Anthony Bourdain's widow slams artificial voice technique in new documentary

·2-min read

The widow of TV chef Anthony Bourdain has blasted the use of artificial intelligence to recreate the late star's voice in new documentary Roadrunner.

Despite the director claiming to have the approval of Bourdain's estate officials, the star's wife Ottavia Busia-Bourdain insists the No Reservations host would "not have been cool” with the use of AI. The former couple had a daughter, Ariane, now 14, and separated in 2016 though they never divorced.

On Friday, Ottavia slammed Roadrunner helmer Morgan Neville's claims, tweeting, "I certainly was NOT the one who said Tony would have been cool with that."

Neville told the New Yorker this week that he used the technology only briefly to simulate Bourdain's voice.

After receiving online backlash about the ethical implications of using the computer-generated dialogue, Neville released a statement obtained by Variety on Thursday, saying he had the “blessing" of his subject's estate, writing: "There were a few sentences that Tony wrote that he never spoke aloud. With the blessing of his estate and literary agent we used AI 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."

He added, "I checked, you know, with his widow (Ottavia) 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."

Documentary filmmaker and investigative journalist Lindsay Beyerstein also joined the discussion, tweeting, "There's no real problem with using AI in the place of a soundalike actor in a non-fiction film, as long as the creators are upfront about what they're doing."

Roadrunner, which had received glowing reviews ahead of the AI controversy, opened in U.S. theatres on Friday.

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