Movies - TV
How Val Kilmer's Real Life Influenced Iceman's Role in Top Gun: Maverick
By JEFF EWING
After 36 years, the sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” is finally in theaters, once again featuring Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) and Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer). However, the two ace pilots are in very different circumstances: Maverick has become an experimental pilot, while Iceman has risen up in the Navy to become a four-star Admiral.
Given his rank, Iceman is in a position to make Maverick the instructor of a new group of “Top Gun” recruits tasked with flying an impossible mission. Though their initial contact is only by way of text messages, Maverick and Iceman do have an in-person reunion, but it's bittersweet as viewers learn Kilmer’s character has been fighting cancer, and regretfully, it has returned.
It’s a heartfelt scene, with Iceman’s words mostly being translated through text on a computer screen, since speaking is extremely painful. What many “Top Gun: Maverick” fans may not know is that Kilmer has long struggled with throat cancer, and the disease, intense radiation, chemotherapy, and a tracheostomy have left him with a damaged ability to speak.
In light of Kilmer's own journey, incorporating cancer into his character's evolution is a touching choice, and the film tackles the topic head-on rather than dancing around it. These days, Kilmer is open about his struggle with the disease and its aftermath. “Now that it's more difficult to speak," he explained. "I want to tell my story more than ever."