
Cancelation “Felt Very Designed”
Dawson went on to explain that being a workaholic opened the doors for other issues, like fearing he will lose his success, getting stressed about his online reputation, worrying about spending enough time with family, and negative thoughts about his body image. As all this started to take a toll on him, he started therapy. Not long after, he started dealing with his 2020 controversies.
“Oddly enough, two months after I started therapy, maybe even sooner, I got canceled,” Dawson said. “And it was like, ‘oh.’ That felt very designed to me, by something.”
“Because I was like, okay, she’s learning about everything, all my issues, all this, all that, and my biggest fear is being canceled again and it happened,” he continued. “So now I can see what the bigger purpose is.”
Now he says he is grateful to be at a point where he is not constantly worried about making content and pleasing people. Dawson said that earlier in his career, his need to be liked was so severe that he would message people who said negative things about him online in an effort to change their minds.
“It’s always that thing where like, I want people that hate me to like me. Which is toxic,” Dawson explained. “Like a hater would say something, and I’ll DM them, this is something I’d do years ago, I’d DM them and talk to them and then, ‘oh, they like me now!’ It was dark.”