Tom Cruise's fake movie about the Paris Olympics has ties to Russian disinformation

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Have you seen this clip from the new Tom Cruise-narrated documentary, “Olympics Has Fallen,” which is a play on the title of the 2013 movie? Olympus has fallenThe new film claims to document cheating at the upcoming Olympics in Paris, France. But it's fake. Cruise's narration was created with artificial intelligence, and the “documentary” is actually the work of disinformation operatives with ties to the Russian government, according to a new report by Microsoft researchers.

The fake documentary is linked to two Russian influence groups, Storm-1679 and Storm-1099. MicrosoftIt's no wonder some people are fooled: The film is made up of four nine-minute episodes, each beginning with Netflix's trademark “ta-da” sound effect and an animated red N.

“This series will expose the inner workings of the global sports industry,” Cruise impersonator says as dramatic music plays, “specifically shining a light on the greedy executives at the International Olympic Committee who are slowly and painfully destroying thousands of years of Olympic sports.”

But there are plenty of signs that this movie is fake to anyone who pays attention. For starters, Cruise's voice is authentic, but he does sound awkward at times. But a big clue might be that the Russian campaign uses language that Americans wouldn't use. For example, in the first episode, there's a line where a fake Cruise voiceover talks about a “hockey match” instead of a hockey game. In Russia, the word “match” is much more common for sports like soccer, and any true fan of American ice hockey would call it a game, not a match.

At times, the fake Cruise's narration sounds like he's reading a strategy memo prepared by the people who concocted this disinformation. Most of the documentary is spent accusing Olympic organizers of being hopelessly corrupt, and the AI-generated Cruise tries to connect that to one of the actor's most famous roles from the 1990s.

“In Jerry Maguire, my character writes a 25-page company mission statement about the injustices in the sports management industry. Jerry wants justice for athletes, and that makes him a very relatable character,” the narrator says.

It's hard to imagine lines like that making it into a real documentary.

The fake documentary also features some particularly odd editing errors, such as when the AI ​​Cruise repeats cryptic lines and the audio cuts out for brief moments for no apparent reason. The video was made available in its entirety on the messaging app Telegram, where Gizmodo viewed it. We've uploaded a minute of it below to give you a sense of just how realistic the AI-generated narration sounds.

AI-generated narration of Tom Cruise

According to Microsoft, the fake documentary first surfaced in June 2023, but appears to be gaining attention again as the Olympics approach, which are scheduled to open in Paris on July 26 and run until August 11.

As Microsoft points out The report released on SundayThe Storm1679 group has been trying to instill fear in people about attending the 2024 Olympics in France. In one fake video purporting to be a warning from the CIA, they claim that the Olympics are at risk of a major terrorist attack. Other videos, made to look like videos from trusted news outlets like France24, claim that “24% of Olympic tickets have been returned due to fears of terrorism,” which is completely unfounded.

More recently, disinformation agents have been stoking fears over the current war in Gaza, claiming that terrorist attacks related to the conflict could occur in France.

“Storm1679 has also attempted to exploit the conflict between Israel and Hamas to fabricate threats to the Olympics,” Microsoft said in the new report. “In November 2023, it posted an image purporting to show graffiti in Paris threatening violence against Israeli nationals attending the Olympics. Microsoft assesses that the graffiti is digitally generated and unlikely to exist in a physical location.”

However, some of the information in this pseudo-documentary is actually true. For example, the film states: Wu Qing DynastyThe president of the amateur boxing governing body, Aiba, was suspended for alleged financial mismanagement. Other allegations about Olympic officials are also true, according to news sources available online. But that's to be expected: the most successful propagandists mix fact and fiction to leave people unsure of what the truth is.

All we know for sure is that Tom Cruise never narrated the film, and when someone is trying to hijack the credibility of a major movie star to spread a message, you should always be skeptical of anything they say, especially since bots are helping to spread the message far and wide on social media platforms.

“While video has traditionally been and will remain a powerful tool in Russian intelligence operations, we will likely see a tactical shift toward online bots and automated social media accounts,” Microsoft wrote on Sunday. “These can rapidly flood social media channels to create the illusion of widespread support and provide Russian sides with plausible deniability.”

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