Jimmy Kimmel Interviews His Past Self Thanks to Deepfake Tech

Deepfake technology, and artificial intelligence in general, has gotten dramatically better over the course of the last year, so much so that late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel was able to convincingly interview a 20-year-old version of himself on live TV.

The digital stunt was performed as part of the 20th anniversary of Kimmel’s show and is a lighthearted back and forth between a deepfaked version of a 2003 photo of Kimmel and his modern 2023 self.

Kimmel celebrated his 20th year on television by bringing back the same guests he featured on his very first episode back in 2003 (Snoop Dogg, Coldplay, and George Clooney) in addition to poking fun at his previous self.

The time-bending interview was made possible thanks to a technology that is colloquially called a “deepfake,” a video of a person in which the body or face has been digitally altered so they appear to be someone else. While deepfakes tend to have a malicious undertone, Kimmel shows here that they can be used for lighthearted entertainment.

While Kimmel appears at first to be bringing back to life a still photo, astute viewers probably noticed that instead of just making that photo come to life, Kimmel’s editors cut away to a slightly different angle of what is very likely an actor — if not Kimmel himself, who obviously supplied the voice lines — which was recorded at an earlier time (pauses between the real Kimmel and deepfake Kimmel is subtle and well pulled off, but some are elongated beyond normal and give away the technique).

Kimmel’s use of a deepfake here is all in good fun, but it does put on national television an example of just how powerful this technology is becoming. When done correctly, some deepfaked faces can look more real than actual humans, and some activists have used the technology to call attention to the danger it poses. For example, a deepfake of Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg thanked Congress for failing to take action against the biggest tech companies while a shockingly realistic deepfake of Tom Cruise was created specifically to call attention to the power of the technology.

Hopefully, Kimmel’s use of the tech here makes the capabilities of digital fakes more of a household concept, as those who use the technology maliciously — and they do exist — thrive best when the audience isn’t aware that such a feat is possible. Deepfake tech has already improved greatly over just the last six to eight months, and there is no doubt it will continue to become harder for even trained eyes to spot.