There’s a video on TikTok of Robert Pattinson that makes me want to claw my eyes out. He’s wearing black jeans with a half-tucked gray v-neck T-shirt, and is making unsettling eye contact with the camera. As he looks into your soul and smirks, he awkwardly dances with his hands (but not thumbs) in his pockets, gyrating his hips to that viral sea shanty. The caption creepily reads: “Hey TikTok! Who is gonna teach me how to dance?”
Of course, the video isn’t actually of the Robert Pattinson — famous for cursedly standing in a kitchen, oh, and acting — it’s a spine-chilling deepfake. And it’s one of a handful of traumatizing faux celebrity accounts on TikTok, with Keanu Reeves and Jason Statham also getting the deepfake treatment.
To be fair to these accounts — possibly run by the same person — all contain the word “unreal” in their handles, along with the caption: “Parody, life, and…” For Pattinson, it’s “tousled hair,” for Reeves, it’s “eternal youth,” and for Statham, it’s “muscles.” So, you’re not necessarily supposed to believe they’re real — not that you would anyway. The deepfakes are reasonably convincing — in that, the faces all look like the celebrities they’re mimicking — but their actions and, as fans have pointed out, heights give them away.
Pattinson’s seems to be the newest account, with just 258,000 followers, while Reeves and Statham have 2.4 million and 7.4 million respectively. Although, when talking to a Pattinson fan via DM, it emerged that there was another account, @iam_pattinson, posting videos of what looks like the same deepfake (that account seems to have since been deleted, however).
The best — and most bizarre — thing about each of these accounts is that they just depict the celebrity making cringe memes about everyday things. Take, for example, Reeves’ most recent video, in which he’s “absolutely raging on hold to customer service, but then the music takes over” and he does what I can only describe as a knee-bend wave dance.
Quick aside: There’s no evidence of who’s behind the deepfakes online, but — alongside the handles — analyzing the body’s awkward movements and collection of v-necks suggests it’s just one guy. Also this may be a leap, but, as a Brit, I believe the phrase “absolutely raging” is peak British, hinting at the creator’s location — plus, let’s be honest, only British people can be this uncoordinated when pretending to be celebs.
Anyway, people in the comments are fairly evenly split on whether they believe each deepfake is real. Some are just responding as if it’s actually the celeb, writing things like, “Such a kind spirit and heart. I wish I could meet and talk with him.” Others are impossible to persuade, like this person who said the Pattinson deepfake had “just destroyed Edward’s swag for me,” referencing the actor’s character in Twilight.
“I was never entirely convinced by it, something always felt slightly off,” says 22-year-old Cat, a Pattinson fan from London, “I remember describing it to my girlfriend and saying it looked like he was being held hostage and forced to make videos.”
Cat adds, however, that she did think there was a “possibility of it being ‘real’ in the early days of the account, when there were only a few videos.” (She’s referring to the original @iam_pattinson page.) She quickly figured it out, though, with the most notable giveaway being a video where Pattinson’s “face entirely glitches off.” After that, Cat says, she went back and watched other videos, and “it became obvious that the jaw shape completely changed in some shots” — plus, the angle of the face never changes, even if it doesn’t “properly fit the video.”
Still, Cat believes the deepfake’s actions weren’t “implausible” for Pattinson, who, she says, “has a reputation among fans for being strange/aloof in quite a fun way.” The Batman star is a particularly good target for this kind of deepfake, adds Cat, because “the sinister and unsettling energy of some of the videos didn’t feel out of place for something the actor would do himself as a joke.” She thinks the videos of Reeves and Statham are less believable.
Although deepfakes can be used for very sinister purposes — to create phony porn, put words into a politician’s mouth or, one day, to frame someone for a crime they didn’t commit — Cat sees the “harmless silly” deepfake videos on TikTok as not “particularly serious or dangerous,” though acknowledges that “the technology has the potential to be abused and cause serious situations, ruin people’s reputations and spread misinformation.”
Whether you believe them or not, the “unreal” TikTok accounts at least make it obvious in their bios that they’re deepfakes — other fakes might not be so obvious. But you can probably rest assured that Hollywood celebrities aren’t going to be spending their time making harrowing videos of themselves playing the guitar in their bedrooms. If you were fooled, dude, that’s on you.