Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain it was always going to arouse emotions. Morgan nevilleThe portrait of the celebrated chef, author and adventurer, who died by suicide in June 2018, includes archival footage of Anthony Bourdain and interviews with those closest to him, including his brother. Chris, ex wife Ottavia Busia-Bourdain, and fellow chef David Chang. But one element of the film, which uses artificial intelligence technology to recreate Bourdain’s voice, has sparked a huge backlash.
In an interview with The New Yorker, Neville explained that he built a voiceover for the film by piecing together sound bites from Bourdain’s television, radio, audiobook and podcast appearances. However, in some key moments, the Oscar winner also used AI to imitate Bourdain’s voice. “There were three quotes in there that he wanted his voice for that there were no recordings of,” Neville said. The New Yorker. “I created an artificial intelligence model of his voice.”
Neville used the AI’s voice during a particularly emotional moment in the film, in which an email that Bourdain sent to his friend, the artist, is read. David Choe. “My life sucks right now,” says Bourdain’s recreated voice-over. “You are successful and I am successful, and I ask myself: are you happy?” Neville said that beyond that, “he probably doesn’t know what the other lines are that were spoken by the AI, and he’s not going to.” He added: “We can have a documentary ethics panel on that later.”
It seems that the debate has already begun, with several critics, fans and New Yorker reporter Helen rosner weighing up Neville’s use of AI in doc.
Neville further detailed his controversial choice of GQ. “We put more than 10 hours of Tony’s voice into an AI model,” he said. “The higher the amount, the better the result. We work with four companies before choosing the best one.” The filmmaker also claimed that he had received the consent of Bourdain’s ex-wife Ottavia to recreate the chef’s voice. I checked, you know, with his widow and his literary executor, just to make sure people agreed with that. And they said, ‘Tony would have been fine with that.’ He wasn’t putting words in his mouth. I was just trying to bring them to life. “