It can’t be all bad to be born with a face like Tom Cruise. Nor is it a disadvantage to be chosen by one’s peers to deliver the Harvard commencement oration for your class. But as Miles Fisher tells it for Hollywood Reporter, those two things clashed in spectacular fashion when he was introduced on graduation day as “the Tom Cruise guy.” He recalls the panic of feeling laughed at by a luminous crowd of 32,000 as his speech vanished from his mind. He recovered, however, and decided to take his famous-looking face to Hollywood in 2006. For years, that face remained a “strange burden and liability,” as strangers stopped him on the street daily to remind him and casting directors couldn’t quite bring themselves to hand him leading roles, though he landed bit parts in various TV shows.
Then came “Run Tom Run,” a spoof video in which Fisher impersonates Cruise announcing a 2020 presidential campaign. It was a moderate YouTube hit, enough to get the attention of Belgian visual effects artist and “technologically brilliant wunderkind” Chris Umé, who used AI “deep learning” to transpose Cruise’s face onto Fisher’s. The result was a convincing (if slightly glitchy) “deepfake.” Fisher was inspired to start a TikTok account, DeepTomCruise, which became an overnight sensation. Many TikTokkers believed they were really watching the world’s most famous actor exploring life’s mundane pleasures. Fisher says he hasn't made money off the act, but it has given him a much-needed “creative boon.” He also believes his meme “has done much to raise global awareness” about both the benefits and risks of emergent AI technology. Read his essay here. (Read more deepfakes stories.)