The Road House Controversy Proves AI Isn’t Going Anywhere

A.I. may have circumvented a major post-production step.

Man with a tattoo on his arm walking on a crowded beach at night, looking to the side with a serious...
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The 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike was a vital exercise in solidarity, with actors from the A-list to the unknown refusing to work until a fair deal for all was achieved. It was an inconvenience to the studios, but that was the point. However, a new lawsuit claims that Amazon MGM Studios turned to drastic measures to circumvent the strike, which could have massive implications for how movies are made from now on.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Road House’s original 1989 screenwriter R. Lance Hill is suing Amazon and MGM Studios for releasing the upcoming remake after an agreement that would revert the rights back to him.

In the suit, Hill, who writes under the pen name David Lee Henry, claims that Amazon set a self-imposed deadline for completing the film in mid-November, the day before rights would revert back to Hill thanks to the typical 35-year reversion clause in copyright law. In order to make this deadline, he claims the studio used generative A.I. to replicate the striking actor’s voices.

Prime Video’s Road House remake allegedly used A.I. to record lines while actors are on strike.

This is a wild accusation, and one that Amazon denies completely, but it’s a concerning step in the way A.I. is affecting the post-production process. A.I. is already often used for visual cleanup and greenscreen scenes, but replicating actor’s voices isn’t just streamlining a tedious process — it’s nullifying an entire step of the post-production process.

Using A.I. to replicate voices erases an actor’s performance and allows voiceovers to be manifested from thin air. With deep fake technology, entire lines could be created long after shooting has stopped and VFX could make the actors appear like they’re saying words that were never in the script.

The Road House remake stars Conor McGregor and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Prime Video

Not only does this accusation mean that studios are capable of using A.I. for much more than was initially thought, it also undercuts the stance the actors took in striking. If an actor’s performance can simply be replicated, then the strike didn’t impact the production at all. It’s protection against shortcuts like that that sparked the need for a new contract in the first place.

Even though its veracity is still unknown, these allegations just bring more light to the threat that A.I. poses in the filmmaking industry. While it can be a valuable tool, it’s no replacement for an actor’s talent and reliability. A.I. may attempt to replace Jake Gyllenhaal’s dulcet tones, but the action sequences in Road House can only be made by a human.

Road House premieres March 21, 2024 on Amazon Prime Video.

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