Val Kilmer Was Emotional After Hearing His AI Voice For The First Time
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Val Kilmer has revealed how he felt after hearing his AI voice for the very first time.
Kilmer, who took on the role of Lieutenant Tom 'Iceman' Kazansky in the iconic 1986 action movie Top Gun, was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015.
During his treatment, the 61-year-old actor had to have a tracheotomy – an incision in the neck to help with breathing – which has resulted in him using a voice box to communicate and finding it difficult 'to talk and to be understood'.
The likelihood of him being able to appear in the Top Gun sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, subsequently seemed unlikely.
However, Kilmer has since reflected on the 'incredibly special gift' an AI company gave him, which allowed him to reprise his role.
Recordings from Kilmer's esteemed acting career were used by British AI company Sonantic to recreate his voice in a method described as 'Photoshop for voice'.
Upon hearing the AI version of his voice, Kilmer stated: "I’m grateful to the entire team at Sonantic who masterfully restored my voice in a way I’ve never imagined possible.
"As human beings, the ability to communicate is the core of our existence and the effects from throat cancer have made it difficult for others to understand me.
"The chance to tell my story, in a voice that feels authentic and familiar, is an incredibly special gift."
Kilmer explained how he had to have a tracheotomy 'because the glands in [his] throat swelled up'.
While he said he felt 'wonderful' after recovering from the treatment, despite how he sounded after the surgery, the actor admitted to missing simply having a voice and not laughing 'like a pirate'.
Sonantic managed to grant Kilmer's wish by using more than 40 different voice models from his career to get the absolute best quality and expression for his voice for the Top Gun sequel.
The result left not only Kilmer but the whole team emotional.
"I remember talking to Jack [Val’s son] after presenting the voice model, and him telling us how powerful it was, like it was the first time he’d heard his dad’s voice in years, so he was quite moved," Sonantic's CTO and co-founder John Flynn said.
Ahead of the upcoming release, Kilmer noted how vital his rival role is to Tom Cruise's Lieutenant Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell.
He said: "Tom was Maverick, but Maverick's nemesis was Iceman. The two went together like salt and pepper."
Top Gun: Maverick is set to hit cinemas on 25 May.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact Macmillan’s Cancer Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, 8am–8pm seven days a week