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Scarlett Johansson issues blistering statement against OpenAI and Sam Altman over ‘Sky’

Published May 20th, 2024 6:53PM EDT
Scarlett Johansson
Image: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

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Well, now we know why OpenAI abruptly removed the “Sky” voice option for ChatGPT, the one that sounded suspiciously like Scarlett Johansson.

According to a statement released this afternoon from the actress, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman himself had actually offered her the opportunity to provide her voice for the chatbot. “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 AI,” Johansson’s statement reads. “He said he felt that my voice would be comforting to people.”

The actress goes on to say that she declined the offer — even though, as anyone who’s been following the rollout of ChatGPT-4o already knows, the chatbot’s ScarJo-like voice was front-and-center in the company’s marketing.

Johansson, of course, voiced the AI in Spike Jonze’s 2013 movie Her, which Altman himself obliquely referenced in a tweet once everyone started saying the same thing about ChatGPT’s “Sky” voice option:

Let’s not forget, Altman was also abruptly fired by the OpenAI board last fall for not being “consistently candid” in his communications with board members. Keep that in mind as you read the rest of ScarJo’s full statement below:

“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,” Johansson says. “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.”

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

“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.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.