A Vladimir Putin biopic? As the real thing was not available, Patryk Vega made it appear as a deepfake using artificial intelligence (AI) in a film presented at the Cannes Film Market. In the end, Putin dies. “It had to be a happy ending,” explains the filmmaker, on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival. “I called Putin and asked him if he wanted to participate? – I was joking,” says the Polish director, until now the author of gangster films, hilariously.

Patryk Vega initially wanted to create his character using real-life shots of the Russian leader, but the quality wasn’t good enough for the big screen. “AI needs to be fed. You need 20,000 high-resolution images for it to work,” he explains to AFP. Instead, he developed new technology that allows a real-life actor with the same stature as Putin to obtain his face using AI. “This is the first film to use this technology,” he claims.

The effect is astonishing. In the film, of which AFP was able to see an extract, we see Putin as we know him in his public appearances, but also incontinent or playing the piano. “I wanted to slip into Putin’s head,” explains the filmmaker, who sees his film as a “how-to” for the Russian president. “Putin is not a crazy guy. But with him, everything revolves around his ego,” said the director, who had the idea for the film shortly after the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022. Asked about possible fears linked to the release of the film, he laughs and replies: “No, Putin should be afraid of me.”

The result is a mix of political thriller and psychological portrait spanning 60 years. In the future, Vega wants to offer the AI ​​he developed to other producers, in particular to generate scenes with extras. “They can send me an empty street and I create a crowd for them,” he explains. “As the characters are entirely artificial, there is no problem with image rights, and it is much cheaper than filming with many extras.” This is precisely what scares the film industry. During the massive strike in Hollywood last year, one of the issues was to know what the consequences would be if screenwriters, voice actors and ultimately actors could be replaced by AI.

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In December, an agreement was reached providing actors with a right of review when their digital clones must be used. The use of AI avatars must also be remunerated. It has long been possible to artificially rejuvenate actors, like Harrison Ford in the last Indiana Jones, to artificially create sets or to calculate the commercial success of a film based on the casting. “We see AI as a tool that stimulates creativity and creates new jobs,” Charles Rivkin, head of the Motion Picture Association, the association of major American production companies, told the trade magazine The Hollywood Reporter. According to the distributor’s information, Poutine has already been sold in more than 50 countries.