A new yorker revision from Roadrunner, the new documentary on Anthony Bourdain, is receiving additional attention for an anecdote mentioned towards the end. In the article, published Thursday, reporter Helen Rosner describes a scene from the film in which artist David Choe, a friend of Bourdain, reads an email from the late chef and travel documentary maker, who .
The scene begins with Choe’s voice before moving on to Bourdain’s, who says, “And my life sucks right now. You are successful and I am successful, and I wonder: are you happy?” Rosner says he asked filmmaker Morgan Neville how he found a recording of Bourdain reading the email. Neville reportedly told him: “There were three quotes there that he wanted his voice for and for which there were no recordings.” So Neville gave a software company about 12 hours of recordings and “created an artificial intelligence model of his voice.”
That revelation makes some people uncomfortable with the ethics behind the decision. Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel tweeted a screenshot of the passage, writing, “thank you, I hate it.”
“It can be awkward when doctors get an actor to ‘interpret’ someone’s quotes; the Hunter S. Thompson documentary had Johnny Depp read his columns, for example. But this? This sucks!” added.
“I think this is pretty grotesque,” someone else tweeted.
Focus Features, which created the film, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Emerging technologies have allowed us to more easily deform reality through synthetic means such as, which are videos that appear to show people doing or saying things they never did. The use of this technology ranges from harmless creation to potentially disrupt elections or violate people’s privacy. Some people have raised concerns about the implications of these kinds of rapidly evolving technologies, and Bourdain’s revelation makes some wonder if the late chef would agree to this use of AI.
In the New Yorker article, Neville tells Rosner: “If you watch the movie, in addition to the line you mentioned, you probably don’t know what the other lines the AI said are, and you won’t.” He added: “We can have a documentary ethics panel about it later. “
Writer Isaac Butler tweeted, “Does this seem unethical to me, maybe?”
Documentary filmmaker Lindsay Beyerstein, who is not affiliated with Roadrunner, wrote, “Did you reveal to the viewers that while most of the lines in Bourdain’s voice came from real images, some were simulated by AI with the words taken from the texts he wrote? There is no real problem with the use of AI rather than a sound actor in a non-fiction film, as long as the creators are honest about what they are doing. “
In the Article Posted Tuesday by GQ, Neville told the post, “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 agreed with That. I wasn’t not putting words in his mouth. I was just trying to make them come to life. ”
On Friday, Ottavia Bourdain, the chef’s widow, rejected the comment: saying in a tweet: “It certainly was NOT me who said Tony would have been fine with that.”
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain opens in theaters Friday.
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