Top Gun: Maverick is proving to be a major hit with moviegoers worldwide, with the Tom Cruise-starring sequel outperforming its pre-release box office projections.
The film sees Cruise reprise his role as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell alongside Jennifer Connelly and Jon Hamm, as he coaches a cohort of young fighter pilots before they carry out a dangerous mission.
Arriving almost 40 years after Tony Scott’s 1986 smash hit original, Top Gun: Maverick is obviously loaded with nostalgia and direct references to the previous film.
One such reference is the brief but crucial appearance of Val Kilmer’s Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky, Mav’s rival turned wingman from the original movie.
And fans will have noticed a distinct difference between the Iceman of 1986 and the Iceman of 2022: Kilmer’s voice.
In 2017, Kilmer, 62, revealed that he had been battling throat cancer for two years – a tracheotomy saved his life but left him unable to speak as clearly as he had before.
However, after extensive and ground-breaking work with AI technology, and at Cruise’s insistence, Kilmer was able to appear in the movie and speak to Maverick during an emotional scene.
This was all down to scientists being able to create a computer-generated replica of Kilmer’s voice that went on to be used in the new film.
After developing the technology, Sonantic, a London-based tech start-up, worked with Kilmer to create his AI-powered voice.
The company’s CTO and co-founder John Flynn said in a previous blog post: ‘From the beginning, our aim was to make a voice model that Val would be proud of.
‘We were eager to give him his voice back, providing a new tool for whatever creative projects are ahead.’
Using a ‘voice engine’ to teach the technology to speak with Kilmer’s voice, they were able to clean up old audio recordings of Kilmer, either in action on the screen or speaking in interviews.
Speaking about the technology, Kilmer said at the time that it had ‘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 effects from throat cancer have made it difficult for others to understand me,’ he added.
‘The chance to tell my story, in a voice that feels authentic and familiar, is an incredibly special gift.’
Top Gun: Maverick is in cinemas now.