Val Kilmer Says Fan Reactions to Top Gun: Maverick Have Been ‘Humbling’

Top Gun: Maverick is soaring high at the box office, continuing to head towards an almost certain $1 billion summer outing for Tom Cruise’s return to the 80s franchise. However, just as important to the movie’s success as its lead star has been the on-screen reunion between Maverick and Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, played by Val Kilmer. After being diagnosed with throat cancer and losing the use of his voice, many would wonder how Kilmer is able to be in the film at all, but the audience reaction to his appearance is something that has not gone unnoticed by the actor.

While answering a series of questions via email for the Los Angeles Times, Kilmer reflected on the huge reaction the movie has been getting, and in particular, how humbling it has been to see that reaction aimed towards his appearance in the film, even if that appearance is very fleeting. In response to a question about how it feels to be part of the movie and see the audience and critic reactions, Kilmer wrote:

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“I can’t believe how kind the whole world has been. I get hundreds of fan letters every week. It’s very humbling.”

Val Kilmer’s Real Life Cancer Battle Was Incorporated into Top Gun: Maverick

One of the biggest challenges for Kilmer has been adjusting to life without the voice that saw him develop many characters over the years, including playing Jim Morrison in The Doors, the lead in the big-screen version of The Saint, and of course, donning the Batsuit in Batman Forever. Top Gun: Maverick leaned into Kilmer’s real-life struggle by having Iceman facing the same condition as the actor, which has made the role even more poignant for many fans.

In the movie, Iceman communicates with Maverick through typing but subsequently manages to communicate vocally with his former adversary, a moment that was achieved through the use of AI software that used hours of audio files of Kilmer’s voice. Commenting on the scene where he communicates with Maverick, Kilmer revealed:

“We actually shot it twice. First time was in San Diego. They wanted to make a wardrobe change and we ended up with the scene you see in the movie with the computer.”

Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski previously explained how getting Kilmer and Cruise together was a moment of magic on set; it was very emotional and one that didn’t really require dialogue from Kilmer to bring the character to life again on screen. He said:

“[Kilmer] is completely present in the scene and able to convey so much emotion without saying a word. I remember noticing that with his introduction in ‘Heat’ — so much said with just one look. When working with an actor of that caliber, you try to create a space for them to do their best work, then get out of the way and let them create.”

Top Gun: Maverick is already the highest-grossing domestic movie of the year to date, and with its fourth weekend bringing in an unprecedented $44 million, it looks like the nostalgic legacy sequel has a lot of fuel left in the tank.