Fact Check

Did Tom Hanks Say He Will Use AI to Make Films After His Death?

A genuine quote by the actor about the technology's potential impact on Hollywood was taken out of context.

Published May 19, 2023

 (Screenshot via disneydining.com)
Image courtesy of Screenshot via disneydining.com
Claim:
In May 2023, actor Tom Hanks said he planned to use artificial-intelligence (AI) technology to keep making films after his death.
Context

In a podcast interview that aired on May 12, 2023, Hanks acknowledged the possibility of having his likeness recreated by AI and used in films; however, he did not say he would definitely use the technology to make films after his death. In full context, he was speaking on the technology's potential impact on the film industry as a whole — not his career specifically.

On May 19, 2023, an article on Disney Dining, a website that purports to publish Disney news, claimed that actor Tom Hanks said he would keep making movies after his death by using artificial-intelligence technology. The article's headline stated, "Actor Tom Hanks Will Keep Making Films After His Death."

In its opening paragraphs, the article claimed:

Tom Hanks says he'll be making Hollywood blockbusters long after he dies.

Most successful Hollywood actors intend to keep making movies until they die. But actor Tom Hanks–a two-time Academy Award winner and four-time Golden Globe winner–says that won't stop him, and he will continue his acting career, even after he passes away.

The article went on to accurately transcribe real quotes from the actor during an interview on The Adam Buxton Podcast, hosted by British comedian Adam Buxton. However, for the purpose of this fact check, we're focusing on the article's underlying claim — which was a false characterization of Hanks' words in the interview. 

In that interview, which aired May 12, 2023, Hanks talked about the possibilities and concerns that artificial intelligence generated, and the potential legal ramifications for actors who wanted to protect their image, voice, or other characteristics as intellectual property. He discussed on a theoretical level how his image could be used and never said he would use artificial intelligence to make films in any circumstance, much less to keep making films after his death. 

The conversation took place at the 36-minute mark, when Hanks responded to a question about whether he had placed legal restrictions on the recreation of his performances through AI. 

We transcribed the full conversation below (emphasis, ours): 

Adam Buxton: My wife is a lawyer, and she is interested to know whether you have placed legal restrictions on who gets to use AI in order to recreate a Tom Hanks performance when you are no longer acting? 

Tom Hanks: This is something that is literally part and parcel to what's going on in the realm of intellectual property rights right now. This has always been lingering. The first time we did a movie that had a huge amount of our own data locked in a computer, literally what we looked like, was a movie called "The Polar Express" which we made back around the year 2000. And we saw this coming, we saw that there was going to be this ability to take zeros and ones from inside a computer and turn it into a face and a character. That has only grown a billion-fold since then and we see it everywhere. I can tell you that there [are] discussions going on in all of the guilds, all of the agencies, and all of the legal firms in order to come up with the legal ramifications of my face and my voice and everybody else's being our intellectual property. [...]

What is a bona fide possibility right now is, if I wanted to, I could get together and pitch a series of seven movies that would star me in them in which I would be 32 years old from now until kingdom come.

Anybody can now recreate themselves at any age they are by way of AI or deep fake technology. I could be hit by a bus tomorrow and that's it, but performances can go on and on and on and on.

Outside the understanding that has been done with AI and deep-fake, there'll be nothing to tell you that it's not me and me alone. And it's going to have some degree of lifelike quality. That's certainly an artistic challenge but it's also a legal one.

Buxton: Sure, but I think that people will be able to tell, because what will be missing are the unique choices that you made as an actor and as a person that produce certain performances.

Hanks: Without a doubt people will be able to tell. But the question is will they care?

Buxton: Yeah they will.

Hanks: I think you have more faith in the human condition than others. There are some people that won't care, that won't make that delineation. [...] We're talking about literally a long time ago, this guy invented a machine that could print, that could create lies that would be taken as absolute truths by anyone who read them and then decided to believe them as opposed to examine them. And that guy, his name was Gutenberg and he invented the printing press. This is a super attenuated version of that printing press. AI, deepfake, anything will be able to lie just as well as they can go ahead and be able to tell the truth, and there are gonna be some people who are going to put a huge stake in what is authentic and what is not, just as there are going to be a ton of people who ain't going to care. 

In sum, Hanks acknowledged the possibility of having his likeness recreated by AI and used in films; however, he did not say he would definitely use the technology to make films after his death. Hanks said "if [he] wanted to" he could pitch movies starring an AI version of his younger self, but he did not outrightly say he would do that as a living actor, nor after he dies. 

Given that the headline and opening paragraphs of the Disney Dining article misrepresented Hanks' words, we rated this claim "False." 
 

Sources

Burkett, Becky. "Actor Tom Hanks Will Keep Making Films After His Death." Disney Dining, 19 May 2023, https://www.disneydining.com/actor-tom-hanks-will-keep-making-films-after-his-death-bb1/. Accessed 19 May 2023.

"EP.201 - TOM HANKS." ADAM BUXTON, https://www.adam-buxton.co.uk/podcasts/lpbk8k9zbhx54zt-8yl8m-mdzjc-whmf8-2lwfg-emz92-cxnlh-ghwwh-r34cb-sfwnb-kmjcj-x8cgn-gzmzx-xfpt5-x6cma-d8lbc. Accessed 19 May 2023.

"Tom Hanks: I Could Appear in Movies after Death with AI Technology." BBC News, 16 May 2023. www.bbc.com, https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-65607420. Accessed 19 May 2023.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.