AI Helped Val Kilmer Reprise His Iconic Role in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

The film Top Gun: Maverick has been a critical and box-office success since it was released over Memorial Day weekend. A follow-up to the 1986 Top Gun, it stars Tom Cruise reprising his role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. Actor Val Kilmer, who played the iconic Iceman in the original flick, also makes an appearance — and it’s been praised by reviewers and moviegoers alike.

There’s a good reason that Kilmer’s appearance is Maverick has been met with such joy. The star has had major health issues; he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015 and has since undergone chemotherapy, radiation, and a tracheostomy. The treatments damaged his vocal cords and permanently altered his speaking voice.

Although things have changed for Kilmer since 1986, Maverick producer Jerry Bruckheimer and writer Christopher McQuarrie were determined to create a moment that properly honors the Iceman legacy. Artificial intelligence made it possible for Kilmer to speak with his voice pre-illness — by way of machine learning. Using “archival footage of his voice,” the Sonantic company was able to model Kilmer’s past way of speaking and used it in the film.

“We called Val and told him we wanted to meet him to be in the picture. And he was thrilled, ”Bruckheimer recalled at the film’s San Diego premiere. “Tom [Cruise] said he wasn’t going to make the movie without him. So the fact that he was able to do it and he worked with us on the script, to have him there and be a part of it was a really emotional day when we filmed him. Because you want to see those two on the screen again, Iceman and Maverick going at it. And that’s what movie making and audiences love. ”

Kilmer’s son Jack shared how much Iceman’s appearance meant to his dad. “They honor the legacy of Iceman, and he was so stoked by it,” he said. “[My sister] Mercedes and I went down to San Diego to that big naval base for the shoot with Tom Cruise and everyone. And there were hundreds of extras of real pilots coming up to us and telling us that the first Top Gun inspired them to join the Navy and the Air Force. It was one of the proudest moments of being American that you could really think of. ”

Top Gun: Maverick is now in theaters.

The film Top Gun: Maverick has been a critical and box-office success.

Actor Val Kilmer, who played the iconic Iceman in the original flick, also makes a brief appearance — something that has been praised by reviewers and moviegoers alike.

Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015 and has since undergone chemotherapy, radiation, and a tracheostomy. The treatments damaged his vocal cords. AI was able to model Kilmer’s past way of speaking and it was used in the film.

Photo: Jean_Nelson / Depositphotos

h / t: [People]

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