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Scarlett Johansson Speaks Out About ChatGPT’s Sky, Declined Offer to Voice AI System

Scarlett Johansson Speaks Out About ChatGPTs Sky Declined Offer to Voice AI System
Scarlett Johansson Gotham/FilmMagic

Scarlett Johansson has spoken out after OpenAI’s ChatGPT voice, called “Sky,” sounded so much like her own that she hired a team of lawyers to investigate.

The actress, 39, revealed in a statement to Us Weekly on Monday, May 20, that she rejected an offer to lend her voice to the artificial intelligence in 2023. “Last September, I received an offer from [OpenAI CEO] Sam Altman, who wanted to hire me to voice the current ChatGPT 4.0 system,” Johansson explained. “He told me that he felt that by my voicing the system, I could bridge the gap between tech companies and creatives and help consumers to feel comfortable with the seismic shift concerning humans and Al. He said he felt that my voice would be comforting to people. After much consideration and for personal reasons, declined the offer.”

She was recently surprised to find OpenAI’s Sky voice sounded so much like her own.

“Nine months later, my friends, family and the general public all noted how much the newest system named ‘Sky’ sounded like me,” Johansson continued. “When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine that my closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference. Mr. Altman even insinuated that the similarity was intentional, tweeting a single word ‘her’ — a reference to the film in which I voiced a chat system, Samantha, who forms an intimate relationship with a human.”

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The 2013 movie Her, which costarred Joaquin Phoenix, won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and earned over $48 million worldwide.

Scarlett Johansson Speaks Out About ChatGPTs Sky Declined Offer to Voice AI System
Scarlett Johansson Paul Morigi/Getty Images

The Black Widow star also noted that Altman approached her to voice Sky once again just before it went public. “Two days before the ChatGPT 4.0 demo was released, Mr. Altman contacted my agent, asking me to reconsider. Before we could connect, the system was out there,” Johansson said.

She continued, “As a result of their actions, I was forced to hire legal counsel, who wrote two letters to Mr. Altman and OpenAl, setting out what they had done and asking them to detail the exact process by which they created the ‘Sky’ voice. Consequently, OpenAl reluctantly agreed to take down the ‘Sky’ voice.”

Johansson concluded: “In a time when we are all grappling with deepfakes and the protection of our own likeness, our own work, our own identities, I believe these are questions that deserve absolute clarity. I look forward to resolution in the form of transparency and the passage of appropriate legislation to help ensure that individual rights are protected.”

When OpenAI took down Sky on Sunday, May 19, the company shared a blog post claiming that Sky was a real actress, not computer-generated. “We believe that AI voices should not deliberately mimic a celebrity’s distinctive voice — Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but belongs to a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice,” the post said. “To protect their privacy, we cannot share the names of our voice talents.”

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The soundalike was much-discussed after Sky debuted, even becoming a punchline on Saturday Night Live. In their annual joke tradeoff (in which the Weekend Update hosts force each other to read jabs that they did not preview), Michael Che had Colin Jost, who is married to Johansson, read a quip about the system.

“Oh, God,” Jost, 41, moaned when he first saw his wife’s name appear on the teleprompter before continuing. “ChatGPT has released a new voice assistant feature inspired by Scarlett Johansson’s AI character in Her, which I’ve never bothered to watch because without that body, what’s the point of listening?”

He immediately buried his face in his hands in embarrassment.

Jost and Johansson married in 2020 and welcomed son Cosmo one year later. (Johansson also shares daughter Rose with ex-husband Romain Dauriac.)

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