Val Kilmer lost his voice to cancer. An AI company just gave it back and it sounds amazing.
via IGN / YouTube

Val Kilmer has had a very unique acting career. He's played the leading man in major hits such as "Batman Forever," "The Doors," and "The Saint" while also portraying memorable, scene-stealing character roles in "Tombstone," "Heat," and "Top Gun."

He also showed a flair for comedy with his performances in "Real Genius" and the Zucker Brothers' brilliant "Top Secret."

But his career as an actor all but ended in 2015 after he lost his voice after undergoing treatment for throat cancer. The treatments reduced his voice to a creaky rasp and he uses a feeding tube because he can no longer eat.



VAL - Official Trailer (2021) Val Kilmer Documentary www.youtube.com


Kilmer's struggles with life after his cancer treatment are documented in a moving new documentary "VAL" that follows his life through his personal home movie footage. The film shows how he's grown as a person and persevered after losing such a valuable part of his craft.

After the film was finished, Kilmer's representatives contacted Sonantic, an AI company, to see if they could digitally recreate the actor's voice. "So that's what we did," said Zeena Qureshi, CEO and co-founder of Sonantic. "Val's team wanted to give him his voice back so that he could continue creating."

In the past, vocal recreations such as those used by Stephen Hawking or Roger Ebert sounded more like robots than humans.

However, Sonantic's recreation of Kilmer's voice using old audio of him speaking pre-cancer treatment sounds like the actor we remember.

"From the beginning, our aim was to make a voice model that Val would be proud of," John Flynn, CTO and Co-founder of Sonantic said. "We were eager to give him his voice back, providing a new tool for whatever creative projects are ahead."

The company says that its engineers pulled audio of Kilmer speaking, cleaned it up, and removed any background noise. They then ran it through "voice engine" algorithms which learned how to speak in Kilmer's unique tone and rhythms.

The software is so sensitive that it can derive emotional patterns from the words to give them the proper inflection.

Take a listen:

Hear Val Kilmer's AI voice – Sonantic www.youtube.com

The great news for Kilmer is that he can use artificial intelligence to speak in a way that's familiar with his fans. "It's exclusively his model. He could use it for personal use or professional use if he wants to," Qureshi 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 in a statement. "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. The chance to tell my story, in a voice that feels authentic and familiar, is an incredibly special gift."

Kilmer's fans can look forward to him appearing in the long-awaited "Top Gun" sequel that's coming out in November. After he initially wasn't cast in the film, Kilmer made an impassioned plea to the film's producers and Tom Cruise to reprise his iconic role as Iceman.

"As the Temptations sang in the heydey of Motown soul, 'Ain't too proud to beg.' The producers went for it," Kilmer recalled in his memoir, "I'm Your Huckleberry." "Cruise went for it. Cruise couldn't have been cooler. ... Tom and I took up where we left off. The reunion felt great."

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Macy's and Girls Inc. believe that all girls deserve to be safe, supported, and valued. However, racial disparities continue to exist for young people when it comes to education levels, employment, and opportunities for growth. Add to that the gender divide, and it's clear to see why it's important for girls of color to have access to mentors who can equip them with the tools needed to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers.

Anissa Rivera is one of those mentors. Rivera is a recent Program Manager at the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc., a nonprofit focusing on the holistic development of girls ages 5-18. The goal of the organization is to provide a safe space for girls to develop long-lasting mentoring relationships and build the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to thrive now and as adults.

Rivera spent years of her career working within the themes of self and community empowerment with young people — encouraging them to tap into their full potential. Her passion for youth development and female empowerment eventually led her to Girls Inc., where she served as an agent of positive change helping to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

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Inspiring young women from all backgrounds is why Macy's has continued to partner with Girls Inc. for the second year in a row. The partnership will support mentoring programming that offers girls career readiness, college preparation, financial literacy, and more. Last year, Macy's raised over $1.3M for Girls Inc. in support of this program along with their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programming for more than 26,000 girls. Studies show that girls who participated are more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, score higher on standardized math tests, and be more equipped for college and campus life.

Thanks to mentors like Rivera, girls across the country have the tools they need to excel in school and the confidence to change the world. With your help, we can give even more girls the opportunity to rise up. Throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases or donate online to support Girls Inc. at Macys.com/MacysGives.

Who runs the world? Girls!

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

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Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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