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Top Gun: Maverick - Did you know Val Kilmer used extensive AI technology to recreate his voice post throat cancer?

The actor provided the AI company Sonantic with several hours of archival footage to render a near-perfect speaking model for him.

  • Swaroop Kodur

Last Updated: 03.31 PM, Jun 01, 2022

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Top Gun: Maverick - Did you know Val Kilmer used extensive AI technology to recreate his voice post throat cancer?

Val Kilmer played Tom “Iceman” Kazansky in Top Gun (1986)

Top Gun: Maverick dished out the perfect nostalgia trip for millions of fans, thanks to Tom Cruise's enthralling adventures in the sky. The 59-year-old actor reprised his role as the US Navy daredevil Pete "Maverick" Mitchell and delivered on the promise of a rollicking ride. Alongside, fans were keen on other surprises related to the characters and events from the 1986 film and the return of Val Kilmer's Iceman topped the list. While Kilmer does feature in the new film reprising his iconic role, the concern around his speaking voice loomed large for the audience.

Many would know that Val Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014 and had to undergo treatment, resulting in him losing the ability to speak. According to Indiewire, the actor worked closely with AI software company Sonantic in 2021(with the support of Amazon, distributors of the documentary Val) to create a lifelike model of his old speaking voice. Kilmer is said to have achieved this by supplying the AI company with several hours of archival footage that comprises his speaking voice and later feeding that into an algorithm. More than forty different voice models, reportedly, are said to have been produced, and the one with the best and highest quality was eventually chosen following a long and rigorous process.

Although the model was rendered after the release of the documentary film, the makers of Top Gun: Maverick were able to employ it to great effect, albeit for a single line of dialogue. Val Kilmer is seen playing the role of Tom "Iceman" Kazansky and the writers of the film borrowed his real-life condition to make his character communicate mainly through typing. Kilmer does speak out a single but crucial line of dialogue, however, and this was achieved through the same AI model.

Val Kilmer began his acting career in 1984 with the action-comedy Top Secret! and found steady fame through films like Top Gun and Kill Me Again in the '80s. However, his career rose to new heights at the turn of the decade when he played Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone's biographical film The Doors and was later cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman in the 1995 film Batman Forever. His other major credits include Michael Mann's Heat, The Saint, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

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