*The following article contains discussion of suicide/self-harm.
This Friday, the new documentary by Morgan Neville called Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain will be released. Many are unhappy with the use of artificial intelligence to recreate a deep fake of the late chef's voice.
The star of Parts Unknown and No Reservations died by suicide in June of 2018, and now critics are sharing their opinions on the ethics of creating a A.I. version of Bourdain's voice for the film.
In an interview with GQ, Neville said:
"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."
Ottavia Busia-Bourdain, Bourdain's second wife, shared in the documentary that this film would be the last time she publically speak about her late husband.
However, since the article in GQ dropped, Ottavia Busia-Bourdain tweeted stating she did not approve of the artificial voice for the documentary.
I certainly was NOT the one who said Tony would have been cool with that. https://t.co/CypDvc1sBP— Ottavia (@Ottavia) 1626409326.0
Neville had another interview with Helen Rosner from the New Yorker where he explained those few sound bites in more detail:
"There is a moment at the end of the film's second act when the artist David Choe, a friend of Bourdain's, is reading aloud an e-mail Bourdain had sent him:"
"'Dude, this is a crazy thing to ask, but I'm curious' Choe begins reading, and then the voice fades into Bourdain's own: '. . . and my life is sort of shit now. You are successful, and I am successful, and I'm wondering: Are you happy?'"
"I asked Neville how on earth he'd found an audio recording of Bourdain reading his own e-mail."
"Throughout the film, Neville and his team used stitched-together clips of Bourdain's narration pulled from TV, radio, podcasts, and audiobooks. 'But there were three quotes there I wanted his voice for that there were no recordings of,' Neville explained."
This feels unethical to me maybe? https://t.co/9rHUJPU0X6— Isaac Butler (@Isaac Butler) 1626369265.0
Neville goes on to say that with the current ways this technology is harming people, this "is hardly the most dystopian application of the technology."
Given the fact that you cannot hear much of a difference between those few lines and the rest of the actual recordings of Bourdain, Neville said:
"We can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later."
Since Ottavia Busia-Bourdain tweeted, her supported shared their sympathy and disgust for the creators of the documentary.
@OttaviaBourdain This is despicable. I’m so sorry you and A have this to deal with on top of everything else— Nigella Lawson (@Nigella Lawson) 1626439894.0
@OttaviaBourdain @adashtra This can't be called a documentary anymore. Going beyond what is there and creating audi… https://t.co/fbBphcz2dk— JAC (@JAC) 1626437693.0
@jkl888 @OttaviaBourdain @adashtra https://t.co/I3X6QwDNC2— Sylvie VS the Multiverse (@Sylvie VS the Multiverse) 1626445331.0
@OttaviaBourdain Seems unethical they used AI, it's deceptive. Unethical they claim you said something you didn't s… https://t.co/66hKq3i8XD— Suze (@Suze) 1626411598.0
@MsSuzieQ3 @OttaviaBourdain I agree! Especially for the fact that we are living in a time where disinformation is s… https://t.co/AEb0vnFzDe— Joan (@Joan) 1626450490.0
@OttaviaBourdain @BridgetMarie Why on earth would they feel the need to create commentary from someone so reliably… https://t.co/8bKkkG4PO4— CanerdianGirl (@CanerdianGirl) 1626451211.0
@OttaviaBourdain I'm so sorry they did this. Both he and you deserved better than having this done, and they should be ashamed.— Chris Echols (@Chris Echols) 1626436509.0
@OttaviaBourdain @Sun_Daze_11 I only knew Tony through his writing and tv work, but it seems to me he'd have object… https://t.co/gN2BAVUKLl— Michigander58 💉💉🌻 (@Michigander58 💉💉🌻) 1626461958.0
Critic Sean Burns tweeted that he didn't even realize that it was A.I. recreation of Bourdain's voice until the article came out.
When I wrote my review I was not aware that the filmmakers had used an A.I. to deepfake Bourdain’s voice for portio… https://t.co/ogpJjLfkDE— Sean Burns (@Sean Burns) 1626369992.0
As of right now, Morgan Neville has not made any further comments. It will be interesting to see if an ethics panel ends up reviewing this film.
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/