A documentary on the late Anthony Bourdain is drawing attention for its use of artificial intelligence. A New Yorker review of Roadrunner, a documentary on late chef and travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain, is getting plenty of attention thanks to one anecdote mentioned toward the end. In the article, published Thursday, reporter Helen Rosner describes a scene in the film in which artist David Choe, a friend of Bourdain's, reads an e-mail from the late chef, who died by suicide in 2018. The scene starts with Choe's voice before transitioning to Bourdain's, which says, "and my life is sort of shit now. You are successful, and I am successful, and I'm wondering: Are you happy?" Rosner says she asked filmmaker Morgan Neville how he'd found a recording of Bourdain reading the email.
The director of a new Anthony Bourdain documentary admits he used artificial intelligence and computer algorithms to get the late food personality to utter things he never said on the record. Bourdain, who killed himself in a Paris hotel suite in June 2018, is the subject of the new documentary, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain. It features the prolific author, chef and TV host in his own words--taken from television and radio appearances, podcasts, and audiobooks. But, in a few instances, filmmaker Morgan Neville says he used some technological tricks to put words in Bourdain's mouth. As The New Yorker's Helen Rosner reported, in the second half of the film, L.A. artist David Choe reads from an email Bourdain sent him: 'Dude, this is a crazy thing to ask, but I'm curious...' You are successful, and I am successful, and I'm wondering: Are you happy?' Rosner asked Neville, who also directed the 2018 Mr. Rogers documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor?, how he possibly found audio of Bourdain reading an email he sent someone else.
In a new documentary, Roadrunner, about the life and tragic death of Anthony Bourdain, there are a few lines of dialogue in Bourdain's voice that he might not have ever said out loud. Filmmaker Morgan Neville used AI technology to digitally re-create Anthony Bourdain's voice and have the software synthesize the audio of three quotes from the late chef and television host, Neville told the New Yorker. The deepfaked voice was discovered when the New Yorker's Helen Rosner asked how the filmmaker got a clip of Bourdain's voice reading an email he had sent to a friend. Neville said he had contacted an AI company and supplied it with a dozen hours of Bourdain speaking. " ... and my life is sort of shit now. You are successful, and I am successful, and I'm wondering: Are you happy?" Bourdain wrote in an email, and an AI algorithm later narrated an approximation of his voice.
On July 16th, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain will open in US theatres. Like many documentaries, the film pieces together archival footage, including interviews and show outtakes, to attempt to tell the story of its subject in their own words. It also includes words Bourdain never spoke to a camera before his death by suicide in 2018, and yet you'll hear his voice saying them. In an interview with The New Yorker, the film's director, Morgan Neville, said there were three quotes he wanted Bourdain to narrate where there were no recordings, and so he recreated them with software instead. "I created an AI model of his voice," he told the magazine.
A gutting new documentary about Anthony Bourdain has arrived. Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, from filmmaker Morgan Neville, hits theaters today, Friday, July 16. While most who've seen it seem to agree that the piece, much like the subject matter, is enthralling, questions regarding the ethics of the production have also been raised. Most of this attention is centered on one decision: featuring voiceover quotes from the acclaimed chef and author that, it turns out, he never actually said. As Neville revealed to the New Yorker, he and his team employed artificial intelligence technology to recreate Bourdain's voice to add in a few missing pieces that the director thought filled in holes in the story.