Val Kilmer has rarely had an opinion he didn’t want to express. After rising to fame in the mid-1980s in movies like Top Secret! (1984) and Real Genius (1985), word began to spread that Kilmer could be, well, “difficult” to work with. Kind of like Iceman, the too-cool-for-Navy-Strike-Fighter-school pilot he played in Top Gun. Ironically, it turns out that Kilmer had no desire to take on the role of Tom Cruise’s rival-turned-wingman.
As the New York Post reports, the new documentary Val reveals a lot about the reportedly temperamental thespian, including that he was not happy about being cast in what would become the highest grossing movie of 1986. “Believe it or not, I didn’t want to do Top Gun at first,” Kilmer says in the film. “I thought the script was silly, and I disliked warmongering in films. But I was under contract with the studio, so I didn’t really have a choice.”
Kilmer did, however, have a choice in how he could behave on set, and he admits that he leaned into the antagonistic side of his character. “I would purposely play up the rivalry between Tom’s character and mine off screen as well,” the actor says. “And what ended up happening is the actors, in true Method fashion, split into two distinct camps. You had Maverick and Goose on one side, Slider, Hollywood, Wolfman and me, Iceman, on the other.”
While Kilmer has apparently always thought of himself as a character actor, his role in Top Gun pushed his name to the very top of every Hollywood casting director’s list, which led to a series of high-profile parts, most notably when he played the Caped Crusader in Joel Schumacher’s 1995 stinker Batman Forever. (While Schumacher ultimately declared that Kilmer made a great Batman, he described the actor as “childish and impossible” and claimed that Val regularly fought with cast and crew members. In an interview with Vulture, Schumacher even called Kilmer “psychotic.”
Ultimately, though, it’s roles like Batman that have allowed Kilmer — whose son Jack narrates the documentary as speaking has become a challenge for the actor following a throat cancer diagnosis several years ago — to continue working by traveling the world to meet his fans. “I don’t look great and I’m basically selling my old self, my old career,” Kilmer admits. “For many people it’s like the lowest thing you can do, talk about your old pictures and sell photographs of when you were Batman or the Terminator. But it enables me to meet my fans and what ends up happening is I feel really grateful rather than humiliated because there’s so many people.”
Val is in theaters now and will drop on Amazon Prime on August 6, 2021.
(Via New York Post)