It hasn’t even been a week, as of this writing, since the OpenAI board stunned us all by abruptly firing CEO Sam Altman — an ouster that was followed by two successive interim CEOs, then the just-as-bewildering decision to reinstate Altman as CEO (without fully explaining why he was fired in the first place). In the interim, OpenAI employees threatened to resign en masse; we thought at one point Altman was going over to Microsoft; and OpenAI researchers also warned the board that a frightening AI breakthrough had been achieved. Who’s ready for the movie version of all this, am I right?
In all seriousness, there have been so many head-spinning twists and turns to this story, starting with the release of OpenAI’s groundbreaking chatbot ChatGPT back in 2022, that a movie is absolutely a foregone conclusion at this point. This whole thing has been such a fascinating trainwreck to watch that I’m not sure even a chatbot as advanced as OpenAI’s could have come up with a movie storyline quite like it.
At any rate, as someone who covers all things streaming, I’ve got some ideas for who to cast as each of the main players here once the inevitable movie gets made, and I’ll run through each of them below. I’m going for a half-serious, half-humorous tone here, by the way, which means I also think the resulting movie would be perfect for Adam McKay to direct.
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman (Nicholas Braun)
Succession’s Nicholas Braun, aka Cousin Greg, gets my vote here largely for the physical resemblance, although I think he could also pull off the stammering nerd vibe quite well. Gotta break a few Gregs to make an Altman!
OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever (Will Arnett)
For this role, I’d go with Will Arnett for one very specific reason: At some point in my movie, whoever is portraying Sutskever — reportedly the instigator of the board coup against Altman and who later apparently did a complete 180 — will need to deliver the line that Arnett perfected as Gob Bluth on Arrested Development: “I’ve made a huge mistake.”
OpenAI president Greg Brockman (Matt Damon)
Matt Damon, at least in my opinion, bears enough of a passing resemblance to Brockman — the OpenAI president who resigned in solidarity after Altman’s firing — that I think he’d be a great choice here. Damon’s work in comedy-thrillers like The Informant also fits the vibe I’m going for.
OpenAI interim CEO Mira Murati (Nasim Pedrad)
For the role of OpenAI’s first interim CEO (aka Pain Sponge #1) after Altman’s firing, the obvious choice to play Mira Murati is SNL veteran Nasim Pedrad. She’s another actor who could easily handle the satirical tone I’m going for, and she gets bonus points for being a dead ringer for Murati.
OpenAI interim CEO Emmett Shear (Glenn Howerton)
If you saw the movie BlackBerry that was released earlier this year — about the rise and fall of the smartphone once referred to as CrackBerry — then you already understand why I think Howerton would be a great choice for the role of OpenAI’s Pain Sponge #2, aka ex-Twitch CEO Emmett Shear. Besides the physical resemblance, you want a slightly bombastic, Type A personality in this role, which fits Howerton to a T.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (Kumail Nanjiani)
Moving outside of OpenAI for these final two roles, Microsoft’s chief executive is obviously a key figure to cast here, given that the company is OpenAI’s biggest investor. In terms of both resemblance as well as comedic chops, for me, the role of Satya Nadella absolutely must go to Kumail Nanjiani. In fact, I’m now picturing Nanjiani and Braun onstage together for the OpenAI demo day, and I really want to get this movie made.
OpenAI co-founder Elon Musk (Nicholas Cage)
Last but not least — I know there are other characters, both major and minor, in this drama, but I’m stopping here for now — Elon Musk will obviously need to have a presence of some kind, given that he was OpenAI’s co-founder who later severed his ties with the company. Twitter’s controversial owner has also chimed in here and there during the OpenAI debacle, opining, for example, that the downside risks of AI are so great that the OpenAI board needs to come clean about why it fired Altman in the first place.
For the role of Musk, you want someone who can nail the perfect mix of condescension and unpredictability. And, for that, I’d argue that there’s no one better to play the billionaire who recently declared that there’s a “large graveyard filled with my enemies” than Nicolas Cage. You’re welcome, America.