Scarlett Johansson Says OpenAI Wanted to Hire Her as New ChatGPT Voice

Updated on Tuesday, May 21 at 11:45 a.m. ET with a statement from Sam Altman.

Scarlett Johansson said that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman contacted her last September about voicing the current ChatGPT 4.0 system but that she declined. After the launch of “Sky” that resembles her voice, Johansson said she’s hired legal counsel to demand more information about how the company created the AI voice model, leading the company to today “pause” its usage.

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“When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered, and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice so eerily similar to mine that my closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference,” Johansson said in a statement shared with IndieWire on Monday, May 20.

Johansson said Altman contacted her agents two days before the release of ChatGPT 4.0 asking her to reconsider, but the demo featuring Sky was launched before they had the chance to meet.

“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 countered. “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.”

But Johannson’s statement also refers to Altman’s May 13 tweet of the word “her,” in reference to the 2013 Joaquin Phoenix film in which Johansson voices an AI helper named Samantha. Altman has called “Her” his favorite movie.

“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,” Johansson continued. “I look forward to resolution in the form of transparency and the passage of appropriate legislation to help ensure that individual rights are protected.”

OpenAI in a blog post on Monday said Sky was not a voice model but is the “natural speaking voice” of another unidentified voice actress who was compensated for her voice talents, and that Sky is not an imitation of Johansson’s voice.

“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 reads. “To protect their privacy, we cannot share the names of our voice talents.”

Sky is one of five voices OpenAI launched as a voice feature to go alongside ChatGPT 4.0, which they said were selected from over 400 submissions and done in collaboration with “award-winning casting directors and producers.”

SAG-AFTRA in response to Johansson said it supported her speaking out and is calling for additional transparency around the creation of AI tools as well.

“We thank Ms. Johansson for speaking out on this issue of crucial importance to all SAG-AFTRA members. We share in her concerns and fully support her right to have clarity and transparency regarding the voice used in developing the Chat GPT-4o appliance ‘Sky,'” a SAG-AFTRA spokesperson said.

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