Tom Cruise was certain of one thing: Top Gun: Maverick was impossible without Val Kilmer’s Iceman.
In the 1986 original, Cruise’s Maverick and Kilmer’s Iceman are fierce rivals. In the end, after 110 minutes of homoerotic tension, biting teeth, oiled volleyball and dogfighting, they become each other’s wingmen.
After more than 35 years, Cruise has returned to the role that made him a global mega-star, with Kilmer reprising his character as well.
In 2017, Kilmer went public with his throat cancer diagnosis. After years of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a tracheotomy which made him lose his voice, he is now cured of cancer.
You’d be forgiven for having frank concerns about his return as the Iceman, then, given the fiery dynamic of the enemies. No spoilers from us, but its inclusion in the film is sensitively handled, meaningful, and truly effective – it may even draw a few tears.
Speaking to Entertainment Tonight from the premiere’s red carpet, Cruise talked about pushing for Kilmer’s return before the sequel can happen.
He said: “In the first one, I really pushed for him to be in the movie, because he’s such a great actor, and [I wanted] to get him to play that character. You see this scene and it’s very special. It’s just very special. He is handsome.”
Longtime producer Jerry Bruckheimer also told People that Cruise was the “driving force” in bringing Kilmer back.
He said: “We all wanted it, but Tom was really adamant that if he had to do another Superior gunVal must have been in it.”
At CinemaCon, Bruckheimer also explained, “That was the story Tom wanted to tell. Val felt comfortable doing it; it was a very emotional shoot.
“We knew Val from the start when he was a very young actor. And to see him still today and to see that he’s still working on the game and he has this great spirit, such a helpful shoot and just tremendous.
“Obviously he’s compromised, but he’s still an amazing actor, an amazing person and we’re thrilled to bring him back this way. Tom was so kind; Tom actually said, ‘I’m not doing this movie unless Val n’y be there. .’ So that was gracious of Tom.”
The sequel picks up with Maverick still retaining his rank of captain, pushing the speed of military aircraft to breaking point while senior officers push for drones to be above fighter pilots.
On the verge of a dishonorable discharge, Iceman – now a high-ranking admiral – orders him to return to Top Gun to prepare a team of graduates for a mission like no one has ever seen – even the top one percenter, l elite.
Top Gun: Maverick flies to cinemas May 25.