When “Top Gun: Maverick” premiered at the Cannes film festival in France last week, viewers gave the action movie a five-minute standing ovation.
The movie, releasing nationwide in the U.S. on May 27, comes 36 years after the original and stars a few from the original cast, including Tom Cruise, who won the coveted Palme d’Or at Cannes.
The original focused on U.S. Naval Aviator Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise) and Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer), one of Top Gun’s students and Maverick’s rival-turned-wingman.
But many things have happened since 1986. In a sad twist, Kilmer, now 62, can no longer speak as his voice was lost after a tracheotomy in 2014 following a throat cancer diagnosis.
Then again, it is the 21st century and the filmmakers wanted to make sure to include Kilmer, so they found a high-tech way to work around the fact that he can’t speak.
“A British artificial intelligence (AI) company has recreated the actor’s voice – with amazingly realistic results,” the Daily Mail reported. “London-based firm Sonantic used his voice recordings from throughout his career, which were fed to their AI to create the lifelike yet artificial mock-up.”
The new technology means Kilmer may be able to star in other movies and regain his voice in his personal life, too.
“Film producers could potentially use the tool – described as ‘Photoshop for voice’ – for voiceovers if they have a role in mind that would be suited to Val’s tones. Val himself is also able to use the AI tool in his personal life, to help him communicate, rather than relying on a voice box to speak,” the U.K. paper said.
“I’m grateful to the entire team at Sonantic who masterfully restored my voice in a way I’ve never imagined possible,” Kilmer said.
Cruise and Kilmer starred in a scene that Kilmer’s daughter said was “extraordinary,” the New York Post reported.
“In the poignant scene, filmed in front of a small group of crew and family, the former hotshots touchingly reunite in the office of Iceman, who’s now an [admiral] in the US Navy. The affection we see on the stars’ faces, sources say, didn’t take much acting from either man,” the Post reported.
“I was on set, I saw it live and it was extraordinary,” Kilmer’s daughter, singer and actor Mercedes Kilmer, 30, told the Post. “It means a lot to my dad as he’s very proud of that film. This is what he loves to do. It was trippy, and very special for my dad to be on set with all of his friends who made this movie when they were my age.”
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.