One Of Top Gun: Maverick’s Most Poignant Ideas Was Actually Val Kilmer’s

Collaboration is key when making any artistic endeavor into a reality, but filmmaking is a craft where that sort of enterprise is especially rewarding. Top Gun: Maverick proved that point several times over, as director Joseph Kosinski’s legacy-quel just might be one of the best action movies, while also being one of the most emotional. One of the film’s most poignant emotional beats came from none other than Val Kilmer. 

As he shared some behind the scenes stories with Deadline, Kosinski dug deeper into the emotional core of the recent Tom Cruise blockbuster. Part of that resonance came from the storyline between Maverick and Iceman, which saw the latter dealing with the same cancer that Kilmer has been fighting off screen. That link was the key to bringing Val Kilmer back to the franchise, as Joseph Kosinski revealed in the following story: 

I’ll never forget the shoot day with him and Tom. That scene with those two guys, two actors at their absolute best pulling off a scene like that, their first time together on camera since 1986. The friendship between the two, the mutual respect between the two of them as real people very much mirrors the characters. So, I think that’s why that scene lands so well. When we were putting the film together, we all wanted Val to be a part of it, but we just didn’t know what was possible. So, we had Val come in and said to him, ‘We’d love to have you in this film.’ It was his idea to make it feel as authentic as possible. Once he had that idea, it opened up that whole storyline and just allowed us to tell this story in a better way. I was blown away when he offered that up. The scene was intense and very emotional, but when the camera wasn’t running, hearing him and Tom talk about the hijinks of making the first film and how much fun they had and the tricks they were pulling on each other, and just the craziness of that time and that era, was really fun to listen in on. You really felt that connective tissue to the past.

Seeing as Val Kilmer’s return was pretty much required for Top Gun: Maverick to happen, shaping the role so that the actor could participate was a big deal. In the end, our return to the story of Capt. Pete Mitchell clued us all into the fact that former rival Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, now an admiral, became Maverick’s greatest defender. Barely able to speak, but still very much in contact with Tom Cruise’s character, we see one last scene of the Val Kilmer’s character mentoring his old friend before he eventually dies off-screen. 

The big Iceman suggestion absolutely works too, as that final chat between Maverick and Iceman is an emotional lynchpin to Top Gun: Maverick’s overall story. It certainly paid off when even the man himself saw his Top Gun: Maverick scene, and Val Kilmer approved of the emotional payoff. Reading the stories of him and Tom Cruise reminiscing about shooting Tony Scott’s 1986 original only makes the character dynamic between the two on screen that much more effective. In other words, even the toughest man probably had issues trying to not shed a tear throughout that touching scene.

It’s unfortunate that should there be a Top Gun 3, there will be no Iceman returning to dish out sage advice once again. Then again, getting Kilmer back for one last appearance was a fortunate occurrence, closing out his character’s story in a fitting manner. If Maverick is the end of the Top Gun legacy, the same could be said for that impressive feat of collaborative storytelling. But should it continue, there will be plenty of room for actors like Monica Barbaro and Lewis Pullman to do some character tweaking, like they did with Maverick’s initial story.

Top Gun: Maverick can be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home, as the movie buzzes the tower we all know as awards season. In addition to being available for purchase on physical media, it’s also available currently streaming. Should you have a Paramount+ subscription, you can enjoy a double feature of both films in the Top Gun series, or focus more on one of 2022’s breakaway hits.

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