Top Gun Maverick: How Val Kilmer’s voice was recreated

Because of throat cancer, the interpreter of Iceman can no longer speak.

A hit at the global box office, the new Top Gun has been on view since May 25. The film marks the return of tom Cruise as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, as well as fellow pilot Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, played by Val Kilmer. In 2014, the actor was diagnosed with throat cancer, causing him to undergo a tracheostomy (a throat operation ensuring the passage of air through a breathing tube) which severely altered his voice. However, those who have seen the film know it, Kilmer has a few (brief) lines of dialogue, which he recites with his voice! How is it possible ? Here are some explanations.

In 2021, Val Kilmer announced a partnership with sonantic, a company specializing in artificial intelligence, to recreate his voice. The actor provided the company with hours of stock footage with his speaking voice, data that was then fed into the startup’s algorithms to turn into a model. As explained Fortunethis technology has been used to Top Gun: Maverickand the result is amazing:

The return of Val Kimer as Iceman in Top Gun: Maverick, “a very special moment”

The company uses AI to create computer-generated voices that are either fully synthetic or mimic the voice of a real person. This technology has notably been used for video games, for sound productions in the film industry and in speech therapy. In the case of Val Kilmer, sonantic explained that they did more manual work than they usually do – which is recording performances from a script. Here, after cleaning up the various archival audio recordings, the startup used a voice engine to teach the model to speak like Kilmer. The engine had 10 times less data than a classic project, so it was necessary to create new algorithms capable of producing a better quality voice model, from the available data. John Flynnthe co-founder of the company, explains: In total, we generated more than 40 different voice models and we selected the best, with the highest quality and the most expressive. These new algorithms are now integrated into our voice engine, so that future customers will automatically be able to take advantage of them. “.

In an interview for Good Morning Americathe 60-year-old actor recently said: I’m fine, I’m much better than I let on “. Moreover, a few months ago, it was his son who had narrated the documentary on his life, Val, composed of numerous archive images. While he explained a few years ago that what he missed the most was his voice, Kilmer expressed in a press release his gratitude to sonantic : “ I am grateful to the entire Sonantic team who have masterfully restored my voice, in ways I never imagined possible. As human beings, communication is central to our existence, and I had almost lost this ability due to my throat cancer. The chance to be able to tell my story with a voice that is authentic to me is an incredibly precious gift”.

Top Gun: Maverick is currently visible in the cinema, the trailer right here:

Val: 5 unforgettable scenes from the documentary on Val Kilmer

Leave a Reply