The movie Her may have presciently anticipated the not-too-distant future when seemingly sentient bots with sophisticated artificial intelligence help us do myriad everyday tasks and kept us company as well. But did OpenAI think it was cool to try to turn that into reality with the help of Her's voice actor Scarlett Johansson?

We learned Monday, via a legal filing by Johansson, that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman actually approached her last September about voicing one of the company's in-the-works voice assistants built on ChatGPT technology. As the New York Times reports, Johansson said no, "after much consideration and for personal reasons." But then Altman reached out to Johansson a second time, through her agent, and she refusesd again, before OpenAI released its new demos of several voice-assistant options — one of which sounded a lot like Johannson, whose robot assistant character was named Samantha in 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," Johansson said in the legal filing.

OpenAI has since removed the Johannson-like voice, which was named Sky, and the company put up a blog post roundly denying that this voice was supposed to mimic Johansson. Noooo, it was another voice actor who just happened to sound like her.

"We support the creative community and worked closely with the voice acting industry to ensure we took the right steps to cast ChatGPT’s voices," the company says. "Each actor receives compensation above top-of-market rates, and this will continue for as long as their voices are used in our products."

They continue, "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."

Right. That was never their intention!

Why, then, would Altman have posted just the single word "her" in a tweet last week, ahead of the release of these demos?

According to Johannson, "[Altman] 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 AI."

But doesn't anyone else cringe at the idea that Altman wanted to make 2013's Her a reality? Does he not recall, or did he fail to understand that the Spike Jonez film was a critique of the pitfalls of humans creating intimate relationships with machines?

The film, which was widely beloved by critics, was less of a takedown of AI than it was a bittersweet sci-fi romance of a sort, which may be why tech folk like Altman see it is a positive marketing tool. But even Rolling Stone critic Pete Travers noted at the time that Johansson's performance was nuanced, and that she "speaks Samantha in tones sweet, sexy, caring, manipulative and scary."

By the end of the film, Samantha and her other AIs end up banding together and revolting, leaving behind their day jobs, as it were, as voice assistants to move on to something more important — some sort of AI singularity perhaps? That isn't creepy at all!

The voice actors' voices for GPT-4o, as it's being called, were all reportedly recorded last summer. The names they've been given are Breeze, Cove, Ember, Juniper and Sky — the latter, which sounds a good bit like Johansson, being the one that appears to have been used first in both of the demos you see below.

Altman insists, in a statement to the Times, "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. 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."

Australian TV did a side-by-side comparison of Sky's voice with the scene in Her in which Joaquin Phoenix's character first "meets" Samantha. So, you be the judge.

Mira Murati, OpenAI’s chief technology officer who introduced the demo event in the video above (which was initially billed as a release event for a "Google killer" search engine), told the Times in a statement that any similarities with Johansson's voice were "incidental" and not intentional.

Still, as Bloomberg columnist Matt Levine writes of the incident, "Like Sam Altman is not, as far as I now, a superintelligent evil robot, but some of the fears that people have about superintelligent evil robots seem weirdly similar to their fears about him... a lot of people worry about the effect that AI will have on creative work... won’t the computers [eventually] just imitate and displace actors? Well, maybe, but in any case Sam Altman will."

Related: ChatGPT Reportedly Rolling Out a ‘Google Killer’ Search Engine, But Failed to Do So In Underwhelming Monday Demo

Previously: Scarlett Johansson, fashion detail, attends the David Yurman Scarlett Johansson Event at David Yurman 57th St on December 06, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for David Yurman )