Val Kilmer’s Top Gun: Maverick dialog was all AI since he can no longer speak

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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.

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Val Kilmer used voice AI to talk in Top Gun: Maverick

Val Kilmer in the original Top Gun
Val Kilmer in the original Top Gun

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 lost 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 essentially learned how to mimic Kilmer’s voice, including the iconic way that he himself 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.”

Of course, we’re not going to spoil how or why Kilmer appears in the film. 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.

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