Robert Zemeckis’ Latest Tech Move: De-Aging Tom Hanks with AI

The “Back to the Future” director has teamed with AI studio Metaphysic to roll back the clock on his “Forrest Gump” stars in “Here.”

Robert Zemeckis has found the latest technological innovation to add to his digital filmmaking toy box — and he’ll be showing it off with the help of his “Forrest Gump” stars Tom Hanks and Robin Wright.

As announced this morning, Zemeckis will roll back the clock on Hanks and Wright and their co-stars in the Richard McGuire adaptation “Here” thanks to a first-of-its-kind partnership with the AI studio Metaphysic. Using a new tool called Metaphysic Live, the creators of “Here” will be able to create high-resolution, photorealistic faceswaps and de-aging effects on top of actors’ performances live and in real-time without the need for further compositing or VFX work.

The technology first caught Zemeckis’ eye via Metaphysic’s 2022 appearance on “America’s Got Talent,” where co-founders Tom Graham and Chris Ume used hyperreal generative AI techniques to create photorealistic avatars of Elvis Presley (coincidentally, one of the key historical figures featured in “Forrest Gump”). Prior to “America’s Got Talent,” Ume made headlines by flooding TikTok with deepfaked Tom Cruises and and joining with the creators of “South Park” to digitally puppeteer a version of Peter Serafinowicz’s “Sassy Trump.”

“I’ve always been attracted to technology that helps me to tell a story,” Zemeckis said in a press release. “With ‘Here,’ the film simply wouldn’t work without our actors seamlessly transforming into younger versions of themselves. Metaphysic’s AI tools do exactly that, in ways that were previously impossible.”

“Here” visual effects supervisor Kevin Baillie added that integrating the AI-generated content into a shot live on set opens up all kinds of possibilities for both Zemeckis and the actors. “The actors can use the technology as a ‘youth mirror,’” Baillie said, “testing out acting choices for their younger selves in real-time. That feedback loop and youthful performance is absolutely essential in achieving an authentic, delightful result.”

McGuire’s graphic novel “Here” tells the story of a room and the events that have taken place there over the course of hundreds of thousands of years. In addition to Hanks and Wright, Zemeckis’ cast includes his “Flight” collaborator Kelly Reilly and Paul Bettany, and the “Forrest Gump” reunion extends to the screenplay by Eric Roth.

Zemeckis has a long history of being at the forefront of movie technology, whether it’s inserting Hanks into archival footage with historical luminaries like John F. Kennedy in “Forrest Gump,” finding new ways to combine live action and animation in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” or exploring performance capture through “The Polar Express,” “Beowfulf,” and “Welcome to Marwen.” While recent films such as “The Irishman,” “Captain Marvel,” and the upcoming “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” have used different forms of digital wizardry to de-age their characters, it’s often been a cost-prohibitive and laborious process — reported budget figures for “The Irishman” range anywhere from $125 million to north of $250 million.

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