John Wick: Chapter 4 is coming! It is nearly three hours long! This might be too much, even for Baba Yaga! But we approach Keanu, as always, with gratitude and appreciation—for being one of the good ones, one of the last ones, and one of the actually interesting ones. As we have often said, Keanu never lets us down. 


He is one of the last Movie Stars, that ever-shrinking generation of Big Names that people still embrace as iconic for themselves, not just the characters they play. He is one of the good ones, a walking meme, an internet phenomenon, a beloved celebrity who justifies the love with kindness and sincerity. At times, this made Keanu very mockable, but in a less cynical era, he was embraced anew, and now, his sincerity is one of the reasons he endures. And he’s interesting, thoughtful, funny, somehow unknowable despite his decades in the spotlight. Every Keanu press cycle is a good Keanu press cycle, the man might be the closest thing to a real Ted Lasso that we have (in Hollywood, anyway). 

Keanu, along with John Wick director Chad Stahelski—Keanu’s Matrix stuntman turned friend turned collaborator—covers the March issue of Wired. They talk John Wick, of course, but also AI, which is especially interesting coming from Keanu, because he is a popular target for deepfakes and algorithm-led online programming. For instance, there is the TikTok channel “Unreal Keanu”, which drops a deepfake Keanu into domestic yet surreal situations, like cutting a baguette with a katana:


Katana wins #keanu #baguette #katana

♬ original sound - Unreal Keanu Reeves

This is relatively harmless. In fact, the person behind this channel takes a shot at “Soviet” commercials, which is how Hollywood became concerned about deepfakes in the first place, when a Russian company deepfaked Bruce Willis into a commercial. The initial reporting was that Willis sold his likeness rights for such use, but he denied that


So-so song :) 🎤😮

♬ original sound - Unreal Keanu Reeves

Deepfakes, and let’s call it “replacement creative AI” like Chat GPT, pose an obvious threat to creative industry. As the technology rapidly improves, how are actors supposed to stay ahead of having their likenesses abused? Or words they never said put into their mouths? How will anyone stay employed when employers seem determined to algorithm everyone out of a job? Keanu has thoughts:

“What’s frustrating about that is you lose your agency. […] When you give a performance in a film, you know you’re going to be edited, but you’re participating in that. If you go into deepfake land, it has none of your points of view. That’s scary. It’s going to be interesting to see how humans deal with these technologies. They’re having such cultural, sociological impacts, and the species is being studied. There’s so much ‘data’ on behaviors now. Technologies are finding places in our education, in our medicine, in our entertainment, in our politics, and how we war and how we work.”


Because he is Neo, people will give this extra weight, but this is pretty much the baseline for concern. We don’t really know how we’re going to interact with this stuff, particularly once it actually is indistinguishable from the “human touch”. We’re not quite there, we’re still in the Wild West phase, but just based on how the internet turned out—vastly different from our dreams of an endless, open “information superhighway” in the 1990s—we will undoubtedly do something awful with it. Well, first, we’re gonna try to f-ck it. And once we determine if we can or cannot f-ck AI, THEN we’ll do something terrible with it (and keep f-cking it while we do). In the long run, how AI impacts creative industry is probably the least of all concerns.

But it is worth nothing that through the 2010s, when VFX became seamless and photorealistic, there was a swing back to audiences favoring practical effects and stunts. That’s the wave John Wick rode through the middle to late parts of the decade, ever growing in popularity for the bare-knuckle stunts and real fight choreography featured in the franchise. It’s the same wave Tom Cruise and Top Gun: Maverick rode last year, with the real flight footage and the “he does all his own stunts” branding of Cruise himself. So there’s a chance, even as AI and deepfakes integrate more fully into the industry, that audiences continue to prefer the practical over the programmed. Or we’ll all be human goo batteries powering our AI overlords, who knows.