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Artificial Intelligence just can’t manage to mimic Paul O’Grady’s Scouse accent for documentary The Life And Death Of Lily Savage

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  • ITV producers tried to recreate the voice for The Life And Death Of Lily Savage 

Artificial intelligence may be taking over the world but there appears to be one thing it cannot replace – Paul O’Grady‘s scouse accent.

ITV producers tried to recreate the comedian’s voice to narrate The Life And Death Of Lily Savage, a documentary about his razor-tongued alter ego – but the computers couldn’t match it.

Director Sam Anthony said that recordings of O’Grady were initially used to try to ‘train’ an AI system to speak in his voice.

He explained: ‘We thought perhaps we could create some sort of AI version of him that could read his own words, but, in fact, it really didn’t [work].

‘I mean, the technology is good, but it’s not there yet – to a point where people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.’

ITV producers tried to recreate the comedian's voice to narrate The Life And Death Of Lily Savage, a documentary about his razor-tongued alter ego ¿ but the computers couldn't match it. Pictured: Paul O'Grady performing as Lily Savage, as the Wicked Queen, in Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs - at the Victoria Palace Theatre in 2004

ITV producers tried to recreate the comedian’s voice to narrate The Life And Death Of Lily Savage, a documentary about his razor-tongued alter ego – but the computers couldn’t match it. Pictured: Paul O’Grady performing as Lily Savage, as the Wicked Queen, in Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs – at the Victoria Palace Theatre in 2004

O'Grady died in March last year from sudden cardiac arrhythmia aged 67. Pictured on the Graham Norton Show in 2012

O’Grady died in March last year from sudden cardiac arrhythmia aged 67. Pictured on the Graham Norton Show in 2012

The documentary, which aired last night, explores his life through drag queen Lily, who became a television hit during the 1990s and 2000s. Pictured: Lily Savage at the 1997 National Television Awards in London

The documentary, which aired last night, explores his life through drag queen Lily, who became a television hit during the 1990s and 2000s. Pictured: Lily Savage at the 1997 National Television Awards in London

Lily Savage presenting Big Breakfast in 1995

Lily Savage presenting Big Breakfast in 1995

O’Grady died in March last year from sudden cardiac arrhythmia aged 67.

The documentary, which aired last night, explores his life through drag queen Lily, who became a television hit during the 1990s and 2000s. 

Mr Anthony told Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We didn’t use AI in the end simply because we didn’t need to, but also because Paul was a lifelong technophobe, and I think he would have been absolutely appalled to think that a documentary about him, ostensibly in his own voice, was being narrated by AI.’

He added: ‘We were able to piece together quite a compelling story in his own words from the many interviews he did. He was a brilliant talker.’

Mr Anthony’s comments come amid fears that AI could replace actors for voiceover work. This week, the BBC told actress Sara Poyzer her services would not be required for a programme as it was using AI-generated speech instead.

Ms Poyzer, who stars in stage show Mamma Mia!, described the decision as ‘sobering’.

A BBC spokesman said it was making a ‘highly sensitive’ documentary featuring someone ‘who is nearing the end of life and is now unable to speak’.

He added: ‘In these very particular circumstances and with the family’s wishes in mind, we have agreed to use AI for a brief section to recreate a voice… This will be clearly labelled within the film.’



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