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Val Kilmer Made A Major Contribution To The Top Gun: Maverick Story Before Filming Even Began

Val Kilmer as Iceman in Top Gun 1986
(Image credit: Paramount)

Top Gun: Maverick is finally here and proves not only that there is no Top Gun without Tom Cruise’s beloved leading man. But it also solidifies the fact that he's not the only original cast member that needed to come back to the big screen over 35 years later to do the flick justice. Val Kilmer’s Iceman returns, and the 62-year-old actor, who has been recovering from his battle with throat cancer, was heavily involved in how his iconic character returned, too. This fact came directly from director Joseph Kosinski, who revealed the major contribution Kilmer made before filming even commenced.

During the ReelBlend podcast’s interview with Top Gun: Maverick’s Joseph Kosinski, the hosts asked how Val Kilmer became involved in the long-awaited sequel. In Kosinski’s words to the CinemaBlend show: 

Tom was adamant, Jerry [Bruckheimer] was adamant. I'm obviously a huge Val Kilmer fan, not just as Iceman, but in Tombstone and Heat. The chance to work with him is a dream come true. And to have him come into a film as Iceman was pretty epic. Jerry and I called Val. We brought him in, talked to him about the movie, and it was Val who really cracked how he could be in it. Then, we worked really hard on the scene and on that relationship. And it's great because they were rivals in the first film. Obviously, we have that last scene of the first film where that rivalry becomes a friendship. And now we get to see 35 years later how that friendship has evolved, how Iceman is his wingman and is always looking out for Maverick.

Maverick and Iceman were memorably rivals in 1986’s Top Gun but, after the core events of the film, the two Navy pilots decide to put aside their differences. And in the film's closing moments, Ice delivers the line “you can be my wingman anytime.” As previously reported, Tom Cruise “rallied hard” for the actor to be in the sequel and, per the director’s words, Kilmer also was involved in creating the beautiful Iceman scene in Maverick. Joseph Kosinski also said this: 

[It] was a very emotional scene to shoot for Tom, for Val, for all of us who were there. You get to see two legends at their very, very best in a scene together. And you get to see Tom, what an incredible actor he is. Because we talk about the stunts that he does. But look at the career… look at his first 10 years, look at the kind of movies he was making. Look at who he was working with, you know? It's incredible to see him really get to lean into that side of what he's able to do with another legend. It's obviously one of those few days on set I'll never forget.

The original Top Gun was Val Kilmer’s third film, and the actor has since admitted that he thought the movie was “silly” and only took the project because he was under contract with Paramount Pictures. Years later, ahead of the sequel being made, Kilmer actually campaigned for a role in the follow-up.

The actor has had a reputation for being difficult to work with, and he and Tom Cruise reportedly had actual tension on the set of the original movie. This was due to the Iceman actor’s decision to practically go method on set and “purposefully play up the rivalry.” However, that was not characteristic of their actual off-camera relationship, per his documentary, Val

In late 2017, Val Kilmer revealed that he had undergone a two-year battle with throat cancer, which included chemotherapy and two two tracheostomies. As a result of the surgeries, he uses an electric voice box in his trachea in order to talk and requires a feeding tube to eat. 

Scientists actually helped recreate Val Kilmer's voice for the sequel with cutting edge A.I. technology, per Fortune. There were a lot of factors working against Kilmer returning to for the movie, which was filmed between 2018 and 2019, but it’s great to see the actor within Maverick’s stacked cast, and to hear that he helped contribute to the flick in such an important way.

The Tom Cruise-led sequel, one of 2022's biggest new movie releases, is now playing in theaters. Be sure to check out CinemaBlend’s interviews with the Top Gun: Maverick cast if you're still feeling the need for speed for the sequel. 

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