Star Wars Gets a Shamook
Yes, Lucasfilm hired a Deepfake YouTuber, but let’s discuss what really matters.
At around four years old, deepfake technology is a newborn in the AI technology space but has already had ups and downs in public perception. Like every new technology, deepfakes were popularized on porn sites with celebrity faces (mostly women) placed on porn star bodies. Then there were deepfakes of political figures and tech moguls saying controversial things, causing a wave of fear and articles on what a future with this type of manipulation would look like. Then, unsurprisingly, deepfakes were used for parody interviews. “George Lucas” could tell you his thoughts on the Sequel trilogy.
First off, deepfake technology is not the same as de-aging technology. Deepfake uses AI (and a series of algorithms) to edit an existing video, image, or audio and replace something with something else (usually a person). De-aging combines face-mapping technology and the subject’s performance. And it also relies more on the direction to come across as authentic versus editing. Deepfake is essentially inserting/overlay images to create something completely fake.
And now, popular deepfake artist Shamook has inserted himself into Lucasfilm. Many reports rundown the same facts: that The Mandalorian Luke Skywalker deepfake got the attention of Lucasfilm, that he also deepfaked Tarkin and Leia in Rogue One, and that his official title will be “Senior Facial Capture Artist.”
So now that Shamook (not his real name) is settled into his new job, let’s talk about what actually matters: what will he be working on?
Most likely, Lucasfilm/Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) will integrate Shamook into their de-aging technology system, working in deepfake technology as a compliment against the uncanny valley. I am not an expert on de-aging or deepfake technology and how they could potentially work together (if at all). But I do know that this means we are not done with seeing younger versions of beloved characters. Also, don’t be surprised if suddenly Temuera Morrison’s face appears on the random older gentleman in Return of the Jedi that may or may not be Captain Rex.
As for the future projects, we will leave a deepfake or de-aged Han Solo and Lando Calrissian off the table for now as younger actors have already played them and are available to play them moving forward (Alden Ehrenreich as Solo and Donald Glover as Lando).
I feel like this is almost a certainty. Boba Fett is another character, like Maul, that was marketed as a major player in the Star Wars franchise, only to appear briefly in Episode V and meet a swift end early in Episode VI. It has not been that long in the Star Wars timeline since he “died,” but the character has aged in real time. Perhaps being digested over a thousand years in the belly of a sarlaac rapidly ages you. But we are sure to get a flashback to the moment after he was pushed into the sarlaac pit and how he escaped. With a very active Tameura Morrison as lead of the show, a de-aged Boba Fett in his prime (with some deepfake clean up) would be a welcome site for fans. And since The Book of Boba Fett was already in post-production when Shamook was hired by Lucasfilm, his deepfake technology could be applied in post.
More Luke Skywalker
He has already proven he can improve Lucasfilm’s technology, and with access to more resources, Shamook can improve for future appearances. The keyword is appearances. ILM’s de-aging technology has only been used for short appearances in film and streaming (the first being Tarkin and Leia). If they ever decide to make young Luke Skywalker the main character again in a show or film, they would likely cast a younger actor. Sebastian Stan is a fan favorite, and it would not be the first time fans got their wish. They could go even younger during Luke’s time on Tatooine. In fact, if we are seeing Owen and Beru, we should be seeing a young Luke anyways. But many fans want to see Luke’s adventures post-Return of the Jedi, which still remains a mystery save for the occasional comic and video game appearances. There are not even that many novel canon appearances of Luke in between Episodes VI and VII. This is not a coincidence. They are leaving that period open for a reason and will eventually tell those stories. But with who or what technology will be the question.
Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker
When Hayden Christensen was announced as returning for Obi-Wan Kenobi, Kathleen Kennedy said he would return as Darth Vader. He is still listed as playing only Darth Vader, but Hayden will not be hidden the whole time behind that mask (which will likely still be voiced by James Earl Jones). It will probably be a mixture of present and past storytelling with flashbacks. Hayden Christensen still looks like Anakin, but it has been 16 years since the Prequel days. They could do some de-aging touch-ups if they have flashbacks to Obi-Wan and Anakin’s time during the Clone Wars. Because Anakin Skywalker is so tied to Obi-Wan and the Clone Wars period before he became Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka seem the most plausible series to get a younger Hayden Christensen as Anakin.
The Tatooine Trio: Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Joel Edgerton as Owen Lars, and Bonnie Piesse as Beru Lars.
Like Hayden, this would also be a touch-up situation if they do a flashback. With no details on the plot or locations (other than Tatooine), it is still unclear whether Obi-Wan will ever leave the planet of the twin-suns. If he does not, it is more likely we will get multiple flashbacks, though Obi-Wan and Darth Vader are still going to meet again (supposedly). On the other side of the conflict is Obi-Wan’s deteriorating relationship with the Lars family. Part of the show could explore why Owen Lars has such disdain for Obi-Wan. Joel Edgerton and Bonnie Piesee are returning as Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. If the casting placement is indicative of screen time, then we will spend quite a bit of time with the Lars family (including young Luke). Flashbacks could include a younger Owen and Beru closer to Attack of the Clones/Revenge of the Sith. Imagine watching a scene where all three actors are de-aged. Deborah Chow, ILM, and Shamook can give us just that.
Samuel L Jackson as Mace Windu
The precedent for a de-aged Samuel L Jackson has already been set with Captain Marvel and a 90s Nick Fury. There is so much fan willing for a Mace Windu return as the character has gained in popularity, along with most of the Prequel characters now that time has passed. Mace is also the only prominent black male Jedi in Star Wars. Finn does not count and might have inadvertently added to the Mace Windu appreciation club, and Bell Zettifar is only known to High Republic readers. Samuel L Jackson has also expressed interest in returning as Mace Windu, and he is not getting any younger. Mace Windu, the character, should be dead, but I hesitate to write that he is definitely dead. After all, Darth Maul was definitely dead, and Windu didn’t even get cut in half. If fans keep insisting that Mace Windu could still be alive, Lucasfilm could decide to bring the character back in more Prequel content. A young Mace Windu could be a great show as there is a large gap of his life we have never seen on screen (and barely touched upon in publishing). But I doubt that they would cast a younger actor to play Jackson when the actor has been pretty clear that he would come back. The Wachowskis and Warner Brothers did this to Lawrence Fishbourne for The Matrix 4. While it was within the right of the studio to replace him as Morphius, being the only main cast member not returning is a bad look. But I think the fan pressure will win out with a Mace appearance with a young again Samuel L. Jackson.
Carrie Fisher as Leia
The one character that would utilize deepfake technology the most is also the least likely to, as it might push comfortability with using the likeness of actors who have passed. Just like spending more time with Luke might mean new casting, so would telling more Leia stories between Episodes III and Episode IV. Unlike Luke, Leia was not stuck on one planet but had the duties and responsibilities of a Princess of Alderaan. And these are stories worth telling…just not with a fake Carrie Fisher.