When the Screen Actors Guild joined the Writers Guild of America for a historic double strike on July 14, artificial intelligence was cited as a key concern by both groups. The chief fear for SAG-AFTRA members is the potential replacement of flesh-and-blood performers with digital replicas generated by A.I. engines. The guild's president, Fran Drescher, has specifically referred to AI as a "poison" in interviews, adding, "We need to put barricades around it."
Now, a Yahoo Entertainment/YouGov poll reveals that a majority of Americans would rather watch actual movie stars rather than deep fakes. 61% of the 1,665 U.S. adults surveyed say it's a "bad idea" to include digital replicas of actors generated by AI in movies and TV shows.
Meanwhile, 63% of those polled also think it's a "bad idea" for Hollywood to open the door for more movie and television scripts generated by AI instead of human writers — one of the major issues for the WGA as well. Overall, 55% of respondents support both the actors and writers in their labor dispute with the major movie studios, cable networks and streaming services.
That should be heartening news to the writers and actors as they prepare to enter the second full month of their double strike. The WGA has been walking the picket lines for over 100 days, while SAG-AFTRA members are approaching their 50th day on strike. And while talks recently resumed between the writers and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios and streamers, early indications suggest that the two sides remain far apart on issues like AI.
Interestingly, moviegoers' appetites for digital actors was tested this summer in the Warner Bros. superhero vehicle The Flash. That film featured posthumous appearances by previous screen Supermen George Reeves and Christopher Reeve, whose digital likenesses were used for a climactic scene — a choice that inspired no small amount of controversy.
Still, some notable Hollywood figures defended the filmmakers' choice to include a digital version of Reeve, including director Kevin Smith and actor John Glover, who worked with the late actor on the Superman-inspired TV series, Smallville. "I think it’s up to his family / estate and not anyone else," Glover wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. "Chris’ dedication to the franchise led him to Smallville as dr swan. He loved Superman and would have wanted to be included. And this is from someone who worked with him in plays and on Smallville."
Concerns about the impact of AI on Hollywood certainly won't be settled with the eventual end of the strike, but it's also worth noting that the technology still has a lot of growing up to do. During a conversation with Chat GPT earlier this year, Yahoo Entertainment found that the A.I. bot made several notable errors in its analysis of the latest Hollywood news.
"As an AI language model, my knowledge is limited to what I have been trained on, and I appreciate the opportunity to learn and improve from your feedback," "Chatty" replied at one point. Maybe not the best way to end an audition.
The Yahoo Entertainment survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,665 U.S. adults interviewed online from Aug. 17 to 21, 2023. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to Nov. 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 27% Republican). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.8%.