Tom Cruise fought for 'wingman' Val Kilmer to star in Top Gun sequel after his battle with cancer

20 May 2022, 16:47

Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer will share the screen as Top Gun characters 'Maverick' and 'Iceman' for the first time in 36 years.
Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer will share the screen as Top Gun characters 'Maverick' and 'Iceman' for the first time in 36 years. Picture: MEGA/Paramount Pictures

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

Top Gun's two male leads didn't always get on.

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And that both applies to their on-screen friction, as well as their notoriously distanced working relationship off-screen.

Their friendship got off to a rocky start as Val Kilmer embraced Iceman's disliking of Maverick, which rubbed off on the way he acted in the movie's lead role and his colleague Tom Cruise.

But much like the plot to the original Top Gun movie, they buried the hatchet and eventually became each other's 'wingman'.

With the impending release of the long-overdue sequel Top Gun: Maverick, the film's producer has revealed that Tom and Val's long-standing friendship even affected the outcome of the new movie.

Given Kilmer's brave battle with illness in recent years, Tom Cruise proved he was the brother in arms he needed.

After fighting for Val to rekindle his role of Iceman for the new film, the character's touching reunion has even been called one of the film's most "beautiful" scenes.

Top Gun became one of Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer's most iconic films.
Top Gun became one of Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer's most iconic films. Picture: Paramount Pictures
Tom Cruise described his scene with Val Kilmer in the Top Gun sequel as "beautiful".
Tom Cruise described his scene with Val Kilmer in the Top Gun sequel as "beautiful". Picture: Paramount Pictures

Just as he had Val's back in 1986, Cruise revealed on the red carpet during the world premiere of Top Gun: Maverick in San Diego that he did the same this time around.

"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 [Top Gun: Maverick] scene and it's very special. It's just very special. He's beautiful," Tom gushed.

Tom Cruise is vital to Top Gun and the continuation of its story, so producer Jerry Bruckheimer knew it'd be a smart decision to reunite Captain Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell and now Vice Admiral Tom 'Iceman' Kasansky after all these years.

He recently confirmed the lead actor's conviction in sharing the screen alongside Kilmer once more:

"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" Bruckheimer said at CinemaCon last month.

"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" Bruckheimer added. "Tom actually said, ‘I’m not making this movie unless Val’s in it.’ So that was gracious of Tom."

Val Kilmer has bravely fought cancer for nearly a decade.
Val Kilmer has bravely fought cancer for nearly a decade. Picture: MEGA
Cher has reportedly helped support her former partner Val Kilmer throughout his cancer battle. (Photo by Barry King/WireImage)
Cher has reportedly helped support her former partner Val Kilmer throughout his cancer battle. (Photo by Barry King/WireImage). Picture: Getty

When Bruckheimer said Val Kilmer was "compromised", he was referring to his battle with cancer.

In 2014, Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer and had to undergo emergency surgery after waking up coughing blood and having difficulty breathing.

To combat the disease, the actor had a tracheotomy which was followed by bouts of chemotherapy, which left Kilmer without his voice and scars on his neck which he hides.

With his Hollywood at a standstill, he was also in the midst of financial troubles, so his ex-girlfriend Cher reportedly paid his medical bills and supported him throughout his struggles.

Despite the torrid time Kilmer has had over the past decade, he was still eager to return to the character that started it all for him.

Now his return as 'Iceman' is fully confirmed, fans are worried about his story coming to an end, given he also appears in Top Gun: Maverick in a cameo role.

But with friends like Tom Cruise, at least we'll get to see the iconic wingmen on the silver screen together one last time.