Scarlett Johansson Told OpenAI to Not Use Her Voice

Scarlett Johansson Told OpenAI to Not Use Her Voice

OpenAI asked Scarlett Johansson to provide voice acting that would be used in the company’s new AI voice assistant, but the actress declined, according to a statement obtained by NPR on Monday. And after last week’s demo, Johansson says she was shocked to hear a voice that was identical to her own. Especially since OpenAI was asking for Johansson’s help as recently as two days before the event.

OpenAI announced early Monday it would “pause the use of Sky” as a voice option. But Johansson is threatening legal action, and her statement goes into detail about why.

“Last September, I received an offer from Sam Altman, who wanted to hire me to voice the current ChatGPT 4.0 system,” Johansson said in the statement, referring to the head of OpenAI. “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.”

Johansson, who provided the voice in the 2013 AI-romance film Her, goes on to explain that she declined the offer “for personal reasons,” and that nine months later, family and friends all noted how the new AI voice, dubbed “Sky,” sounded exactly like her.

“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 explained. “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.”

Altman certainly did that. But somehow it gets even worse. Because, according to Johansson, Altman contacted her agent again just a couple of days before the demo.

“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 in her statement. “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.”

Johansson went on to explain that OpenAI didn’t want to take down the voice.

“Consequently, OpenAl reluctantly agreed to take down the ‘Sky’ voice,” Johansson said. “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.”

Strangely, Altman claims Johansson wasn’t the inspiration for its AI voice, something that’s simply hard to believe given all the publicly available facts.

“The voice of Sky is not Scarlett Johansson’s, and it was never intended to resemble hers. We cast the voice actor behind Sky’s voice before any outreach to Ms. Johansson,” Altman said in an emailed statement to Gizmodo late Monday. “Out of respect for Ms. Johansson, we have paused using Sky’s voice in our products. We are sorry to Ms. Johansson that we didn’t communicate better.”

Okay, Sam.

The Voice


Live demo of GPT-4o realtime conversational speech

Sam Altman Makes It Explicit


Her (2013)


Her (2013) ─ Staircase Scene (SPOILERS!)


OpenAI CEO Sam Altman participates in the “Technology in a turbulent world” panel discussion during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024.

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