Val Kilmer, thanks to his cameo in Top Gun: Maverick, is having himself a moment.
He reprised his character — Tom “Iceman” Kazansky — for the movie. But this time, Kilmer’s Iceman and Tom Cruise’s Maverick aren’t competing against each other for best pilot in their elite training class. After 36 years, Top Gun fans learned that the way the movie ended in 1986 stayed true all these decades later. Iceman and Maverick remained each other’s wingman. But Iceman became an admiral in charge of the Pacific Fleet, while Maverick never achieved a rank higher than Captain. It seems that Maverick, ever the rebel, needed Iceman’s help to stay in the Navy.
And as the movie is headed towards $1 billion at the worldwide box office, fans are rediscovering Kilmer. Although Cruise’s career probably has yet to reach its zenith, Kilmer probably peaked in the 1990s. His last major role was playing Batman in Batman Forever in 1995.
Yet the Top Gun: Maverick fans have fallen in love with him again. He’s probably better liked in the sequel that he was in the original.
“I can’t believe how kind the whole world has been, Kilmer told the Los Angeles Times in an interview for Top Gun: Maverick. “I get hundreds of fan letters every week. It’s very humbling.”
There’s a medical reason why the 62-year-old Kilmer hasn’t been on screen very much. Doctors diagnosed him with throat cancer a few years back. And he lost the ability to speak. In Top Gun: Maverick, you mostly see Maverick and Iceman communicate via text message. When Maverick came to Iceman’s home, Kilmer’s character used a computer to carry on a conversation. However, Kilmer did say a line. That was thanks to a company named Sonantic, which downloaded hundreds of hours of Kilmer speaking in previous roles through AI. They were able to clone his voice, so you heard Iceman say: “The Navy needs you Maverick. (The pilots) they need you.”
Kilmer, via email, told the LA Times that he and Cruise have been good friends since the original Top Gun. They met for the first time on set while making the first movie. The two discussed how best to bring Iceman back to the sequel, which was more about Maverick’s relationship with Rooster, the son of Goose, his co-pilot back in 1986.
“We talked quite a bit about what was best for the story and I think they got it right at the end,” Kilmer wrote about Cruise. “We are in touch and exchange (Christmas) gifts every year!”
Directors needed multi takes for the scene in which we finally see Iceman and Maverick. It was redone to allow Iceman a costume change. In Top Gun: Maverick, Iceman reflect’s Kilmer’s reality. He also has throat cancer.
Director Joseph Kosinski told the LA Times that he believes the movie forced the actors to raise their game.
“You’ve got two masters at the top of their game playing the most iconic characters of their careers,” Kosinski said. “I think there is a lot of Maverick in Tom, and Iceman in Val. So what you are seeing onscreen is an authentic friendship that has lasted over 36 years.”