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Val Kilmer’s Voice Was Destroyed by Cancer — Now, Cutting Edge Tech Has Restored It

Val Kilmer skipped the Cannes Film Festival premiere of a documentary about his life, and fans are worried that the star has taken a turn for the worse...
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Updated August 19, 2021

Val Kilmer’s acclaimed documentary, Val, details the decades-long career and personal trials of the star actor. The film first aired at the Cannes Film Festival on July 7, and it will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video starting Friday, August 6.

The legendary actor did not show up for the premiere, however, worrying fans that his health may be on the decline.

Kilmer’s children recently spoke with ET to discuss their father. A major part of their family’s story is Kilmer’s battle with throat cancer. Kilmer was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. As terribly difficult as this period was, a lot of beautiful things are unfolding in the actor’s life in the wake of his diagnosis.

For instance, the treatments for Kilmer’s throat cancer caused him to lose his voice. But Kilmer’s team recruited an AI company called Sonantic to see if they could recreate the actor’s voice using old audio.

“From the beginning, our aim was to make a voice model that Val would be proud of,” John Flynn, the 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 AI is so nuanced that it can mimic Kilmer’s unique voice rhythms, tones, and inflections. This could potentially provide Val with a way to continue using his voice in regular life and in films.

You can hear Val Kilmer’s AI voice in this video from Sonantic, and if you think you’re going to hear some sort of Siri or Alexa-esque robot babble, think again. This just might blow you away.

Val Kilmer’s Children: Mercedes and Jack

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Kilmer’s daughter, Mercedes, told ET during the premiere that her father is doing “really well.” She also said that he’s seen the documentary, and it was his decision not to attend the film’s first showing.

“It’s very emotional for him to watch it,” said Kilmer’s son, Jack. “We wish he could be here, but you know, he’s here in spirit. And he’s just so proud of this and that people get to see a side of him that has never been seen before.”

The kids, who are very close with their father, said he’s never enjoyed watching his own films. The fact that he didn’t want to attend the premiere was no surprise to Mercedes and Jack. That doesn’t mean they don’t support him. Jack gushed:

“He is such a creative persona and such an eccentric person, and he really has a lot of energy and such a lust for life. He just loves life so much, and he loves creating things, and he loves movies, and he loves everything. He’s just one of the best listeners and just the most, like, interesting people I’ve ever met.”

Many fans worried that Kilmer’s absence was an indication that his health has taken a turn for the worse. However, Mercedes and Jack reported that he is doing just fine right now and simply didn’t want to attend.

Kilmer’s Documentary Sheds Light on His Health Struggles

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Kilmer is a private person. This is reflective of the more human side of him that the film promises to show audiences.

61-year-old Kilmer has undergone a trachea procedure, chemotherapy, and two tracheotomies in the last six years since being diagnosed with throat cancer. In 2020, Kilmer revealed that even though he had been free from cancer for four years, he was using a feeding tube because he could no longer eat regularly.

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These are the intense struggles that the home-video footage from the documentary will show. The Top Gun and Heat star provided the directors, Leo Scott and Ting Poo, with over 800 hours of footage he had shot himself throughout his career.

The footage will depict Kilmer going to school, attending auditions early on in his career, and spending time with his family.

Jack Kilmer is the narrator of the film, which currently has a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Jack told ET that his narration in the film was a surprise to his father at first–a surprise that “really means a lot to him.”

When Kilmer began losing his voice due to his health problems, he wanted to make sure he could encapsulate his life’s story in a meaningful way.

Although Kilmer cannot physically speak for himself as easily as he used to, this documentary promises to tell us everything he needs us to know about his story, his loved ones, and the way he looks at life.