Ottavia Bourdain denies approval of Roadrunner AI

Ottavia Bourdain and Anthony Bourdain

Ottavia Bourdain and Anthony Bourdain
Photo: Jamie McCarthy (Getty Images)

Roadrunner, Morgan Neville’s documentary about Anthony Bourdain, narrated by the chef and No reservations host. While most of this sound was recorded by the current Bourdain, Neville took the ethically questionable approach of using sewn clips, taken from TV, radio, podcasts and audiobooks, to create an AI model of Bouradain’s voice to recite emails and text. “If you watch the movie, except [Bourdain reciting an email he sent to his friend David Choe], you probably do not know what the other lines are that were spoken by AI and you do not want to know, ”Neville told The New Yorker ‘s Helen Rosner in an interview published Thursday. “We can have a document ethics panel about it later.

Neville also told GQ that he checked with “his widow and his literary executor, just to make sure people were cool with it. And they were like, ‘Tony would have been cool with that.’ “But it turns out that Ottavia Bourdain, the widow in question, certainly was does not. Friday morning, she tweeted, “It was definitely NOT the one who said Tony would have been cool with it.”

The day before, Twitter user @ rcisneros1233 reached out to Ottavia Bourdainand asked if she had “anything to do with the documentary.” “Besides the interview, I gave and delivered some of the footage, not really,” she replied.

Neville has issued a follow-up statement to Variety, though it does not address why people might feel uncomfortable with the director using an AI to essentially falsify Bourdain’s voice. “There were a few sentences that Tony wrote that he never spoke out loud,” Neville says. “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 bring Tony’s words to life. ”


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