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What a wonderful life after death: AI brings Jimmy Stewart’s voice back for Christmas bedtime story

Jimmy Stewart explains things to Donna Reed in “It’s a Wonderful Life” 1946.
Jimmy Stewart explains things to Donna Reed in “It’s a Wonderful Life” 1946. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Anca Ulea
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Twenty-six years after his death, the beloved “It’s a Wonderful Life” actor can be heard reading a brand-new Christmas bedtime story, with a little help from AI.

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It looks like it’s a wonderful life for Jimmy Stewart, even decades after his death.

The beloved Hollywood actor, known for his role in the 1946 holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life, can be heard reading a brand-new bedtime story on the meditation app Calm, 26 years after his death.

The tale, called “It’s a Wonderful Sleep Story,” was produced by Calm in collaboration with Ukrainian-based company Respeecher, which was able to clone Stewart’s voice using generative AI.

Respeecher has previously done projects recreating other iconic voices like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.

To clone Stewart’s voice, the company said it relied on “a few dozen minutes” of existing recordings to train its system, and then blended those samples with a recording done by a voice actor.

The final product is uncanny, with Stewart’s signature croon reverberating over a backdrop of sparkling Christmas cheer.

“Well, hello. I’m James Stewart, but, well, you can call me Jimmy,” Stewart’s reconstructed voice begins. “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.”

The voice cloning was done with Stewart’s family’s blessing. His daughter Kelly Stewart Harcourt said in a Calm statement provided to CNN that “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.”

The bedtime story featuring Stewart’s voice is a festive addition to Calm’s series of “sleep stories,” which are meant to help users wind down from their day so they can fall into a restful sleep.

“It’s A Wonderful Sleep Story is a new, but timeless tale of hope and kindness, brought to life by Jimmy Stewart’s iconic voice,” Calm wrote in an Instagram post.

Stewart’s acting career spanned seven decades and 80 films, including Rear Window and Vertigo directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

In It’s a Wonderful Life, Stewart plays businessman George Bailey, whose deep despair has brought him to consider ending his life on Christmas Eve.

Instead, George is visited by a guardian angel who shows him all of the lives he’s touched and what the world would look like if he had never been born. 

Today the film is considered one of the best movies of all time.

Stewart died at age 85 in 1997, just six years after shooting his final film.

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