Anthony Bourdain’s voice has been recreated by artificial intelligence for use in the upcoming Roadrunner documentary about his life.
This news comes by way of IndieWire, which reports that Roadrunner director Morgan Neville said the team is using over a dozen hours of Bourdain’s recorded voice to narrate the documentary. However, there were three instances where they didn’t have the audio they needed and the team turned to artificial intelligence to get what they needed.
“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 email 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,” Neville told The New Yorker in a recent interview, according to IndieWire. “… ‘and my life is sort of shit now. You are successful, and I am successful, and I’m wondering: Are you happy?'”
The New Yorker asked Neville how the team found audio of Bourdain reading his own email aloud and that’s when Neville revealed that such a thing didn’t exist. As a result, the team reached out to four software companies about recreating Bourdain’s voice using artificial intelligence.
They selected what they deemed the best of the four and sent them over a dozen hours of recordings.
“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,” Neville said. “We can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later.”
Neville did say in a GQ Magazine interview that the team checked with Bourdain’s widow and literary executor “to make sure people were cool with that,” and according to Neville, “they were like, ‘Tony would have been cool with that.'”
Neville said he wasn’t putting words into Bourdain’s mouth, but rather, just trying to make them come alive. IndieWire reports that Roadrunner’s use of words from Bourdain recreated using artificial intelligence is receiving backlash on social media, citing that film critic Sean Burns said he was not made aware of such a decision before writing his review.
“I feel like this tells you all you need to know about the ethics of the people behind this project,” Burns said.
Anthony Bourdain died at the age of 61 in 2018. The Roadrunner documentary that claims simply to be a film about his life hits theaters on July 16. Check out the official trailer for Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain while waiting for it to hit theaters.
Wesley LeBlanc is a freelance news writer and guide maker for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @LeBlancWes.