Val Kilmer, after battling throat cancer, has gotten his voice back through new technology designed by Sonantic, a U.K.-based software firm that clones voices. Using the same archival footage seen in Kilmer's documentary, Val, they were able to create the model that Kilmer implements now in daily life. Take a listen to the triumphant results.
"My voice as I knew it was taken away from me. People around me struggle to understand when I'm talking. 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."
Val Kilmer worked closely with the team at Sonantic to create the prototype that allows him to use a voice familiar to us all. He says, "I'm grateful to the entire team at Sonantic who masterfully restored my voice in a way I've never imagined possible. 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."
Producing a custom voice for Val Kilmer was more than a technical accomplishment, it resonated on a deep level with the Sonantic team. Sonantic Co-founder and CEO Zeena Qureshi explains her personal connection with this type of work: "I spent nine years helping children with autism learn how to use their voice as a better instrument for communication. The project with Val demonstrated again how empowering it can be when people overcome challenges with speaking."
If you haven't seen Val, it truly is a chronicling of his life through his eyes and lens. The official synopsis reads, "For over 40 years Val Kilmer, one of Hollywood's most mercurial and/or misunderstood actors has been documenting his own life and craft through film and video. He has amassed thousands of hours of footage, from 16mm home movies made with his brothers, to time spent in iconic roles for blockbuster movies like Top Gun, The Doors, Tombstone, and Batman Forever. This raw, wildly original and unflinching documentary reveals a life lived to extremes and a heart-filled, sometimes hilarious look at what it means to be an artist and a complex man."
Though his new voice is not featured in the documentary, moving forward, the Top Gun star will be able to use his AI voice both personally and professionally.. For years he has had to whisper with people finding it hard to understand him. For his doc his son Jack took on the film's narration. Val is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.