After a two-year battle with throat cancer and a tracheotomy that severely affected his speech, Val Kilmer has reclaimed his voice through AI technology.
UK software company Sonantic used old recordings of the Top Gun actor’s voice to recreate a computer-generated version.
The company, known for its voice cloning work, shared a clip of the results on its official YouTube channel earlier in August.
"My voice as I knew it was taken away from me. People around me struggle to understand when I'm talking,” Kilmer, 61, is heard saying in the clip through his AI voice. “But despite all that I still feel, I'm the exact same person. Still the same creative soul. A soul that dreams ideas and stories confidently, but now I can express myself again, bring these ideas to you, and show you this part of myself once more. A part that was never truly gone. Just hiding away.”
Kilmer had an active part in developing the AI voice, online news website The Wrap reports. The Batman Forever star provided the archival footage of his voice, which was then used to create the prototype.
"I'm grateful to the entire team at Sonantic who masterfully restored my voice in a way I've never imagined possible,” Kilmer told The Wrap. "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.”
Kilmer’s throat cancer diagnosis was not publicly confirmed until 2017, two years after the actor was first hospitalised for the condition. By then, he had undergone chemotherapy and a tracheotomy procedure that abraded his voice to a rasp. In 2020, the actor revealed that he had been cancer-free for four years.
News of Kilmer’s new computer-generated voice comes just after the release of his documentary Val on Amazon Prime Video. Co-produced by the actor’s daughter and son, the film examines Kilmer’s life and career, as well as his cancer recovery.
The AI voice is not featured in Val, but moving forward, Kilmer will be able to use his new voice in both a professional and personal capacity.