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Top Gun: Maverick, the highly anticipated sequel to the 1986 classic Top Gun, is finally hitting theaters after a long delay due to the pandemic. Fans of the original film will be thrilled to see the return of their favorite characters, but there is one familiar voice that they never expected to hear again. We’re talking about [SPOILER]’s, who passed away in [YEAR]. Despite this, the filmmakers have managed to bring back [SPOILER]’s iconic voice for the new film. So, how did they do it? Let’s find out.
Editor’s note: the following article contains spoilers for Top Gun: Maverick.
While it was speculated that original Top Gun star Val Kilmer would be a part of Top Gun: Maverick, his exact role and how he would appear was kept tightly under wraps. While the star has overcome a battle with throat cancer which has affected his speech, an illness that Kilmer confirmed in 2017, Tom Cruise and Maverick director Joseph Kosinski found a way to include the actor in the film, with his character Tom “Iceman” Kazansky’s story mirroring the star’s real life challenges in a touching and emotional way. Most notably, the creative team found a way to include Kilmer’s voice in the film, something Kilmer lost the use of during treatment.
As a result of rounds of chemotherapy and two tracheotomies — a procedure that allows one to breathe without nose or mouth — Kilmer lost the ability to speak clearly. In 2021, through the use of AI technology, his voice was able to be recreated with archival audio. It’s this very process that allowed Kilmer’s voice to be included in the film, where he gives a small (but heartwarming) speech to his friend and former Top Gun classmate, Maverick (Cruise), after a difficult time training a handful of Top Gun graduates. Kazansky also used a computer to communicate in the film, which Kilmer uses in real life as well.
According to Sonantic, the AI company that worked with Kilmer to recreate his voice, over forty models of his speech were developed for the film. John Flynn, CTO and co-founder of Sonantic, confirmed that “the best, highest-quality, most expressive one [dialogue recording]” was selected for the film, per an interview with Forbes. This work is encouraging, as it created techniques and processes that will be available now for future clients. Audiences who have seen Maverick will know that it easily helped to create one of the film’s most touching moments.
Kilmer gave the following comments previously about AI in voice recreation, which certainly apply to this scenario:
“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.”
It’s truly encouraging that Kilmer, as well as the creative team behind Maverick, found a way for him to be included in the film that was both emotional and authentic. This work by Sonantic is a real game-changer, and can hopefully aid those outside Hollywood who face similar challenges.
Top Gun: Maverick is in theaters now.
In conclusion, the filmmakers of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ did a remarkable job of bringing back [SPOILER]’s voice to the film. Using modern technology, they were able to seamlessly integrate the recordings of the late actor into the movie and give fans a sense of nostalgia and closure. It was a fitting tribute to the character and the actor, and it added an emotional depth to the film. Overall, the filmmakers managed to honor the legacy of ‘Top Gun’ while giving the story a fresh spin, making the sequel a worthwhile watch for both old and new fans alike.
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