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Robot actress to star in big-budget sci-fi movie

The artificially intelligent actress named Erica was trained on the principles of method acting and has already done some filming.

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Erica, ready for her close-up.

Gabriel Bouys/Getty Images

A robot named Erica will have a leading role in a $70 million science fiction film with the single-letter title b, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The film will be the first to rely on an artificially intelligent actor, producers said.

The movie will follow a scientist whose program to perfect human DNA runs into unexpected dangers, and who must help the artificially intelligent woman he designed to escape, said the Reporter. A director and actor to star opposite Erica have yet to be announced. 

Erica was originally set to debut in a different film that was going to be directed by Tony Kaye (of American History X), but scheduling conflicts led the producers in another direction, according to the report. Producers already began filming some of the robot actress's scenes in Japan in 2019, and expect to shoot the rest of the film in June 2021. 

Erica was created by Japanese scientists Hiroshi Ishiguro and Kohei Ogawa as part of their study of human-robot interactions. She can understand natural language and has a humanlike voice and facial expressions, according to Ishiguro's lab website. The scientists taught her to act by applying the basics of method acting to AI, producer Sam Khoze told the Reporter. 

"In other methods of acting, actors involve their own life experiences in the role," Khoze said. "But Erica has no life experiences. She was created from scratch to play the role. We had to simulate her motions and emotions through one-on-one sessions, such as controlling the speed of her movements, talking through her feelings and coaching character development and body language."

This isn't Erica's first on-camera role: She started as a newscaster in Japan in 2018.

The film will be financed by Bondit Capital Media, the team behind the Oscar-nominated Loving Vincent, along with New York-based Ten Ten Global Media and Belgium's Happy Moon Productions. 

Erica may be the first leading artificial lady, but she's far from the first robotic actor. In 2015, a robot starred in a German stage adaptation of My Fair Lady called My Square Lady. The year before, another played the lead in a Japanese-French stage production of The Metamorphosis, in which the lead wakes up to discover he's been turned into an android, as opposed to an insect (as is the case in Franz Kafka's novella). Ishiguro also helped design that robot. 

Ishiguro's lab did not wish to make a comment. 

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