‘Roadrunner’ Film About Anthony Bourdain’s Life Sets Documentary Box Office Records

by Josh Lanier

A new documentary about chef and TV show host Anthony Bourdain’s life set a new pandemic box office record. The film’s $1.9 million opening on less than 1,000 screens across the country set the new high-water mark for non-fiction openings.

…  It’s also a testament to the enduring interest in Bourdain’s epic life and times as not just a chef, but as a true American icon and that’s reflected in the strong weekend numbers,” Comscore Senior Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian told Entertainment Weekly, PEOPLE said.

Anthony Bourdain’s life was unique. He began as a line cook and worked his way up to become one of America’s most well-known chefs. But not only was his food delicious, but he was also a fantastic writer as well. He divulged secrets of the trade and discussed his own struggles with addiction in his first bestseller Kitchen Confidential in 2000. Though he’d gain most of his fame from his years traveling to distant lands to eat exotic and strange dishes on his shows No Reservations and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.

He was a fun traveling companion for viewers as he made his way through markets full of strange-looking food. And his open disposition made him seem as interesting as the food he was eating.

Anthony Bourdain committed suicide in 2016, and Roadrunner tries to figure out why. The filmmakers interview his inner circle and come away with a much darker picture of Bourdain than fans realized.

“I do tend to have a sort of a manic personality,” he tells his therapist in the film the New York Times review reveals. Everything could be going fine, but “then, suddenly, one little thing just sort of sets me off.”

‘Roadrunner’ Embroiled in Controversy

Morgan Neville, the Oscar-winning documentarian behind Roadrunner, chose to recreate portions of Anthony Bourdain’s voice using artificial intelligence. He claims he got permission from Bourdain’s widow, though she denies that.

“I checked…with his widow and his literary executor, just to make sure people were cool with that,” Neville told Variety. “And they were like, Tony would have been cool with that. I wasn’t putting words into his mouth. I was just trying to make them come alive.”

And he’s repeatedly said Bourdain’s widow, Ottavia Busia-Bourdain, had approved the use of the technology for the film.

However, Busia-Bourdain said in a tweet that Anthony Bourdain wouldn’t have “been cool” with that.

Neville explained to GQ Magazine how they were able to recreate Bourdain’s voice in Roadrunner. Though, he says there are less than 60 seconds of recreated audio in the film.

“We fed more than ten hours of Tony’s voice into an AI model. The bigger the quantity, the better the result. We worked with four companies before settling on the best. We also had to figure out the best tone of Tony’s voice: His speaking voice versus his “narrator” voice, which itself changed dramatically over the years. The narrator’s voice got very performative and sing-songy in the “No Reservation” years.”