Top Gun: Maverick has proven to be a massive success for Tom Cruise, Paramount Pictures, and everyone involved. If you’ve watched the movie by now, then you’ll probably agree with most of us that it’s a very solid follow-up to the original film from 1986. What you might not know, though, is that Val Kilmer’s voice in the movie was actually brought to life with voice AI.
Val Kilmer used voice AI to talk in Top Gun: Maverick
When the original Top Gun was released in 1986, Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise’s chemistry on-screen as Iceman and Maverick was an instant hit. Revisiting that story without Kilmer’s Iceman would have been disappointing for a lot of fans, and even for Kilmer himself.
Following a very difficult battle with throat cancer, which ultimately left him without much of his voice, the possibility of Kilmer returning to the role of Iceman might have seemed impossible. But, thanks to a special voice AI program, Kilmer was able to revisit his role, and catch up with his old friend Maverick. Val Kilmer’s voice in Top Gun: Maverick was actually created by an AI.
A company named Sonantic developed the voice AI that Kilmer uses. It learned how to mimic Kilmer’s voice, including the iconic way that he talks. The result is a startling and somewhat freaky impersonation that feels like it could have come right out of the actor himself.
Of course, like any voice AI, there are ways to tell that it isn’t a human voice talking. However, with things like background noise, the filmmakers were able to dub the voice over Kilmer’s acting. This allowed them to bring his voice to life within the movie.
Driving voice with artificial intelligence
If you haven’t had a chance to see Top Gun: Maverick yet, then I highly recommend experiencing it for yourself. If you can’t go just yet, you can hear Kilmer’s voice AI in a promotional video from 2021 that I’ve embedded above.
The revelation that Kilmer used voice AI in Top Gun: Maverick came during a New York Post interview with his daughter, Mercedes Kilmer. In the interview, she explains how they dubbed the voice AI over Kilmer’s acting to bring his scenes to life.
“They were able to dub him with his own voice, which is amazing,” Mercedes explained in the interview. “It’s such a technical feat, being able to engineer his voice that way, that it’s an extension of the technical feat of the film,” she finished.
Other sources at the studio told Variety that they did not use AI voice for Kilmer in the movie. In the past, his son Jack Kilmer has helped bring his voice to life in projects. So, it is possible that he helped out in this instance, as well. However, we may have to wait for an official announcement to back up either claim.
Of course, we’re not going to spoil how or why Kilmer appears in the film without a warning of some kind. But it’s a very good way to have Iceman return all these years later. And it’s even more impressive that voice AI helped bring Kilmer’s lines to life.
With technological advancements, actors like Kilmer can continue to pursue the creative things they love despite the hardships they’ve endured.
Kilmer humbled by fan’s reactions
Now that Top Gun: Maverick has been out for a few weeks, plenty of people have had a chance to see Maverick and Iceman’s reunion. And, as a result, Kilmer himself has seen a lot of fan reactions to his appearance in the movie. And, he says that he’s been extremely humbled by their responses. (Spoilers for Top Gun: Maverick below.)
Perhaps one of the trickiest parts of Kilmer’s appearance in Top Gun: Maverick was incorporating his real-life struggles into the character. As a result, Iceman himself has also struggled in a hard fight with throat cancer. This left the character unable to speak much. To communicate he uses a computer monitor with text on it throughout the majority of the scene.
However, there is a small instance where Kilmer talks in the scene. It’s this part that Kilmer’s daughter says was brought to life using voice AI. in response to fan’s reactions, Kilmer told LA Times, “I can’t believe how kind the whole world has been. I get hundreds of fan letters every week. It’s very humbling.”