Emotions were flying high on the set of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’.
Val Kilmer was back 36 years after the release of the classic original film to make a brief appearance in the new sequel on May 27 as Tom “Iceman” Kazansky alongside former on-screen rival Tom Cruise as than Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.
In the poignant scene, filmed in front of a small group of crew members and family, the former stars are touchingly reunited in the office of Iceman, who is now a commander in the US Navy. The affection we see on the stars’ faces, sources say, didn’t take much action from either man.
“I was on set, saw it live and it was amazing,” Kilmer’s daughter, singer and actress Mercedes Kilmer, 30, told The Post. “It means a lot to my father because he is very proud of this film. That’s what he likes to do.”
She added of the experience of watching her famous dad, now 62, who first played Ice at 26: “It was trippy and very special for my dad to be on set with all his friends who made this movie when they were my age.”
Making the day particularly poignant for the Kilmer family and his co-star was the fact that the ‘Maverick’ actor’s appearance came after his difficult two-year battle with throat cancer, which saw him lose the voice.
The actor’s shocked fans got their first glimpse of his health issues in the tell-all documentary “Val,” which premiered last summer.
They saw a very different Kilmer, who has been cancer-free for six years now, yet has endured a rocky road. He underwent an emergency tracheotomy, an incision in his trachea to allow him to breathe, which required him to use a feeding tube to eat and caused him to lose the ability to vocalize most of the time.
In “Maverick”, his sound had to be recreated using archival recordings and sophisticated technology.
Kilmer’s brave struggles are a world away from those carefree early days when the Hollywood heartthrob’s life was all about abs and aviator sunglasses.
Kilmer was born and raised in California, where he made meticulously detailed short films in the backyard with his brother Wesley.
“They were really, really creative,” Leo Scott, who co-directed “Val” with Ting Poo, told The Post. “He’s always been there, you can see that in the first pictures.”
After his best friend Wesley died of an epileptic seizure at the age of 15, a shattered Kilmer moved to New York to study acting at Juilliard.
He tried his hand at Shakespeare on stage, but had his big breakthrough in the 1984 film “Top Secret!”. Soon after, he became a household name with 1986’s “Top Gun,” which made the world fall in love with Kilmer, Cruise, and eyeglassed Anthony Edwards as “Goose.”
Although it’s the role he’s best known for, Kilmer wasn’t originally keen on doing “Top Gun.”
“I didn’t want the part,” he wrote in his 2020 memoir “I’m Your Huckleberry.” “I didn’t care about the movie. The story did not interest me. My agent, who was also representing Tom Cruise, basically tortured me to at least meet [director] Tony Scott. »
Kilmer agreed to go, but did his best to spoil his chances. At the audition, he “came in looking silly. . . . I read the lines with indifference. Yet, after landing the role, he found he loved playing Iceman.
And the ladies found they liked Kilmer.
A true idol, the actor was in high demand romantically.
He had a string of notable girlfriends, including Daryl Hannah, Cindy Crawford and Angelina Jolie. He dated Cher in the early 80s before meeting his future ex-wife.
It was British actress Joannne Whalley, the eventual mother of his children Mercedes and Jack, whom he first met on the set of the fantasy adventure film ‘Willow’ in 1987. Smitten, the couple s got married in 1988.
They worked together in 1989 on ‘Kill Me Again,’ but Whalley filed for divorce citing irreconcilable differences in 1995. Although she sued him for child support for Jack in 2011, they’re on good terms today. today, Mercedes said.
He went on to make major pictures, including playing Jim Morrison in 1991’s “The Doors” and as the Caped Crusader in Joel Schumacher’s controversial 1995 “Batman Forever,” among many smaller titles.
Passionate about acting, he later returned to the stage. It was while Kilmer was donning a white wig as Mark Twain in his solo touring show, titled “Citizen Twain” in 2014, that he discovered a lump in his throat.
After waking up one night to a pool of his own blood, he was diagnosed with throat cancer. The actor wrote in his autobiography that when he had an emergency tracheotomy he “assumed it was the day I died.”
A lifelong Christian scientist, he has spoken of his decision to undergo chemotherapy despite it going against his religious beliefs.
He told The New York Times Magazine in 2020 that he first believed he would find a cure by moving out and working with his practitioner, a sort of spiritual advisor, to help pray his fear so his body wouldn’t. ‘manifest more outwardly this can be diagnosed as a disease.
But his children and relatives disagreed and urged him to seek treatment. “I just didn’t want to feel their fear, which was deep,” he said.
“I should have left, and I just didn’t want to be without them.”
His former girlfriend Cher then came to the rescue. The “If I Could Turn Back Time” singer arranged for her elderly man to be treated at the famed David Geffen Medical School, where he underwent chemotherapy and radiation for two months.
Afterwards, he lived in the singer’s guest house in Malibu, writing in his book, “Once Cher has worked her way into your head and your heart, she never leaves.”
Although Cher supported Kilmer during his battle with cancer, she is not believed to have paid for his treatment, sources say.
The emergency tracheostomy and subsequent radiation and chemotherapy left the actor with a feeding tube and speech difficulties.
“I can’t talk without plugging this hole [in his throat]. You have to make the choice to breathe or eat,” he said in the 2021 documentary “Val'” produced by Mercedes, alongside his son Jack, 26, a musician and actor who appeared in the film in 2013. Palo Alto.”
Mercedes said his speech has improved since then.
“He’s doing great,” she said. “He can talk, but it’s really raspy.”
On the mend, Kilmer was desperate to appear in the long-awaited “Maverick.”
“Never mind that the producers didn’t contact me,” he wrote. “As the Temptations sang in the heyday of Motown soul, ‘don’t be too proud to beg.'”
Ali Alborzi, Kilmer’s longtime business partner, applauded his savvy.
“Val and Tom have been friends for 36 years, to make another ‘Top Gun’ movie that was so important to both of them,” he told The Post. “Without Val, that would seem very incorrect.”
With Kilmer’s role secured, the production team and London-based AI firm Sonantic then recreated his voice through AI so he could perform again.
“They were able to dub it with his own voice, which is amazing,” Mercedes said. “It’s such a technical feat, to be able to design your voice that way, that it’s an extension of the technical feat of the movie.”
As exciting as his comeback is, Kilmer hasn’t attended any ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — in San Diego on May 4, at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday night, or at the royal performance in London, attended by Prince William. and Kate Middleton Thursday night. Wanting to avoid the crowds due to the pandemic, he stayed at his home in the Hollywood Hills, Mercedes confirmed.
Jack and Mercedes walked the red carpet in Cannes on the French Riviera in place of their father.
Variety said the French premiere, “an overwhelming response came when Val Kilmer, who starred as Cruise’s nemesis Iceman in the original film, appeared in a scene with Cruise. The screening ended by a five-minute standing ovation from the crowd.
Kilmer still has big plans for his career. He has continued to work and is busy with his artistic endeavors related to his gallery/creative incubator HelMel Studios in Los Angeles, while continuing to act. In 2020, he co-stars with Mercedes in the thriller “Paydirt”.
“I never underestimate my dad. He’s a very resilient person, nothing surprises me,” she said.
“Now that he has his voice [thanks to technology] he can absolutely take on more projects.
“Some people say ‘Oh, I have a cold, I’m not going to act today, but he really doesn’t let anything stop him,'” she said.
“I wish he would take a break!”
New York Post