‘Top Gun: Maverick’: It Was Val Kilmer’s Idea to Make Iceman Sick

One of the most emotionally resonant moments of Top Gun: Maverick is the reunion scene between Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise. Not only was it great to see Iceman (Kilmer) and Maverick (Cruise) reunite, but Kilmer’s return may have been a surprise for many due to his recent health concerns. In the Top Gun sequel, Iceman has similar health problems to Kilmer and that was the actor’s idea, according to the director. 

Val Kilmer returns as Iceman in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

Val Kilmer as Iceman in Top Gun
Val Kilmer | CBS via Getty Images

In the original Top Gun, Kilmer plays Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, a pilot at TOPGUN academy who develops a rivalry with Cruise’s Maverick. The two conflict with each other as Iceman does not have much respect for Maverick’s cocky attitude. As the movie progresses, the two develop a friendship with Maverick even saving Iceman’s life at the end of the movie. 

In Top Gun: Maverick, Iceman only has a brief role but his presence is felt throughout. Maverick only gets asked to teach at TOPGUN on the recommendation of Iceman. Later, Maverick meets up with Iceman as Iceman tries to help his friend get over his past demons. It’s a lovely moment that is also somewhat heartbreaking due to the affliction that Iceman has. 

It was Kilmer’s idea to make Iceman sick in his cameo scene

Val Kilmer was a major actor in the 1980s and 1990s with roles in movies like Top Gun, Willow, Tombstone, and Batman Forever. However, his career was impacted due to health issues. The actor lost his ability to speak after undergoing an operation for throat cancer. 

In Top Gun: Maverick, Iceman has a similar illness but is also given a short time to live. Maverick is now left to move on without his friend who eventually dies later in the movie. In an interview with director Joseph Kosinski for Indiewire, he said the idea to make Iceman sick was actually Kilmer’s. 

“We spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what the best version of that scene was and how to pull it off,” Kosinski shared. “Obviously, the idea of Iceman being an important part of Maverick’s journey was something we all wanted but didn’t know what Val’s health struggles were.”

“[Producer] Jerry [Bruckheimer] and I met with Val. He came over to Jerry’s office and we sat down with him and just told him of our desire to figure out a way to get Iceman into the film,” Kosinski added. “It was Val Kilmer who came up with the idea that Iceman was sick too, so he could integrate into the story in a way that felt authentic and not something that we were trying to hide.”

The director wanted Iceman to be a ‘guardian angel’ for Maverick

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During the interview, Kosinski mentions that he wanted Iceman to be a kind of “guardian angel” for Maverick. Iceman has been a mentor-like figure for Maverick that has kept him on the right path, despite Maverick’s worst tendencies. In Top Gun: Maverick, he appears at just the right time to help Maverick deal with his past relationship with Rooster (Miles Teller)

“This idea that Iceman is always looking out for his buddy was something we liked, and this idea that he also is aware of the tension or the broken relationship between Rooster and Maverick, and knows that Maverick will never really be able to move past it until he confronts it directly,” Kosinski said. “The idea that Iceman brings in Maverick — not only to teach this mission, because he is one of the few who’s done it before but also as a friend setting up Maverick to confront Rooster and make peace with their past — it just felt like a great way to integrate him into the film.”

Top Gun: Maverick is currently in theaters.