It must be nice, as a film director, to have the likes of Tom Hanks always available to be your muse and your guinea pig. So it is for the storied and successful Robert Zemeckis, who has worked with Hanks on so many films of note, from Forrest Gump and Cast Away to last year’s live action Pinocchio remake for Disney. Now, Zemeckis is working with Hanks yet again, reunited in the process with Forrest Gump co-star Robin Wright for a sprawling, ambitious adaptation of author Richard McGuire’s graphic novel Here. And in order to depict the kind of long-term story that the source material demands, Zemeckis will reportedly be making extensive use of a new form of de-aging technology, using a generative AI-driven tool called Metaphysic Live.
Here is less a traditional graphic novel narrative, and more an experimental art book with a deceptively simply premise. It fixes itself to a single point in space, and depicts everything that occurs on that spot of the Earth over the course of not just days, months or years, but reportedly hundreds of thousands of years. For at least a central part of that period, the spot occupies the corner of a room in a house, allowing the viewer to peer into the lives of various people in different points of history who have occupied that place. Theoretically, Zemeckis’ film would also anchor itself to that limitation, which would seem to lend itself to a contemplative drama about the passage of time and the span of a life—or pair of lives.
That premise also gives clear rationale for why Zemeckis would be interested in de-aging technology. Metaphysic Live has been seen both on television and via viral videos—it was used to create a series of viral Tom Cruise deepfakes, and also on America’s Got Talent to create a photorealistic avatar of Elvis Presley. Reportedly, the AI-driven tool is capable of creating “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.” That’s a bold claim, but if true it could theoretically make this kind of de-aging procedure much less expensive and time consuming for studios than current VFX methods being done at least partially by hand.
Zemeckis is certainly no stranger to leading the way on this sort of thing, when it comes to messing around with cutting edge technology. For better or worse, the director has been involved in many firsts and groundbreaking VFX experiments—Who Framed Roger Rabbit is still beloved for its integration of traditional animation and live action, whereas the likes of The Polar Express and 2007’s Beowulf have passed more into infamous territory for their unsettling early use of CGI performance capture. Zemeckis even has experience working Tom Hanks into groundbreaking VFX scenarios via Forrest Gump’s pioneering use of CGI to insert Hanks into existing historic footage.
It will certainly be interesting to see what Zemeckis and crew come up with in their attempt to adapt Here, a project that sounds more risky than any of the director’s recent crowd-pleasers. We’ll bring you more information on Tom Hanks/Robin Wright vehicle as it arrives.