Paramount / Copper / Shutterstock Val Kilmer in Top Gun (1986)
Val Kilmer’s Tom “Iceman” Kazansky makes an unforgettable appearance in Top Gun: Maverick – with a little help from science.
Filmed after the actor, 62, recovered from throat cancer, the newly released follow-up to 1986’s Top Gun sees Kilmer reunite with Tom Cruise onscreen over 35 years after the original movie. And according to a report from Fortune, artificial intelligence previously developed by Sonantic for Kilmer was leveraged for his role in the sequel.
In an August 2021 blog post, Sonantic co-founder and CEO John Flynn previously said they “generated more than 40 different voice models and selected the best, highest-quality, most expressive one” for Kilmer.
“Those new algorithms are now embedded into our Voice Engine, so future clients can automatically take advantage of them as well,” he continued.
According to Flynn, “From the beginning, our aim was to make a voice model that Val would be proud of.” He added, “We were eager to give him his voice back, providing a new tool for whatever creative projects are ahead.”
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Val Kilmer (L) in Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
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Kilmer’s son Jack, who recites some of narration in his father’s 2021 documentary Valpreviously told PEOPLE of Sonantic’s technology, “They have just created something really incredible and it really moved me to see their proof of concept. It has so much potential.”
“Knowing my dad, he’ll probably use it for something creative and, at the very least, just to communicate with us when he’s feeling tired,” added Jack, 26. “A cool setup, though.”
Of filming the original movie at age 26, Kilmer recently told PEOPLE in a new Top Gun special edition, “My main joy was the camaraderie of the cast, [producers] Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, along with the incredible, unflappable enthusiasm of [director] Tony Scott and Tom Cruise. “
As for his off-screen relationship with Cruise, 59, “I am happy to announce we have home movies to prove how much fun we had!” said Kilmer, who used personal camcorder footage from his early career in Val.
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Despite some initial skepticism about signing on for Top GunKilmer was wowed by the finished film, which launched him to a new level of fame.
Some three decades later, when he heard about a potential sequel, it was now the once-reluctant actor who lobbied to bring back Iceman. His successful pitch made him the only cast member besides Cruise to reprise his role in Top Gun: Maverick.
“The rivalry between Iceman and Maverick was such a memorable part of the first movie,” the sequel’s director, Joseph Kosinski, told PEOPLE. “I’m glad we’ll be able to show the evolution of that relationship.”
And Cruise was thrilled to have Kilmer return. “I’ve always admired [Val’s] work, his talent, “he told PEOPLE, adding,” We get together. . . we just start laughing. It was special to have him back. It meant a lot to me. “
Top Gun: Maverick is now playing in theaters.