‘Furiosa’: How AI Helped Combine Anya Taylor-Joy’s Features With Child Actor Alyla Browne

If you’ve seen “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” and noticed an uncanny resemblance between child actor Alyla Browne, who plays the titular character as a child, and Anya Taylor-Joy, who assumes the role as the story skips ahead several years, you’re not alone.

The reason, it seems, involved more than its skillful casting. Director George Miller additionally employed artificial intelligence in the making of his post-apocalyptic prequel to 2015’s “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which Warner Bros. opened in the U.S. on Friday.

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“George Miller had the idea very early on,” explained Taylor-Joy in an interview on “The Kelly Clarkson Show.” “The audience was already getting used to a new Furiosa [Charlize Theron in ‘Fury Road’]. He wanted the transition from both actors [Browne and Taylor-Joy] playing her to be seamless. And so I did two days of the craziest things you could ever possibly imagine. And they mixed our faces together.”

Taylor-Joy added that at the beginning of the movie, it’s about 35% of her appearance on Browne, and by the time that she is about to assume the role, it’s roughly 80%. “It’s wild to see,” she admitted.

Details of how the work was accomplished have not yet been revealed, but DNEG and Framestore are the film’s primary visual effects providers. And startup Metaphysic AI — which is developing AI tools for uses such as the aging and de-aging of actors — is listed in the film’s closing credits and presumably its tech was involved.

This wouldn’t be a surprise as during the recent AI on the Lot conference in downtown Los Angeles, Metaphysic chief content officer Ed Ulbrich admitted that the company had been involved in the making of three movies that will be released this year. He didn’t name the titles, but one that has been previously announced is Robert Zemeckis’ upcoming “Here,” which stars Tom Hanks and Robin Wright, who will age throughout the movie.

Metaphysic’s Ulbrich is no stranger to this sort of work. He’s an alum of Digital Domain, which was the lead VFX house on the Oscar-winning 2008 film “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which involved the aging and de-aging of the titular character played by Brad Pitt. The potential of AI to advance this area has been evidenced by, for instance, Industrial Light & Magic’s use of machine learning to create a young Harrison Ford in 2023’s “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”

In the aforementioned TV interview, Taylor-Joy also acknowledged the thorny legal and ethical issues. “There’s a reason that our industry went on strike,” she said, referring to the 2023 SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes. “It is something that is frightening, and I think if you’re going to use it you have to be honest about it and it always has to be consensual. It’s the lack of consent in anything in life that is the scary thing.”

Variety reached out to Warner Bros. and Metaphysic for comment.

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