The Andy Warhol Diaries director Andrew Rossi discusses resurrecting the artist's voice and honoring all the chapters of his life

Andy Warhol always dreamed of becoming a machine. The Andy Warhol Diaries, the new Netflix documentary series about the influential artist, honors that desire by using cutting-edge A.I. technology to resurrect a fascimile of Warhol's voice for the narration. You can see that voice in action via the exclusive trailer below.

Directed by Andrew Rossi (Page One: Inside the New York Times) and produced by Ryan Murphy, the six-part series will trace Warhol's life from his Pittsburgh childhood through the glory days of the Factory in the '60s on to his relationship with Jean-Michel Basquiat in the '80s. The Andy Warhol Diaries will feature interviews with friends, collaborators, and admirers (a diverse lineup that includes both John Waters and Rob Lowe), as well as readings from titular diaries via the A.I. Warhol voice.

In order to create the voice, Rossi tells EW that he worked with the company Resemble AI to create a text-to-speech algorithm that would use Warhol's native Pittsburgh accent and cadence. Rossi then had actor Bill Irwin record the lines, and that performance was combined with the digital voice to come as close as possible to Warhol.

"Andy Warhol was famously guarded about his personal thoughts and opinions," Rossi says. "That's one reason his Diaries are such a rare and fascinating window; he could be incredibly raw and emotional as he talked to his diarist over the phone. To fully appreciate the radical vulnerability that Andy shares in the Diaries, I felt that we needed to hear the words in Andy's own voice."

Rossi continues, "I felt that the AI voice would honor two hallmarks of Andy's life and artistic practice, stemming from his desire 'to be a machine.' Andy admired the fact that 'machines have less problems,' saying that, 'I do have feelings, but I wish I didn't.' He even had himself made into a robot and a hologram during his lifetime, and he said, 'the reason I'm painting this way is that I want to be a machine.' So I thought that cloning Andy's voice could function like a Warholian portrait, and the [Andy Warhol] Foundation approved." 

The Andy Warhol Diaries
Behold the poster for new six-part Netflix documentary 'The Andy Warhol Diaries.'
| Credit: Netflix

Most Warhol chronicles focus on that '60s heyday with the Velvet Underground and Campbell's Soup Cans and so on. While not shying away from that famous stuff, Rossi wanted to honor the full breadth of his subject's life and work.

"Most stories focus on Andy Warhol in the '60s, when he ran the silver Factory and cultivated a myth as an asexual robot. But the Diaries reveal Andy's romantic longings and spiritual side as a living, breathing gay man," Rossi says. "I wanted to weave together Andy's words and images to explore how that emotional life is reflected in the artworks he created during his last decade. He made some of the strongest images of his career then, yet he was seen by many as a has-been, so that work is often ignored." 

Rossi continues, "I was also able to find never before seen archival material that provides evidence of Andy's intimate and sometimes secret relationships, including letters, poetry, Super 8 film and other media that had not been restored or widely viewed until now. My goal is for this collage of art and journalism to depict sides of Andy you've never seen or heard before. That's key to my mission as a filmmaker overall; I try to bring iconic subjects down to earth and understand them on a human level."

The Andy Warhol Diaries hits Netflix on March 9. Watch the trailer above.

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