Fact Check

Netflix Taps Tom Hanks To Play Osama Bin Laden?

Is this one of the actor’s iconic roles?

Published Sept. 4, 2023

 (Frankie Fouganthin/Wikimedia Commons)
Image courtesy of Frankie Fouganthin/Wikimedia Commons
A photograph accurately shows Tom Hanks in character as Osama bin Laden in a new Netflix series.

The image in question is AI generated. There is no evidence that Hanks is playing such a role.

In August 2023, a photograph went viral purportedly showing actor Tom Hanks in character as terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. 

The photograph in question is fake, and AI-generated. We found no evidence that Hanks was cast as the notorious Islamic militant, who was the founder of al-Qaida and the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks in New York City that killed thousands of people.

Hanks' IMDb page also has no information about a potential project about bin Laden. We found no reliable reporting confirming the claim. If Hanks were indeed playing such a character, it would have been headline news given the controversial nature of the story. 

Using Google's reverse-image search tool, we found no evidence that the image was posted by an official Netflix account or reliable news outlet. The Reddit post sharing the image placed it in the "Jokes/Meme" category.

The image popped up on "Know Your Meme," a website that documents internet phenomena, under a photograph of the real bin Laden. The "Based on a true story" meme appears to poke fun at Hollywood movies' tendency to use white characters to tell the stories of non-white people, even when they are as controversial as Saudi-born bin Laden. 

Many of the posts attribute artist @darkmatterincorp for the image. We found it posted on @darkmatterincorp's Instagram page in mid-August 2023, with the caption: "The greatest manhunt in history." ? [Get the t-shirt, sticker or print at darkmattermart.com | DM for commissions]." The Instagram page primarily showcases AI-generated imagery, depicting other actors in unusual roles.




A post shared by Dark (@darkmatterincorp)

Hanks has been the subject of other fake images, including one in which he was falsely shown to be playing Black civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. for yet another Netflix project. Check out our previous coverage on how to identify AI-generated images. 

Given that there is no evidence of such a Netflix project in the works, or of Hanks' involvement, and that the image is clearly AI-generated, we rate it as Fake.


Evon, Dan. "Snopes Tips: A Guide To Performing Reverse Image Searches." Snopes, 22 Mar. 2022, https://www.snopes.com/articles/400681/how-to-perform-reverse-image-searches/. Accessed 1 Sept. 2023.

Ibrahim, Nur. "Was Tom Hanks Cast as MLK in a New Netflix Movie?" Snopes, 30 June 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/tom-hanks-mlk-jr-netflix-movie/. Accessed 1 Sept. 2023.

Lee, Jessica and David Emery. "4 Tips for Spotting AI-Generated Pics." Snopes, 16 Apr. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/articles/464595/artificial-intelligence-media-literacy/. Accessed 1 Sept. 2023.

"Osama Bin Laden Killed." NPR, 15 Aug. 2013, https://www.npr.org/series/135908383/osama-bin-laden-dead. Accessed 1 Sept. 2023.

"Tom Hanks | Producer, Actor, Writer." IMDb, https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000158/. Accessed 1 Sept. 2023.

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