MOVIE NEWS – Val Kilmer’s return as Iceman in Top Gun: Maverick was no easy task thanks to the actor’s recent battle with cancer, but technology has helped.
Warning: this article contains spoilers for Top Gun: Maverick!
Top Gun: Maverick is one of the big films that was delayed the most by the Covid epidemic, as it was initially set to be released in 2020 when the epidemic began to make its impact felt. However, the film is finally in cinemas, and it seems to have been worth the wait, as it has delivered Tom Cruise’s biggest opening weekend to date. Cruise is the only returning star from the original film, with Val Kilmer as Tom “Iceman” Kazansky – but his return was only made possible by some impressive technology.
It’s been known for a while that Val Kilmer would be in the Top Gun sequel, but it was not known exactly how he would be cast.
The actor lost his voice in 2014 after undergoing treatment for throat cancer. As it turned out, his real-life battle was transplanted into his character, as Iceman also battled cancer in the film and communicates through typing. However, Kilmer’s real-life situation is mirrored by a line of dialogue created using artificial intelligence.
In August 2021, Kilmer found his real-life speaking voice thanks to a collaboration with Sonantic, who compiled hours of audio archives of the actor and enabled him to speak again electronically using advanced algorithms. As Forbes revealed, the same process was used to make his character in Top Gun: Maverick speak. Sonantic co-founder John Flynn explained:
“In the end, we generated more than 40 different voice models and selected the best, highest-quality, most expressive one.”
“Those new algorithms are now embedded into our voice engine, so future clients can automatically take advantage of them as well.”
Val Kilmer is the central character in another returning franchise: Willow
In addition to Top Gun: Maverick, Val Kilmer will also have a significant role in Willow, a series that continues the story of Disney’s 1980s fantasy epic, even if Madmartigan’s character doesn’t appear on the screen. In the original film, Madmartigan helps Willow, played by Warwick Davies, on her mission against the forces of evil. Although Kilmer will not appear in the series, his character’s daughter will appear, and it has been said that her character will be in some form in the series.
After the trailer for the series was shown at Disney’s Star Wars Celebration event, Willow executive producer Jonathan Kasden explained:
“He’s a huge part of this story and this series.”
“Val has been in communication with Joann [Whalley] and I and Madmartigan is a character in the story and what we didn’t get to shoot with him on Season 1, we’ve made him a major figure in the story.”
While it’s conceivable that if Willow gets a second season, Kilmer could be involved in some way, for now, fans will be content to see his legacy in the franchise carried on, even if he himself is not on screen.