Val Kilmer marked the release of his acclaimed documentary “Val” (now streaming on Amazon Prime Video) in a milestone way: He recreated his old speaking voice by feeding hours of recorded audio of himself into an artificial intelligence algorithm. Kilmer lost the ability to speak after undergoing throat cancer treatment in 2014. Kilmer’s team recently joined forces with software company Sonantic and “Val” distributor Amazon to “create an emotional and lifelike model of his old speaking voice” (via The Wrap).
“I’m grateful to the entire team at Sonantic who masterfully restored my voice in a way I’ve never imagined possible,” Val Kilmer said in a statement. “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.”
Per The Wrap: “Kilmer worked closely in development of the AI prototype, supplying Sonantic with archival footage of his voice that was fed into the company’s algorithms and cleaned up to create the model. And there’s a chance that he could utilize it in the future both personally and professionally.”
The AI-recreation of Kilmer’s voice was done after “Val” was made and is not featured in the documentary. The voice of Kilmer’s son, “Palo Alto” actor Jack Kilmer, is featured in the documentary to narrate the words of his father. The actor’s speaking voice is also featured in archived video footage spanning decades of Kilmer’s career. A first listen at Kilmer’s AI-recreated voice was featured in a Sonantic promotion released earlier this month (watch the video below for a listen).
“People around me struggle to understand when I’m talking. But despite all that I still feel I’m the exact same person,” Kilmer says in the clip using the AI model to speak. “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.”
News of Kilmer’s recreated voice follows a controversy from earlier this year centered around the release of the Anthony Bourdain documentary “Roadrunner.” Director Morgan Neville used an AI algorithm to recreate the late television personality and chef’s voice at three points in the movie, which led to an ethics debate since Bourdain could not sign off on using his speaking voice. Kilmer, on the other hand, was directly involved in the recreation of his voice.
There’s no confirmation yet on how the AI model for Kilmer’s speaking voice will be used next. “Val” is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, and the actor will appear in some capacity opposite Tom Cruise in the upcoming “Tom Gun: Maverick,” in theaters November 19.