AI let Top Gun fans hear Val Kilmer’s voice again after throat cancer battle

Despite losing his voice to cancer several years ago, actor Val Kilmer wowed fans when he made a surprise appearance in the new Top Gun: Maverick.

It turns out Kilmer was able to reprise his role as Tom Cruise's nemesis 'Iceman' from the original Top Gun flick thanks to artificial intelligence.

A powerful AI was used to generate more than 40 different versions of the actor's speaking voice, enabling him to say a brief line of dialogue in the Top Gun sequel.

By bringing together hours of archive footage of Kilmer talking, AI company Sonantic was able to create a computer-generated version of his voice in 2021 and then develop this further for use in Top Gun: Maverick.

Last year, Kilmer said: "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 side effects from throat cancer have made it difficult for others to understand me.

"The chance to narrate my story, in a voice that feels authentic and familiar, is an incredibly special gift.”

John Flynn, Sonantic cofounder, added: "In the end, we generated more than 40 different voice models and selected the best, highest-quality, most expressive one.

"Those new algorithms are now embedded into our voice engine, so future clients can automatically take advantage of them as well."

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Has Val Kilmer lost his voice?

Val Kilmer lost his voice after undergoing treatment for throat cancer in 2017, leaving him needed a voice box to communicate. He was first diagnosed in 2015 following a lifelong 'secret' smoking habit that started when he was 8.

In an Instagram post last year, he said: "I was struck by throat cancer. After being treated, my voice as I knew it was taken away from me. People around me struggle to understand me when I'm talking.

“But despite all that I still feel I'm the exact same person."

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