Warning: This article contains spoilers for Top Gun: Maverick.
Top Gun: Maverick is one of the big movies to have been delayed the longest by the Covid pandemic, having originally been ready to release in 2020 just as the pandemic began to make its presence felt. However, the movie’s arrival in cinemas over Memorial weekend seemed to have been well worth the wait with the film giving Tom Cruise his biggest opening weekend by some stretch. Along with Cruise, the only returning star of the original movie is Val Kilmer as Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, and his return was only made possible thanks to the use of some impressive technology.
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It was known for some time that Val Kilmer would reprise his role in the Top Gun sequel for some time, but it was not known how exactly his appearance would play out due to the actor losing his voice from undergoing throat cancer treatment in 2014. As it turns out, his real life battle has been translated into his character, as in the movie Iceman has also been caught in a battle with cancer and communicates through typing. However, in a mirror of his real life situation, Kilmer has one line of dialogue that was created with the use of artificial intelligence.
In August 2021, Kilmer was able to find a speaking voice in real life thanks to his partnership with Sonantic, who complied hours of voice archives of the actor and used advanced algorithms to allow him to electronically speak again. As revealed by Forbes, the same process was used to let his character speak in Top Gun: Maverick. John Flynn, co-founder of Sonantic 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 Central To Another Returning Franchise: Willow
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As well as his appearance in Top Gun: Maverick, Val Kilmer is also a big part of Willow, the Disney+ sequel series to the 1980s fantasy, even though his character of Madmartigan will not appear in the show. In the original movie, Madmartigan helps Willow, played by Warwick Davies, in his quest that pits him against evil forces. Although Kilmer will not be appearing in the series, his character’s daughter will appear, and it has been said that his character will be a presence in the show.
Following the trailer reveal for the show during Disney’s Star Wars Celebration, 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 is possible that if Willow gets a second season Kilmer could be involved in some way, for now it will be enough for fans to see his legacy in the franchise being carried on, even if he is not present on screen himself.