Calm’s latest sleep story uses the AI-generated voice of late It’s a Wonderful Life star Jimmy Stewart, who died in 1997.
It’s a Wonderful Life culminates the disembodied spirit of Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey realizing the value of his life after seeing how his friends and family would suffer if he wasn’t around. It’s a Wonderful Life’s celebration of the human spirit is a big part of why it’s become a holiday classic, but everything about sleep app Calm’s latest project inspired by It’s a Wonderful Life feels kind of antithetical to the movie’s story.
Through a Variety report, Calm today announced the launch of “It’s a Wonderful Sleep Story.” It’s “a heartwarming new holiday tale” based on director Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life and will star the AI-generated voice of Jimmy Stewart, who has been dead for 26 years. Stewart’s modern-day voice acting turn comes by way of Respeecher, the Kyiv-based startup that recreated Mark Hamill’s voice for The Mandalorian and worked to bring the performance of deceased voice actor Miłogost Reczek to Cyberpunk 2077’s Phantom Liberty DLC. Though the voice in “It’s a Wonderful Sleep Story” sounds a lot like Stewart’s, the performance is actually provided by another living actor doing an impression — a process Respeecher co-founder and CEO Alex Serdiuk described as adhering to “high ethical standards”
“James Stewart is one of the most remarkable actors in U.S. history,” Serdiuk said. “Recreating his voice with AI was both a huge responsibility and an honor for Respeecher. It was a way to pay tribute to his incredible career and all the good memories he left to people.”
To Calm’s credit, it received the express consent of Stewart’s family and estate to move forward with the project before actually doing so, which should seem like a given considering the actor is not around to verbalize whether he wants his voice used to put people to sleep. But in this era where it’s become crystal clear just how keen studios are to lock actors into deals meant to turn their digital likenesses into everlasting revenue streams, Calm’s latest move feels like a pretty telling sign of the times.