The film site Collider has created a deepfake roundtable that has to be seen to be (dis)believed. It stars Robert Downey, Jr., George Lucas, Tom Cruise, Ewan McGregor, and Jeff Goldblum, and while it’s an obvious fake, it’s also a pretty entertaining one. We’ve really gone to a strange place in the uncanny valley.
The key ingredient is the use of celebrity impersonators to provide the base performance for each fake. Then with the help of machine learning, the impersonators’ faces are overlaid with those of their Hollywood targets. The results aren’t perfect (just look at the mismatch with the lighting on fake Tom Cruise, for example) but they’re certainly compelling.
We spotted the video via The Register, and you can get an idea of what the actors looked like before and after the deepfakes were applied in this tweet from Josh Robert Thompson, who plays both Goldblum and Lucas:
Combining deepfakes with celebrity impersonations isn’t a totally new idea. Popular YouTube deepfaker Ctrl Shift Face has been doing it for a while, with videos like this one of Bill Hader impersonating Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This approach highlight both the strengths and weaknesses of deepfakes. They show you can’t yet use this technology to magic a whole character from scratch — that still takes time, effort, and traditional CGI work, as with the creation of Grand Moff Tarkin for Rogue One. But if a human provides the foundation, including hard-to-replicate elements like mannerisms and voice, then a quick deepfake mask takes care of the rest.
Deepfakes have been around for nearly three years now, and are only getting quicker and easier to make. Although much of the focus on this technology has been concerned with the perceived danger of political fakes, the vast majority of deepfakes are non-consensual pornography. And as even this harmless celebrity roundtable shows, these methods are only going to continue to evolve and adapt. Let’s see where we are in another three years.