TV: Thierry Ardisson interviews late stars in “Hôtel du temps”

Deceased celebrities, whose faces and voices have been recreated by technology, tell their story in the new show of the man in black on May 2 on France 3.

Thierry Ardisson (rejuvenated), Dalida and Jean Gabin. “I asked their opinion to the heirs” even if, legally, “there is no right to the image for the dead”, explains the presenter.

© MacGuff

Welcome to the “Hôtel du temps”, a new program by Thierry Ardisson where deceased stars are resurrected thanks to new technologies for the duration of a documentary interview, with a first part dedicated to Dalida broadcast Monday evening on France 3.

After the abrupt end in 2019 of “Hello Earthlings!” on C8, Thierry Ardisson signs his return to the small screen and to public service with this television UFO, co-produced with Third Eye (Mediawan), which he has been wearing for three years.

The concept: to interview deceased celebrities, whose faces and voices have been recreated by various technological processes so that they evoke their life and their death.

In addition to the program on Dalida, the broadcast of two other numbers, devoted to Coluche and Jean Gabin, is announced for the coming months, in the first part of the evening on France 3.

Ardisson rejuvenated

Each star will converse with Thierry Ardisson, himself rejuvenated, in the luxurious “Hôtel du temps”, installed for the occasion in the Parisian palace Le Meurice.

“It’s a real documentary told in the first person with an interviewer who gives birth to the character” based on archives, explains Nicolas Daniel, director of magazines for France Televisions, during a press conference.

The show raises multiple ethical questions about making the dead speak by using “deepfake”, an artificial intelligence technology to fake images.

“I asked their opinion to the heirs” even if, legally, “there is no right to the image for the dead”, explains Thierry Ardisson. “It’s so intimate that we can’t impose that on them,” he adds. Working “hand in hand with them” made it possible “to obtain a lot of information that I might not have obtained” alone.

Actors who interpreted the stars

The show’s other ethical safeguard is that all the comments made by the personalities “have actually been spoken or written”, guarantees the host, who has therefore built his interviews on the basis of existing answers, found at the cost of a “big job” of documentary collection.

So zero “infernal questions” or questions related to current events, the idea being to explore the many facets of popular stars, such as Jean Gabin’s resistance past, his love affair with Marlene Dietrich or his peasant fiber.

As for the “deepfake”, “it’s a tool: what’s good or bad is the use we make of it”, slices the “man in black”, who claims to use it “of a positive and cultural way”.

However, it took him many months to find a partner capable of exploiting this technology over a long period, ie 90 minutes of transmission.

The French studio Mac Guff has developed for the occasion “a unique tool” in very high resolution, “at costs compatible” with the budget of the show, underlines Rodolphe Chabrier, president of this great name in 3D animation and special effects.

In this case, this software recreates the faces using an artificial intelligence previously fed with many original images of the stars. This double visual was then inlaid on the faces of the actors who interpreted the stars interviewed by Ardisson, while their voices were modified by Ircam (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique).

The result is “bluffing”, confirms before the press Orlando, Dalida’s brother, moved to have seen his sister evoke his suicide on the screen.

The program also goes back in time with the “talking picture”, which animates the faces of people on a painting or photo, to create conversations between illustrious deceased, of the Dalida-Claude François type.

“Spectacularize culture”

So many technological feats that prefigure infinite variations on social networks, advertising or in the cinema.

“In a few years, there will be films with Clark Gable or Gary Cooper in Hollywood,” predicts Ardisson, 73, including 37 on the small screen, who now aims to “use artificial intelligence to spectacularize culture” at the TV.

In its projects, the development of “HistoVision”, an educational program relating historical facts by the animation of paintings or famous portraits. A pilot on Napoleon has already been presented to the National Education.

For the time being, the organizer can count on the success of “Hôtel du temps” abroad: the concept has already won over six countries in Europe and the Middle East.


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