Think of the name Val Kilmer, and depending on the person, you might think of a legendary gunslinger, a fantastical warrior, or maybe even Batman himself. The star’s legacy as an actor spans over four decades and a number of iconic projects — Real Genius is my favorite, personally — and he’s also made a name for himself in a number of other pursuits, including painting, as well as publishing a memoir in 2020. He’s ingrained into the fabric of Hollywood history, and continues to make his mark, with a role in this year’s most successful film so far.
Kilmer recently made his return to the screen in this year’s Top Gun: Maverick, the record-breaking, high-flying sequel to Top Gun, in which he starred as Lieutenant Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, the surly rival-turned-friend to Tom Cruise’s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. Now a four-star admiral, Iceman appears in Maverick at a crucial moment, when hope for his old friend’s situation seems slim and he doesn’t know how to proceed. The moment was lauded as one of the already well-praised film’s best moments, drawing on years of nostalgia and the work of two of Hollywood’s greatest stars.
Collider was lucky enough to talk with Kilmer briefly over email about his appearance in the film and re-teaming with Cruise, as well as his work as a visual artist, and what he hopes people take away from his work. Check out the full interview below, and be sure to see Top Gun: Maverick, in theaters and available on digital today.
COLLIDER: You obviously greatly enjoyed and appreciated working with Tony Scott on the original Top Gun, if your memoir was any indication. What was it like playing Iceman and working in that headspace under a new director in Joseph Kosinski?
KILMER: He made us very comfortable, and everyone on the crew was transfixed just to be there. Tom commands a lot of respect and it was a joy to be in such a comfortable setting.
In a similar vein, was there anything that wasn’t in the script/direction you were given that you were thinking of when stepping back into Iceman’s shoes again after so long?
KILMER: No, they thought of everything.
I’ve seen quite a bit of comparison between Ice and some of the newer characters in Maverick, but do you personally see any reflection of Iceman or the energy you experienced making the original Top Gun in this new group of stars?
KILER: Definitely!! The energy of ensemble casts is explosive!! Especially when they’re playing fighter pilots!
One of the wonderful things about Top Gun: Maverick was the suggestion of how much Iceman and Maverick have been through as friends in the years since the original film. How much of what we see on screen is Ice and Maverick, and how much is just the energy of working with an old costar again?
KILMER: Well, we are paid to act and that’s what we did in the scene….BUT doing so with a class act like Tom made it a pleasure, and less like work!
To change gears a bit, I wanted to ask a bit about your visual art, since that’s been your focus lately. What about that as a medium moves you to create, since I would imagine that it’s different from the emotions inspired by acting or any other medium?
KILMER: I love how immediately the satisfaction comes by painting in all its forms! That’s why Kamp Kilmer, our new Web3 Platform (a modern-day creative space/studio) is so gratifying! It’s a place for everyone to come and express their creativity and feel the love!
The work you do with visual art also puts heavy emphasis on collaboration and community — is that something you picked up from your years as an actor working with others, or have you always felt that way?
KILMER: I’ve always felt that way — probably why I was drawn to making movies — but working with so many talented artists and pushing the boundaries of creativity is very fulfilling AND healing.
It feels like kind of an obvious question to ask what you think Top Gun’s legacy is, or the impact it’s had, so I want to flip that a little: what do you hope people take away from your work, whether it’s Top Gun or Maverick or anything else you’ve done?
KILMER: I hope to inspire increased focus and concentration. To entertain for two hours carries a great deal of satisfaction, and is itself inspiring. To be able to give this gift is such a joy. It costs something too. Acting SHOULD cost something! Streaming Online
Top Gun: Maverick, also starring Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, Greg Tarzan Davis, Lewis Pullman, and Jon Hamm, is in theaters and available on digital today.