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Bill Hader's face, our sense of reality, is melting in a wild new deepfake video

Screenshot: Ctrl Shift Face (YouTube)

Now that Hollywood has officially endorsed the aesthetics of deepfakes with the mangled celebrity faces of the upcoming Cats remake, it seems like there’s no longer anything holding the technology back. Last week, we bore witness to the chilling sight of Michelle Tanner’s baby-sized head playing host to Nick Offerman’s grown man eyes and mustache. And now, in an even wilder example of the reality-bending practice, deepfake creator Ctrl Shift Face is here with a Bill Hader interview where the comedian seamlessly transforms into Tom Cruise and Seth Rogen as he performs impressions.

The video starts, innocently, with Hader guesting on an old episode of the Late Show With David Letterman, talking about having recently filmed Tropic Thunder. Soon enough, though, he mentions Tom Cruise and for a quick second—so briefly that the viewer is encouraged to think they’re losing their mind—his face transforms into Cruise’s. Every time after this, Hader’s impression is accompanied by his features melting into the other actor’s and back again. The same thing happens when he does a Seth Rogen voice and, because Cruise is still in the story, all sense of normalcy vanishes as the blank slate sitting next to Letterman switches between Rogen, Cruise, and Hader in quick succession.

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It’s creepy in the way all good deepfakes are, but what’s most impressive is how weirdly organic the effect seems when facial features slide around to form various celebrities. Hader ends up looking like some sort of deranged wizard, displaying his dark powers with ease. Letterman and the crowd laugh and applaud as if nothing extraordinary is happening in front of them, and that juxtaposition just makes everything even eerier. For today at least, it’s the most unsettling deepfake to date.

But hey, if there’s one silver-lining, it’s that this technology has now enabled producers to enjoy all the box office benefits of Cruise’s ticket-selling face without having to give money to him—and whatever new Scientology nightmare scheme he’s surely involved in now. If big Hollywood cash can go to Bill Hader and the tech-sorcerers needed to transform his face instead, well, that’s some minor consolation for having damaged our sense of reality, right?

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About the author

Reid McCarter

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.