“I don’t think you’ll ever figure [Andy] Warhol out, and I hope no one ever does,” art critic Donna de Salvo says in the trailer for Netflix’s upcoming docuseries, The Andy Warhol Diaries. Ironically, though, it is that very series—with the help of Warhol’s diaries and some artificial intelligence—attempting to do just that.
The Andy Warhol Diaries, a six-part series from super-producer Ryan Murphy will explore the life of the artist, from his birth in Pittsburgh to Austria-Hungarian immigrants to his immense fame, various relationships, and eventual death. For over ten years beginning in 1976, Warhol would often call up his longtime friend, journalist Pat Hackett, and dictate his diary to her, which she later edited and published in 1989. Now, Murphy and director Andrew Rossi are using Warhol’s own words, and the testimonials of everyone from John Waters and Debbie Harry to Rob Lowe, to dive into the still-mysterious life of the icon.
And it’s Warhol himself who will be leading us through this journey...kind of. Using AI technology, the series brings Warhol back to life as he reads his own words from his diary. According to Entertainment Weekly, Rossi worked with a company called Resemble AI to create the artificial Warhol. They got actor Bill Irwin to record the lines and then combined that with a digital voice programmed to mimic Warhol’s speech patterns. The result is the resurrection of Warhol 35 years after his death.
Artificial intelligence has been creeping into the world of television and film for awhile now, but it’s still a bit unsettling to see and hear the long-deceased Warhol in the show’s trailer. There is also the question of consent. Would Warhol want this? Rossi believes he would, citing the artist’s desire “to be a machine,” something he often discussed while he was alive. “Andy admired the fact that ‘machines have less problems,’ saying that, ‘I do have feelings, but I wish I didn't,’” Rossi explained, also citing the Andy Warhol Foundation’s support of the series.
“Andy Warhol was famously guarded about his personal thoughts and opinions,” Rossi told EW. “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 promises a look at Warhol’s oft-hidden romantic life in the series, as well as how those relationships were reflected in the artist’s work. “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,” Rossi said. “My goal is for this collage of art and journalism to depict sides of Andy you've never seen or heard before.”
The Andy Warhol Diaries premiere on Netflix on March 9th.