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 Documentarywww.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 – Sonanticwww.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."


1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

This article originally appeared on 08.21.18

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