Those popular Tom Cruise deepfakes on TikTok are unsettlingly realistic

Tons of people are watching the creepy videos of the Mission: Impossible star. You'd think they were genuine if you didn't know. And maybe even if you did.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
Expertise Abrar has spent her career at CNET analyzing tech trends while also writing news, reviews and commentaries across mobile, streaming and online culture. Credentials
  • Named a Tech Media Trailblazer by the Consumer Technology Association in 2019, a winner of SPJ NorCal's Excellence in Journalism Awards in 2022 and has three times been a finalist in the LA Press Club's National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.
Abrar Al-Heeti
2 min read

The smile, the gestures, the laugh.... All seem genuine in a series of TikTok videos that appear to show Tom Cruise doing a magic trick or playing golf. Each movement is smooth, from him putting on his sunglasses to slicking his hair back before tossing on a hat. 

And that's what makes the videos so alarming. They aren't real, and that isn't Cruise. They're the product of a visual effects specialist from Belgium named Chris Ume, who used deepfake technology to create compelling clips that look just like they feature the Mission: Impossible star. Ume told CNET he and Cruise impersonator Miles Fisher were just trying to have fun when creating the videos, and that they "weren't trying to fool people." The  TikTok  account these videos were posted to, @deeptomcruise, now has over 380,000 followers. 

Deepfakes are videos that appear to show people doing or saying things they never did. Celebrities from Tobey Maguire to Lynda Carter have appeared in deepfakes, with fans imagining them in new roles just for the fun of it. But there's plenty of concern over the ability of this technology to disrupt elections or violate people's privacy. And while these videos of a fake Cruise are amusing and creative, they also have people online concerned about the implications of this rapidly evolving technology. 

Watch this: We're not ready for the deepfake revolution

"Here's the crazy thing about this Tom Cruise deepfake," journalist Yashar Ali tweeted. "This isn't even a super high-quality deepfake and I'm willing to bet that it could fool most people. Now imagine the quality of deepfake a government agency could produce."

Wrote another Twitter user, "This can cause clashes and riots if people are not educated about this. A fake video of a leader from religion A talking crap on religion B. A fake video of your spouse with someone else in a compromising position. A fake video of a famous doctor asking to consume XYZ."

The @deeptomcruise Twitter account responded to concerns by saying deepfakes aren't needed to spread lies and falsehoods, and that "it is easy to tell if a video is from a celebrity's official account (blue check), but if the video is filmed and posted by a third party, you wouldn't be able to know if it is real."

The internet appears divided between being merely fascinated by the videos and being outright creeped out and concerned about how the technology behind them can be used. 

TikTok didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Nor did Cruise. In the meantime, we'll all likely be watching that next Mission: Impossible movie a little more inquisitively.  

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