When several life-like Tom Cruise deepfakes went viral on TikTok, many saw the future of truth through a glass, darkly -- out of concern for a world where acquiring deepfakes of major celebrities or political figures would become a "one-click" feature of daily life. Like it or not, we live in a world where anyone can interact with deepfake technology. But curating high-end specialized AI drivers -- whether for mischief or raising awareness -- is harder than it looks. The creator of the video -- a Belgium VFX specialist named Chris Ume -- thinks this is unlikely, emphasizing the impractically long timespans and substantial effort required to build every deepfake, in addition to finding an ace Tom Cruise impersonator (Miles Fisher). "You can't do it by just pressing a button," said Ume in a report from The Verge.
Three days ago, a TikTok account going by @deeptomcruise began posting video clips of the Hollywood actor Tom Cruise doing everything from golfing, to tripping and telling a joke in what appears to be a men's clothing store in Italy, to performing a magic trick with a coin. In each of the three videos, Cruise delivers his signature maniacal laugh--you know, the one he repeatedly unleashed in that batty Scientology recruitment video years back--before launching into some sort of bit, and in all of them, it looks just like Cruise. There are a few giveaways, of course. Also, his voice is hollow and scratchy, a la that scene in Face/Off where John Travolta-as-Nicolas Cage is trying to adjust his vocals to that Cage-ian timbre. Still, the Cruise TikToks managed to bewilder and horrify a number of people.
New deepfake videos of actor Tom Cruise have made their way onto TikTok under the handle @deeptomcruise, and boy do they look real. They're so realistic, in fact, it's possible that you wouldn't even know they're computer-generated had you not been alerted by the account's handle. And they were made using not much more than sample footage of Cruise and deepfake technology that's getting easier for anyone to use. Not even two years ago it would have been easy to differentiate between a real and an AI-generated video of somebody. But the technology is advancing so rapidly that we've reached a point of escape velocity, and it's obvious that deepfakery isn't going to be used just for innocent purposes, like animating pictures of your past relatives.
Earlier this year, videos of Tom Cruise started popping up on TikTok of the actor doing some surprisingly un-Tom-Cruise-like stuff: goofing around in an upscale men's clothing store; showing off a coin trick; growling playfully during a short rendition of Dave Matthews Band's "Crash Into Me." In one video, he bites into a lollipop and is amazed to find gum in the center. "Mmmmm," he says to the camera. How come nobody ever told me there's bubblegum? The 10 videos, which were posted between February and June, featured an artificial intelligence-generated doppelganger meant to look and sound like him.
Tom Cruise looks at the camera. "I'm going to show you some magic," he says holding up a coin. "It's the real thing", the Hollywood actor insists, giving his trademark laugh and making the coin disappear. Millions have watched the video on TikTok, with many initially wondering if the 58-year-old Mission: Impossible star had joined the video-sharing platform beloved of teenagers. Except this is not Cruise but a "deepfake" video, one of several of the actor that have garnered millions of views and shares across social media.