The new Anthony Bourdain documentary features a range of voice commentary of those close to the acclaimed chef’s life — including an A.I. version of Bourdain himself.
Director Morgan Neville used A.I. technology to create a voice-over reading of an email the late chef had written in Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, according to an interview with The New Yorker.
Neville accumulated hundreds of hours of footage of Bourdain to stitch together voice-overs for the film, which was released in theaters today (July 16.) When he couldn’t find an existing narration to match an email he wanted to be read in the film, he created one.
“There were three quotes there I wanted his voice for that there were no recordings of,” Neville told the publication. “I created an A.I. model of his voice.”
“If you watch the film… you probably don’t know what the other lines are that were spoken by the AI, and you’re not going to know,” he continued. “We can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later.”
People went to Twitter to criticize the filmmaker’s usage of Bourdain’s A.I. voiceovers.
One user wrote, “How about we let people be dead???”
How about we let people be dead???— Joshua Topolsky (@joshuatopolsky) July 15, 2021
One Twitter user added, “I wanted to see it, as I’m a big fan of his shows, but now I don’t think I want to because of this. I’m all for technology, but goddammit, you gotta draw a line somewhere.”
I wanted to see it, as I'm a big fan of his shows, but now I don't think I want to because of this. I'm all for technology, but goddammit, you gotta draw a line somewhere.— Al Pastor Fan Account (@JJBittenbindr) July 15, 2021
One person said, “we (as in fans/consumers but also creators and execs) need to collectively reevaluate our relationship with notable artists and question why we feel so entitled to them even in death.”
ok between the anthony bourdain deepfake thing & the pop smoke posthumous release thing i think we (as in fans/consumers but also creators and execs) need to collectively reevaluate our relationships with notable artists and question why we feel so entitled to them even in death— hot girl midsommar (@verymimi) July 15, 2021
To which one person added, “Especially when in the case of Anthony Bourdain, it’s something you know he would have loathed.”
Especially when in the case of Anthony Bourdain, it’s something you know he would have loathed.— 🤍🐚Cuz U like my steelo (@8Karentmorales) July 15, 2021
In the film’s first few minutes, Bourdain voices over, “There’s no happy ending.” In Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, the possibility of happiness was the question that propelled and consumed Bourdain.
“He had impostor syndrome; he always felt like it could all go away. But I think, even more than that, the reason he kept moving was just the hope that the next thing was going to make him happy, or it was going to solve something in his life,” Neville said. “People told me that Tony made best friends one week at a time: he travels, he meets them somewhere and they think they have a new best friend, and then he would never see them again, because he was on to the next place. That sense of momentum, it’s both part of what made him great, and part of what must have been so tough to live with.”
Neville never met Bourdain, which he said he regrets on a personal level but considers advantageous as a filmmaker.
The film takes an in-depth look at Bourdain’s rise from New York kitchens to worldwide fame, his personal life and search for happiness, and his shocking 2018 death by suicide.