Val Kilmer’s battle with throat cancer spans over half a decade. Enduring radiation and chemotherapy treatments, as well as a tracheostomy that took his voice, he wants “to tell my story.”
The Amazon Original Documentary, “Val,” features Kilmer’s personal video footage from behind the scenes of some of his most popular films. These videos show candid, sensitive scenes of the actor, and of him coping with his physical limitations.
Leo Scott and Ting Poo directed “Val” together, with Kilmer, his daughter Mercedes, and his son Jack producing it. “Now that it’s more difficult to speak, I want to tell my story more than ever,” Kilmer says in the documentary.
“I can’t speak without plugging this hole [in his throat]. You have to make the choice to breathe or to eat. It’s an obstacle that is very present with whoever sees me.” Kilmer adds he now consumes his meal through a feeding tube.
Scott and Poo tell PEOPLE Kilmer’s personal film archive and the actor’s humility spurred the documentary’s creation. “We approached him three years ago,” says Scott. “I’d worked with him on his “Cinema Twain” project and when he couldn’t tour the play “Citizen Twain,” he was touring a film of the play, so I was working with him on that and some other projects too, archiving his footage.”
“He doesn’t have the vanity that you would expect from someone of his fame and celebrity… It’s humbling to be around that.”
Happy to tell his story, Val Kilmer expresses his gratitude in the film. “I have behaved bizarrely to some. I deny none of this and have no regrets because I have lost and found parts of myself that I never knew existed.” Kilmer then thanks those closest to him and says he is “blessed.”
AI Technology Helped Restore Val Kilmer’s Voice
In 2017, Val Kilmer all but lost his voice after a tracheotomy for a lump in his throat. However, thanks to Sonantic, a company based out of the U.K., Kilmer received an AI version of his voice.
To do this, old recordings were used to recreate the actor’s voice. Audio clips, movies, and videos all helped give Kilmer a second voice. Speaking to The Wrap, Kilmer thought such a feat was impossible.
“I’m grateful to the entire team at Sonatic who masterfully restored my voice in a way I’ve never imagined possible. As human beings, the ability to communicate is the core of our existence and the side effects from throat cancer have made it difficult for others to understand me.”
Praising Sonantic and the people there, Kilmer noted their ability to be creative has allowed him to do the same.
“We all have the capacity to be creative. We’re all driven to share our deepest dreams and ideas with the world.”