Val Kilmer's Return As Iceman In Top Gun: Maverick Made Tom Cruise Cry

When Tom Cruise gets choked up during his reunion scene with Val Kilmer in "Top Gun: Maverick," those are some real tears you're seeing in his eyes. Kilmer's return as Iceman, onetime rival of Maverick in the Top Gun program, is relegated to a single scene, but it's one that was packed with emotion for both moviegoers and Cruise as he was filming it.

In real life, Kilmer's speaking ability has been affected by throat cancer treatments; it's only toward the end of his scene that he we hear him utter a few lines of dialogue. Director Joseph Kosinski told USA Today that Kilmer's "voice was digitally altered and blended a little bit just for clarity" in "Top Gun: Maverick." Before Iceman stands up from his desk, speaks, and shares a hug with Maverick, Cruise's protagonist is left sitting across from him and the typed message, "It's time to let go."

Iceman, the fighter-pilot-turned-admiral, sits silent as Maverick talks through his feelings, fighting back tears and allowing a moment of quiet drama to invade the action movie. In a recent TV appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" (via The Hollywood Reporter), Cruise responded to a clip from the reunion scene: 

"I just want to say, that was pretty emotional. I've known Val for decades, and for him to come back and play that character — he's such a powerful actor that he instantly became that character again. You're looking at Iceman."

When Kimmel pointed out that Cruise appears to really be crying in the scene, the actor confessed, "I was crying. I got emotional. He's such a brilliant actor, and I love his work."

Not a dry eye in the multiplex

Above, you can see Tom Cruise's full appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" His comments about Val Kilmer begin right around the 10-minute mark.

"Top Gun: Maverick" has become the rare blockbuster legacy sequel to score six Academy Award nominations, including ones for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. The writing nomination, shared by Peter Craig and John Marks, was especially surprising, given how much the film's third act plays like an uncredited remake of "Star Wars: A New Hope" and its climactic trench run on the Death Star. Editor Eddie Hamilton, who is also up for an Oscar, confirmed to /Film that the filmmakers "were all joking about the thermal exhaust port right below the main port [in 'Star Wars'] all the time."

"Top Gun: Maverick" is also deeply indebted to the original "Top Gun," directed by the late Tony Scott. It starts out the same way, aboard an aircraft carrier with Kenny Loggins music, and hits many of the same beats along the way — right down to the game of "dog fight football" in place of beach volleyball. Notwithstanding its overt similarities to other movies, however, "Top Gun: Maverick" clearly registered with audiences, who helped it rake in almost $1.5 billion at the box office, surpassing "Avengers: Infinity War" (and later, its Marvel-movie cousin, "Black Panther") to become the fifth-highest-grossing film of all time domestically, according to The Numbers.

As our spoiler review observes, "Top Gun: Maverick" puts you "right back in the 'Danger Zone,' or maybe just the audience's comfort zone." That's a good place to be when Kilmer is onscreen. His presence infuses the movie with some real emotion, leaving the viewer, like Iceman himself, thinking but perhaps most importantly feeling, "You can be my wingman anytime."