Val Kilmer’s voice in Top Gun: Maverick is created by an AI! Here’s more about voice AI
Since the launch of Siri in 2011, the world of voice AI technology is entering into new fronts, exploring what has been kept in the shadow for a very long time. No one thought that voice AI could become the core of search and commands. But in the 21st century, it has blown up all other technology and rushed to the top. To everybody’s surprise, experts say that this is just the tip of an iceberg and we have far more hidden capabilities, which need to be unraveled. They also suggest that the future of voice AI technology might hold the key to a new level of digitization without the usage of keyboards.
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 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.
Kilmer announced in August 2021 that he had partnered with Sonantic to create an AI-powered speaking voice for himself. The actor supplied the company with hours of archival footage featuring his speaking voice that was then fed through the company’s algorithms and turned into a model. According to Fortune, this process was used again for the actor’s “Top Gun: Maverick” appearance although a studio source tells Variety no AI was used in the making of the movie. “In the end, we generated more than 40 different voice models and selected the best, highest-quality, most expressive one,” John Flynn, CTO, and co-founder of Sonantic, said in a statement to Forbes about reviving Kilmer’s voice, unrelated to the movie. “Those new algorithms are now embedded into our voice engine, so future clients can automatically take advantage of them as well.”
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 of Kilmer’s acting. This allowed them to bring his voice to life within the movie.
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 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.”
The film becomes more impressive because of the voice AI that 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.