Val Kilmer tragically lost the voice he once had due to throat cancer, but A.I. has recently helped give it back to him. Kilmer – who’s recently been in the limelight as the subject of the Amazon documentary Val – has been in an array of popular movies since the 1980s. His credits include classics such as Top Gun, Tombstone, The Doors, Heat, Batman Forever, and more. And he’s had plenty of memorable roles within those films. He’s a stand-out cast member as the calm and collected, yet vicious, Doc Holliday and the too-cool Navy aviator who goes by “Iceman” in the former two examples.
Unfortunately, Val Kilmer became ill with throat cancer, and in 2014, as part of his treatment to combat the disease, he received a tracheotomy. The intense procedure left his voice drastically and permanently altered from what he and the world once knew it to be. But, despite all that went on, he kept his health issues private for quite a while, waiting until 2017 to publicly acknowledge them.
Fortunately for Kilmer, a British A.I. firm called Sonantic has recently given him some of his voice back. According to Daily Mail, the company was able to isolate recordings of his voice from films he’s been in and remove background noise that could obscure it. After that, it was a matter of introducing specific transcripts of what the voice would be saying to the technology. The A.I. is said to have produced over 40 iterations of Kilmer’s voice to choose from. The Daily Mail article also quotes Val Kilmer as saying, “The chance to tell my story, in a voice that feels authentic and familiar, is an incredibly special gift.”
Sonantic seems to be opening up both personal and professional doors for Kilmer, who’s even able to use the technology in his daily life if he wishes. Of course, it will be a game-changer for his work. John Flynn, the firm’s CTO and co-founder, is quoted as saying that Sonantic “wanted to give him something for his craft” when deciding what the best gift would be for him. It’s absolutely astounding to listen to the artificial recreations of Kilmer’s voice. For anyone who’s familiar with his work, the resemblance is uncanny. And the transcript his computer-generated voice reads is heartbreakingly beautiful.
Sonantic certainly chose the right gift specifically for him. After all, his voice and cadence have always added extra layers to his characters. Val Kilmer’s performance as Doc Holliday in 1993’s Tombstone is one of the integral pieces of the film that make it so effective and memorable. And who can forget the slow, deliberate, mischievous southern drawl that Kilmer employed within the part? Along with his demeanor and mannerisms, his voice and delivery were everything in the fan-favorite scene where he famously says, “I’m your Huckleberry.” What Val Kilmer has gone through in the past decade is tragic, but, as he says in the Daily Mail article, “As human beings, the ability to communicate is the core of our existence…” And, thanks to Sonantic, the actor gets to communicate a little more authentically once again.