Lucasfilm hires YouTube artist behind ‘Star Wars’ deepfake

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – A YouTuber famous for making “deepfakes” of scenes from iconic film and television shows including Star Wars has landed a job at Lucasfilm after wowing bosses at the Disney-owned company.

The digital artist known only as Shamook is famous online for using cutting-edge technology to seamlessly map the faces of famous stars onto other actors’ bodies.

Popular videos created by the technical whiz include pasting Robert Pattinson’s visage onto Christian Bale’s Batman, and imagining a young Mel Gibson had returned in place of Tom Hardy in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

But his work on the climactic scene of The Mandalorian season two appeared to particularly impress Lucasfilm.

The Star Wars TV series set five years after the 1983 film Return of the Jedi concluded with a surprise appearance from Mark Hamill, who was digitally de-aged to play a young Luke Skywalker once again.

De-aged Mark Hamill in The Mandalorian. PHOTO: LUCASFILM

Many of Shamook’s 90,000 followers felt his amateur reworking of the scene surpassed the official version now streaming on Disney+.

Lucasfilm’s visual effects team Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) “is always on the lookout for talented artists and have in fact hired the artist that goes by the online persona Shamook”, a spokesman said in a statement sent to AFP.

“Over the past several years ILM has been investing in both machine learning and AI as a means to produce compelling visual effects work and it’s been terrific to see momentum building in this space as the technology advances.”

Shamook first revealed the hire on YouTube, telling followers his new title was “Senior Facial Capture Artist”.

Disney is working on around 10 new Star Wars TV series, buoyed by the success of The Mandalorian, which was nominated for a whopping 24 Emmys and introduced viewers around the world to the adorable fan favourite Baby Yoda.

Several Star Wars films are in the works too, including Rogue Squadron from Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, and another currently being written by Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit).

While similar technology is increasingly employed for mainstream uses such as Hollywood productions, “deepfakes” can also be used to spread deliberate misinformation.