Updated: Aug 23
New documentary, Roadrunner, reveals intimate details of the late Chef's life, his struggles, and his private life. The film by Focus Features was directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville who has a track record of producing biopics and series of history-making celebrities like Sidney Poitier, the first Black American Actor to receive an Academy Award, Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys, James Brown, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Chelsea Handler, and many others.
The famed Chef and patron saint of the kitchen, Anthony Bourdain first caused a stir in 1999 with his infamous article "Don't Eat Before Reading This" published in the New York Times, and then again when he published his book "Kitchen Confidential." Now, three years after his death Bourdain's voice, or in this case, the lack thereof, is once again creating waves.
The documentary follows Bourdain through his life, giving a behind-the-scenes perspective of his journey, including old clips and voice-overs, of which three spoken lines have been generated with AI technology. A controversy was sparked on Twitter by some die-hard Bourdain fans who are angry at the Filmmaker's choice to use AI, calling the creative choice an "unethical deep-fake". Comments on Twitter reflected an unease with the application of the technology and even feelings of betrayal.
Neville, who is said to have obtained permission from his widow and literary executor, responded calmly to critics, via Variety magazine, explaining the process and the intention. Of the couple of sentences that Bourdain wrote but never spoke, Neville and his team were able to replicate the late Chef's voice using AI by feeding hours of Bourdain's actual voice into it. The three lines spoken by the AI voice replicator where woven into the film and almost impossible to distinguish from the actual spoken lines. His most recent former widow Ottavia Busia responded that "she did not say [Bourdain] would be cool" with this.
Discussions about ethical depictions used in the film ignited another Twitter thread that criticizes Asia Argento of trying gain attention, questioning her support of him during his final days.
Roadrunner A Film About Anthony Bourdain was released in U.S. theaters on July 16 2021.