The director and CNN would rather not discuss the nature of recreating Anthony Bourdain’s voice in its homage.
Among the new releases in theaters this weekend was “Roadrunner – A Film About Anthony Bourdain,” a Focus Features release that was produced by Bourdain’s last place of employment, CNN. The retrospective did rather well, drawing $1.9 million as it was showing on only 925 screens. This marks the best independent release in the pandemic-deflated marketplace this year.
Bourdain was lost three years ago, to suicide, and his celebrity is still enduring. However, there is a question about the film, one revealed in an interview conducted with director Morgan Neville for The New Yorker, published just ahead of the release. Writer Helen Rosner asked Neville about a particular segment in the film, one she found to be especially poignant.
There is a moment at the end of the film’s second act when the artist David Choe, a friend of Bourdain’s, is reading aloud an e-mail Bourdain had sent him: “Dude, this is a crazy thing to ask, but I’m curious” Choe begins reading, and then the voice fades into Bourdain’s own: “. . . and my life is sort of shit now. You are successful, and I am successful, and I’m wondering: Are you happy?”
Curious, Rosner wondered how it was that the director had been able to obtain a recording of Bourdain reading one of his own emails. It turns out, he did not have possession of such a recording — so he created one.
There were three quotes there I wanted his voice for that there were no recordings of,” Neville explained. So he got in touch with a software company, gave it about a dozen hours of recordings, and, he said, “I created an A.I. model of his voice.”
This becomes quite an eyebrow-raising revelation. Apart from this particular scene, Neville indicated there were other portions of his film where Bourdain’s voice was generated for the audio, but he would not reveal what portions those are. This now raises a number of questions about the process of making the
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