A “deepfake” video of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman featuring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci has gone viral on YouTube, winning praise from filmmakers and technology enthusiasts for its de-aging work that some believe is superior to the visual effects in the original Netflix movie.
The video, which is titled “Beating Netflix at De-Aging,” is attributed to an anonymous YouTuber named iFake who claims to have used freely-available deepfake software to improve upon the digital de-aging in the movie. The YouTuber also claims to have only spent seven days creating the video.
The Irishman tells the time-hopping story of Frank Sheeran (De Niro), a hitman for the Teamsters and the mafia who claims to have killed Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa. Pacino plays Hoffa while Pesci plays mafioso Russell Bufalino.
While Netflix has never confirmed the movie’s budget, published reports have pegged it somewhere around $175 million, making it one of the most expensive movies the streaming giant has produced. The bulk of the budget went into the visual effects, which were created by the George Lucas-founded Industrial Light & Magic.
Some critics have praised the movie’s special effects while others have panned them as distracting and unconvincing.
The YouTube video shows side-by-side scene comparisons of the original movie versus the deepfake footage. The deepfaked scenes show an even younger-looking De Niro, with subtle facial expressions and skin tones.
Screenwriter and director Paul Schrader, who has worked with Scorsese on four movies, praised the deepfake video, posting it to his personal Facebook page. Director Joe Carnahan also shared the video, exclaiming “Holy Shit!” on his Twitter account.
All I can say about this, is HOLY SHIT.https://t.co/FOBzcxPQWf
— Joe Carnahan (@carnojoe) January 9, 2020
A writer for Esquire deemed the deepfake to be “objectively better” than the original.
“I’m certainly no Martin Scorsese, but, as someone who has spent a majority of life observing human faces at a wide range of ages, these deepfakes look a hell of a lot better than The Irishman‘s attempt at de-aging,” the writer said.
Netflix recently released its own video showing how the movie’s visual effects team executed character de-aging without relying on facial tracking markers, or “golf balls,” that are typically used on action blockbusters.