Anthony Bourdain’s ex-wife is upset with the upcoming documentary about the beloved chef using A.I. to recreate his voice for some lines in the film
Anthony Bourdain’s ex-wife, Ottavia Busia, is slamming the filmmaker behind the new documentary about the beloved late celebrity chef, regarding his statements that suggested that she endorsed the usage of A.I. to recreate Bourdain’s voice for a few lines in the film, which if narrated using footage from the chef himself, who passed away in June 2018 by suicide.
Morgan Neville, the filmmaker behind the new documentary, Roadrunner, created a firestorm on social media when he revealed that he used a company to replicate Bourdain’s voice to read out loud a few lines that the chef had written but never said out loud.
Neville explained to The New Yorker, “[T]here were three quotes there I wanted his voice for that there were no recordings of,” so he gave a dozen hours of Bourdain recordings to a software company and “I created an A.I. model of his voice. If you watch the film, other than that line you mentioned, you probably don’t know what the other lines are that were spoken by the A.I., and you’re not going to know. We can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later.”
Neville’s blasé attitude about the A.I. (particularly the ethic panel joke) led to a backlash, and he then told GQ magazine, ” I checked, you know, with his widow and his literary executor, just to make sure people were cool with that. And they were like, Tony would have been cool with that. I wasn’t putting words into his mouth. I was just trying to make them come alive.”
Busia, though, who married Bourdain in 2007 before divorcing in 2016, tweeted in response to the GQ story, “I certainly was NOT the one who said Tony would have been cool with that.” She also explained that she had no involvement in the documentary besides being interviewed and giving some footage to the filmmakers.
Neville released another statement on Thursday through Focus Features stating, “There were a few sentences that Tony wrote that he never spoke aloud. With the blessing of his estate and literary agent we used A.I. technology. It was a modern storytelling technique that I used in a few places where I thought it was important to make Tony’s words come alive.”
There is still a lot of controversy over not disclosing the use of A.I. in the film itself, with critic Sean Burns tweeting, “When I wrote my review I was not aware that the filmmakers had used an A.I. to deepfake Bourdain’s voice for portions of the narration. I feel like this tells you all you need to know about the ethics of the people behind this project.”
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