Jimmy Stewart’s AI-generated voice used for a bedtime story on Calm app

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If you’re a premium subscriber of Calm, you can listen to Jimmy Stewart read you a bedtime story, with a little help from AI.

Jimmy Stewart, known for films such as It’s A Wonderful Life, Vertigo and Rear Window, is set to read a bedtime story for users of the relaxation app Calm. “It’s A Wonderful Sleep Story” is available from today (5th December) for subscribers of Calm Premium. 

There’s a catch, though. Stewart has been dead since 1997 and Calm has used AI to recreate his voice. 

“Well, hello. I’m James Stewart. But, well, you can call me Jimmy,” the voice of Stewart begins the story, as reported by Variety. “Tonight, I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a heartwarming story of love, of loss, of hope and of joy. But most of all, it’s a wonderful sleep story.” 

Stewart’s family and estate consented and supported the project. 

“We are excited for our dad to be the voice of Calm’s latest Sleep Story,” said Stewart’s daughter Kelly Stewart Harcourt about the project. “It’s amazing what technology can do and wonderful to see Dad’s legacy live on this holiday season in new ways, like helping people find restful sleep and sweet dreams.”

rear window jimmy stewart
Rear Window. Credit: Paramount Pictures

Calm joined forces with Respeecher, an AI voice-cloning startup, in order to recreate Stewart’s voice. Respeecher had previously recreated Mark Hamill’s voice for The Mandalorian and James Earl Jones’ iconic, booming Darth Vader voice for Obi-Wan Kenobi

The use of AI has garnered a lot of attention as of late. It was recently announced that an animated biopic of French singer Edith Piaf was in the works and the plan was to recreate her voice and image with AI, a decision that has been met with controversy. 

AI was one of the key issues for both the writers and actors’ unions during the Hollywood strikes. Creatives are worried AI will be used as a cheaper alternative to manpower and actors face the possibility of having their body scanned for likeness which can then be used in multiple films without proper compensation. 

“It was essential, like in all other projects, that the project was done according to high ethical standards and respect, which Respeecher has advocated for many years,” said Alex Serdiuk, Respeecher CEO and co-founder about the company recreating Stewart’s voice. “James Stewart is one of the most remarkable actors in US history. Recreating his voice with AI was both a huge responsibility and an honour for Respeecher. It was a way to pay tribute to his incredible career and all the good memories he left to people.”

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