Tom Cruise 'Rallied Hard' For Val Kilmer To Return For Top Gun 2
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Tom Cruise was certain of one thing: Top Gun: Maverick was a no-go without Val Kilmer's Iceman.
In the 1986 original, Cruise's Maverick and Kilmer's Iceman are fierce rivals. By the end, after 110 minutes of homoerotic tension, teeth-biting, oiled-up volleyball and dogfighting, they become each other's wingmen.
After more than 35 years, Cruise has returned to the role that made him a worldwide mega-star, with Kilmer also reprising his character.
In 2017, Kilmer went public with his throat cancer diagnosis. After years of chemotherapy treatments, radiation and a tracheotomy which caused him to lose his voice, he's now cancer-free.
You'd be forgiven for having frank concerns about his return as Iceman, then, given the frenemies' fiery dynamic. No spoilers from us, but his inclusion in the film is sensitively handled, meaningful and really effective - it may even draw out a few tears.
Speaking to Entertainment Tonight from the premiere's red carpet, Cruise spoke about pushing for Kilmer's return before the sequel could go ahead.
He said: "In the first one, I really rallied hard for him to be in the movie, because he's such a tremendous actor, and [I wanted] to have him play that character. You see that scene and it's very special. It's just very special. He's beautiful.”
Longtime producer Jerry Bruckheimer also told People that Cruise was the 'driving force' in getting Kilmer to come back.
He said: "We all wanted him, but Tom was really adamant that if he’s going to make another Top Gun, Val had to be in it."
At CinemaCon, Bruckheimer also explained: "It was the story Tom wanted to tell. Val felt comfortable doing it; it was very emotional filming.
"We knew Val from the beginning when he was a very young actor. And to see him even today and to see that he’s still working on acting and he’s got this great spirit, so helpful and just terrific filming.
"Obviously, he’s compromised, but still an amazing actor, an amazing individual and we’re so thrilled to bring him back in this way. Tom was so gracious; Tom actually said, ‘I’m not making this movie unless Val’s in it.’ So that was gracious of Tom."
The sequel picks up with Maverick still holding onto his Captain rank, pushing the speed of military aircraft to breaking point while senior officers lobby for drones over fighter pilots.
On the brink of a dishonourable discharge, Iceman - now a high-ranking admiral - orders him to return to Top Gun to prepare a team of graduates for a mission the likes of which nobody has ever seen - even the top one percent, the elite.
Top Gun: Maverick soars into cinemas on 25 May.