The Sweet Story Behind How Tom Cruise ‘Rallied’ To Get Val Kilmer Back For Top Gun’s Sequel

Val Kilmer smiles in a crowd of aviators in Top Gun.
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Top Gun: Maverick has carried a bunch of questions on its back since first being announced. One of the most important, and most powerful, was whether or not the sequel to one of Val Kilmer’s best movies would see him reprise the role of Iceman. We’ve known for some time that yes, Tom Kazansky will be back. However, what we didn’t know was the sweet story of how hard Tom Cruise rallied behind his return. 

Cruise himself laid it out during the world premiere for Top Gun: Maverick in San Diego. As he spoke with ET at the event, the man himself folded some information from the past to bolster his case for including Kilmer in this next chapter. Just as he had Val’s back in 1986, Tom Cruise had his back in the present day for the following reasons: 

In the first one, I really rallied hard for him to be in the movie, because he's such a tremendous actor, and [I wanted] to have him play that character. … You see that [Top Gun: Maverick] scene and it's very special. It's just very special. He's beautiful.

Inverting from enemies at the academy to brothers forged in battle, Captain Pete Mitchell and now Vice Admiral Tom Kasansky had quite the history in Top Gun. The same could be said for the actor’s themselves, especially when Val Kilmer initially hated the idea of the film's plot. After being convinced to enlist alongside Anthony Edwards, Tim Robbins, and other fresh faced aviators in the cast, Kilmer found himself ready to jump back in when it finally came time to make the sequel.

Another party who totally understood Tom Cruise’s fight to get Kilmer back for Top Gun: Maverick was producing legend Jerry Bruckheimer. A vital player in the Top Gun ecosystem, Bruckheimer has previously noted Cruise’s adamance when it came to this matter. Most recently, that story was told again during a luncheon that CinemaBlend had attended at 2022’s CinemaCon, with Jerry Bruckheimer further confirming his lead actor's dedication as follows:

It was the story Tom wanted to tell. Val felt comfortable doing it; it was very emotional filming. We knew Val from the beginning when he was a very young actor. And to see him even today and to see that he’s still working on acting and he’s got this great spirit, so helpful and just terrific filming. Obviously, he’s compromised, but still an amazing actor, an amazing individual and we’re so thrilled to bring him back in this way. Tom was so gracious; Tom actually said, ‘I’m not making this movie unless Val’s in it.’ So that was gracious of Tom.

That dedication, for better or worse, is part of what Tom Cruise brings to the table. It can fire musical artists to pave the way for Lady Gaga and her barnstorming vocals, and it can also bring old friends back for another ride. That being said, I’m even more afraid we’ll be seeing Val Kilmer’s Iceman laid to rest, as the remarks above specifically limit his appearance to “one scene.” 

Having Val Kilmer back as Iceman has been long touted as a huge moment for this Tom Cruise sequel, and that's part of why his presence was fought for to begin with. There’s very few reasons Maverick would shed like the ones we saw in the trailer for Top Gun: Maverick. Losing his wingman definitely counts as one of them, and those tears won't only be on the screen if this happens to be true.

It won’t be long until the truth is revealed, as May 27th is the day of speed for Top Gun: Maverick to head into the danger zone of theaters all over. In the meantime, the upcoming movies of 2022 are waiting for anyone who’ll check them out. Don’t worry about that list going anywhere, because these titles will be your wingman any time. However, if you’re a Netflix subscriber, you have until the end of May to revisit Top Gun, before it loses its spot in the pattern. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.