Val Kilmer Not Returning For The New Willow Series Was Never An Option

Disney+ is reviving "Willow," another '80s nostalgia flick, from its peaceful resting place in the Walmart five dollar DVD bin (do not mourn, all stories find their way to the blessed tub in the electronics section). Its new life will take the form of an episodic adventure in the same fashion that both Marvel and "Star Wars" found a second, serialized wind. 

But let's rewind for a minute because there are adults in their 30s younger than the movie in question. "Willow" is a dark fantasy that follows the titular Willow (Warwick Davis), an aspiring sorcerer, as he sets out to find a lost child a home. Along the way, he becomes embroiled in a mighty war and what can only be described as a Tolkien-esque reinterpretation of the story of Moses — the origin bits with the child murder, not the plagues.

Fortunately for our protagonist, he's not alone! Amongst many others, Willow is joined on his arduous trek by Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), a copyright safe Han Solo. Yeah, George Lucas, who created both "Star Wars" and "Willow," didn't really branch out with that particular character but, hey, if it ain't broke, repeat it a thousand times until the world drowns in charmingly lawless men. Regardless of originality, Madmartigan is as much "Willow" as Willow is "Willow" and we're going to run with the assumption that everyone understood that. 

Let's fast forward to the present, where Davis is now a man in his 50s and Kilmer is not only a man in his 60s, but also a man forever changed by a long battle with throat cancer. With that in mind, how does the "Willow" series expect to recapture the old magic? Would Kilmer's return be practical, or even possible? 

Willow was crafted to protect and utilize Kilmer

In November 2022, in the days leading up to the release of "Willow" (the series shares its name with the original film), Vanity Fair released an explorative piece that chronicles the journey Jonathan Kasdan underwent to bring his favorite childhood film back for another epic story. Kasdan reveals that Kilmer's condition was immediately taken into consideration once the project gathered enough steam to take form. Specifically, he said, "I approached Val the moment there was any momentum around this. I told him instantly that I wanted him to be a part of the story. He really wanted to be, and he was determined to be. And like a lot of things that happened, COVID made him flying to Wales in that moment very hard."

But, even then, writing Madmartigan out of the script was out of the question. Kasdan continued, saying, "it seemed too sad to all of us, and frankly not right for the story we were telling, that Madmartigan was dead. And as a result, he is not in this world. He comes back by the end of the season in as meaningful a way as we felt we could, while leaving the door open to continue to build it out." 

The story of "Willow" the series was molded to protect both Kilmer's health and interests, as well as the interests of the narrative Kasdan desired to write. It's a compromise, certainly (that lead to the creation of a role for Christian Slater), but maintaining important connections will never be without complications, and there was simply no return for "Willow" without Madmartigan.