AI brings back the voice of a deceased Cyberpunk 2077 actor for Phantom Liberty

Image: CD Projekt Red

Cyberpunk 2077’s recently released DLC Phantom Liberty uses an AI-edited voice to emulate the performance of a deceased actor, the studio has confirmed. The actor in question is Miłogost “Miłek” Reczek, who provided the Polish-language voice of doctor Viktor Vektor in a localized version of the original game. He passed away in 2021 before reprising his role for the DLC.

News that AI would be used to approximate Reczek’s performance first emerged around a month ago prior to the release of Phantom Liberty. But it gained widespread attention this month after developer CD Projekt Red issued a statement explaining its decision. Localization director Mikołaj Szwed says that the company considered re-recording the entire role (both the original game and DLC) with a replacement actor, but decided against it to avoid losing Reczek’s performance.

Instead, the developer turned to voice cloning technology provided by Kyiv-based startup Respeecher. “We contacted his family for permission to create an algorithm from Miłek’s voice that could then be used over the performance of another actor, who would record Viktor Vektor’s new voice lines,” Szwed says, adding that the new lines were performed by Janusz Zadura “who tried to emulate Miłek’s style of speaking.”

“Miłek’s sons were very supportive and gave us their permission to move forward with the project,” Szwed says.

The development comes as the use of AI in creative works is under intense scrutiny, particularly over concerns it could be used to emulate an actor’s performance and deprive them or other performers of future work. As part of its ongoing strike action, SAG-AFTRA is seeking protections over the use of digital likenesses of actors, and recently voted to approve strike authorization for video game performers.

There have already been high profile examples of films recreating the performances of deceased actors. A CG version of Peter Cushing was used to bring back the character Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One, and Carrie Fisher appeared posthumously in The Rise of Skywalker as Leia Organa (though rather than being a primarily CG creation, this performance was largely stitched together with preexisting footage that was digitally augmented).

Respeecher’s technology has been used in several high profile Star Wars projects in the past. It synthesized the voice of young Luke Skywalker for the season 2 finale of The Mandalorian, and provided the voice of Darth Vader in Obi-Wan Kenobi with James Earl Jones’ permission after the actor stepped away from the role.

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