Joseph Kosinski, Top Gun: Maverick’s director, recalls showing Val Kilmer his pivotal Iceman scene and how the beloved actor responded. Kilmer was a star in Hollywood, playing the role of Tom Kazansky, the Iceman, in Top Gun. He went on to make a name with films like Tombstone, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Batman Forever. However, unfortunately, Kilmer was diagnosed with fatal throat cancer in 2015. This condition weakened Kilmer’s speaking abilities and restricted his acting roles.
Top Gun: Maverick brought back Tom Cruise this summer as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. In this second installment, Mitchell has to train new pilots and confront his past. He visits Kilmer’s Iceman for advice at a crucial moment. The scene was hailed as one of Maverick’s most emotionally charged, and much was written about Cruise’s onscreen reunion with Kilmer. Moreover, Top Gun: Maverick used Kilmer’s natural voice to deliver his lines rather than using AI technology. Only some digital enhancements were used for clarity.
In his interview with THR (The Hollywood Reporter), Kosinski discusses the nerve-wracking moment when he showed the big Iceman scene to Kilmer. While Tom Cruise was integral to Top Gun Maverick’s editorial process, Kilmer’s first glimpse at the scene was more important. Read Kosinski’s quote below:
“Well, Tom was involved throughout the editorial process in kind of shaping that scene and building that scene. So there was never really a moment of showing him the final. He was kind of there as it evolved, and he was obviously a key part of it. But I do remember showing it to Val for the first time. That’s a very distinct memory because he came in to watch parts of the film. So that was one scene I wanted him to see, and obviously, we were all a little nervous showing it to him just because we really wanted him to like it. But his response was beautiful. He was so happy and so moved by it that it made us all feel really good and that maybe we had gotten it right.”
Top Gun: Maverick has beautifully managed the balance of nostalgia and uniqueness in the plot. Kilmer’s work in the original film is a part of this success. Kosinski was naturally anxious about the Iceman scene. To get it wrong would have both damaged the connection to Top Gun and Maverick’s character development in the sequel. It would have also ruined the special bond between Iceman and Maverick, which has been nurtured in a very special manner between both films.
Kilmer, who has endured the horrors of cancer treatment and is now considering his legacy as an actor, wants to make the most out of the parts he gets. Cruise and Kosinski are able to bring the feel to this film. It pays tribute to Kilmer’s influence on the films but isn’t too sappy or patronizing. Top Gun: Maverick, in the end, is great for many reasons. One of these is the memorable coda to Kilmer’s outstanding career. This was partially made possible by Kosinski’s concise and sensitive vision.