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CAA CEO Bryan Lourd Talks Scarlett Johansson-OpenAI Fight

CAA CEO Bryan Lourd Talks Scarlett Johansson-OpenAI Fight

CAA CEO Bryan Lourd opened up about the dispute between OpenAI and one of his star clients, Scarlett Johansson.

In a Financial Times interview, Lourd also said that generative artificial intelligence could be a source of real opportunity for clients, even as the biggest AI firms like OpenAI don’t entirely understand the world of creatives.

Last month, OpenAI pulled its “Sky” chatbot voice from ChatGPT, after users noted that it sounded eerily similar to Scarlett Johansson. The star subsequently released a statement revealing that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman had tried to recruit her to voice one of the chatbots, but she had declined, and that she was “shocked” and “angered” when she heard the Sky voice.

“To Scarlett’s credit, she is not afraid to tell the truth and to stand up for herself,” Lourd told the FT. “When you become someone as globally recognised as she is, the responsibility becomes about others as much as it is about yourself. This was bigger than her — it’s about all artists, not just actors and not just voiceover artists.”

He said that Altman, who had previously acknowledged being fan of the 2013 Spike Jonze film Her in which Johansson portrays an emotive AI voice, does not understand the world of creatives or Hollywood.

“He lives in a different world and has a different understanding of what artists do and what they own, literally and ethically and morally,” Lourd said. “To OpenAI’s credit, they took [the voice] down when I asked them to take it down. I don’t think they did that out of the goodness of their heart. I think they took it down because they realised how complicated a situation they’d created and stepped into.”

Rather, he noted that OpenAI was in the midst of talks with studios on various deals, with COO Brad Lightcap leading negotiations.

“They didn’t want bad press,” Lourd said.

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But despite the negative stories around the use of AI to create a voice similar to his client, Lourd actually sounded optimistic when it came to the tech’s use and value to Hollywood.

“The reason the entertainment business has lasted so long is that it’s actually thrived on disruption and the evolution of technology,” he said. “It’s in the DNA for people here to be alarmed at first and then to embrace it and go towards it. There’s nothing but opportunities around AI.”

Lourd’s own agency, CAA, has created a “CAA Vault,” which houses digital replicas of its clients likenesses and voices (at least those that choose to participate), for potential use in film, TV and commercial work … fully compensated, of course.

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