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Anthony Bourdain’s Widow Denies Giving Permission to Deepfake His Voice in Documentary

The film's director Morgan Neville previously claimed he had reached out to Bourdain's estranged wife for her blessing

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anthony bourdain documentary ottavia busia ai deepfake response
Anthony Bourdain (Focus Features)

    Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain premiered in theaters across the country this week, but not without an immense amount of controversy stemming from the use of A.I. to recreate Bourdain’s voice in the film. Now, Bourdain’s ex-wife has confirmed that she did not give filmmaker Morgan Neville permission to deepfake Bourdain’s voice.

    The drama began when Neville claimed to Variety that he had “checked…with [Bourdain’s] widow and his literary executor, just to make sure” they were OK with the development of the vocal deepfake. Once the article dropped, Ottavia Busia — who was married to the culinary icon from 2007 until their separation in 2016, responded directly to Neville’s claim, writing, “I certainly was NOT the one who said Tony would have been cool with that.”

    Ottavia’s tweet calling out the film quickly went viral, racking up nearly 30,000 likes and earning replies from people like Nigella Lawson, who commented, “This is despicable. I’m so sorry you and A have this to deal with on top of everything else.” Check out Busia’s terse clapback over A.I. below.

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    Bourdain passed away by suicide in June 2018 while filming an episode of his acclaimed CNN culinary travel program, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, in Strasbourg, France. At the time, he was dating actress Asia Argento, though he and Busia were still legally married throughout their separation.

    Neville has yet to reply to the late celebrity chef’s widow’s assertion, and it remains unclear whether he actually obtained permission from anyone in Bourdain’s family or his literary executor.

    Meanwhile, Bourdain’s extensive travelogue World Travel: An Irreverent Guide was published posthumously in April and his 1997 crime thriller Gone Bamboo is set to receive a TV adaptation from Gone in 60 Seconds producers Webster and Robert Stone.

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