Val Kilmer returns as Iceman in Top Gun: Maverick, and while he speaks very little in the movie, there are both real-world and story reasons for it.

Val Kilmer’s Iceman returns in Top Gun: Maverick who noticeably has very minimal dialog in the movie, and there are both real-world and story reasons why Val Kilmer can’t speak. Overcoming numerous delays, the Top Gun sequel became a massive box office success and has even been nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Top Gun: Maverick sees Cruise return as hotshot pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell as he is now tasked with training TOPGUN graduates for an extremely challenging aerial mission. He is also joined by his co-star from the original Top Gun with Val Kilmer’s Iceman appearing in a very special cameo.

Despite their rivalry years earlier, Iceman is now an admiral who vouches for Maverick and gets him a job as an instructor at TOPGUN. As Maverick begins to have doubts that he can train his team in time for the mission, Iceman summons him to his house to give him a pep talk. It is revealed that Iceman is dying of cancer and types out most of the conversation with Maverick, summoning the strength to speak in an emotional moment. Val Kilmer’s own battle with throat cancer severely impacted his ability to speak. Kilmer now communicates through an artificial voice box, making his scene in the movie Top Gun: Maverick even more emotional with the actor being a real-life cancer survivor.

Related: Val Kilmer’s Response Makes Top Gun: Maverick’s Iceman Scene Even Better

Top Gun 2 Used Val Kilmer’s Real Illness To Move The Story Forward

Top Gun Maverick Val Kilmer Iceman

Tom Cruise’s Maverick and Val Kilmer’s Iceman have a head-butting relationship in the original Top Gun, with Iceman viewing Maverick as a reckless, insubordinate pilot. Maverick and Iceman nonetheless gradually grew to respect one another through their travails. With Maverick and Iceman’s rivalry essential to Top Gun, the bond they developed has held strong throughout their respective careers as naval aviators and shined through in the sequel even though Val Kilmer can’t speak.

Following their meeting, Iceman passes away, and Maverick and his students attend his funeral. However, Top Gun: Maverick‘s attention is very much on Iceman’s cameo – Val Kilmer can’t speak, but this has done nothing to dampen his cheerful, free spirit. At a time when an irrepressible thrill-seeker like Maverick is haunted by uncertainty, especially around his friction with Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of his late friend Goose from the original Top Gun, Iceman reminds him of the world-class pilot he’s always been.

Iceman’s faith in Maverick re-instills Maverick’s faith in himself, and Kilmer’s cameo is one of the most powerful moments in the Top Gun sequel, with its layered subtext of the actor’s own real story, including A.I. being used to recreate Kilmer’s voice. Indeed, the fact that Val Kilmer can’t speak in real life gives an even deeper meaning to Iceman’s appearance in Top Gun: Maverick, rendering it a heart-warming tribute to his performance and bringing him back to give Maverick the boost of confidence he needs despite all that he’s been through. They are, after all, ready to be each other’s wingmen, any time.

Val Kilmer’s Last Confirmed Performance Made Maverick A Triumph

Top Gun Maverick Val Kilmer as Iceman

Val Kilmer’s Iceman cameo in Top Gun: Maverick was a rare treat – very few people get to make a resounding comeback, wrap up a character, make the story better, and get a 21-gun salute for their troubles. It was the film’s emotional core that helped Maverick reach its thundering success, honoring its roots while allowing the characters to move on. This was only possible through Iceman’s presence.

RELATED: Why Iceman’s Final Top Gun: Maverick Line Was Perfect

Undeniably, contemporary entertainment’s obsession with ’80s nostalgia peaked with Top Gun: Maverick, and one of the key elements to this is the perfect way in which Val Kilmer’s real-life circumstances were written into the evolution of Maverick and Iceman’s rivalry. Though Iceman only briefly appeared in the movie, his presence as Maverick’s only real ally in the ranks of the Navy was still felt throughout key scenes – and with Iceman’s goodbye being wholly faithful to Top Gun: Maverick’s epic ’80s action movie roots, Val Kilmer could not have asked for a better farewell to mainstream movies.

Tom Cruise Was Pivotal To Both Val Kilmer Top Gun Appearances

Top Gun Val Kilmer Maverick with Tom Cruise

In an interesting connection between the original and the sequel, Tom Cruise played a big role in bringing Val Kilmer’s Iceman abroad in both circumstances. Though it took a 34-year delay to bring the Top Gun star back to the franchise, Cruise was adamant that the sequel also needed Kilmer to return as well. As it turns out, this mirrors how Cruise pushed for Kilmer to be cast opposite him in the original movie as well. In an interview (via: EOnline) Cruise explained, “In the first one, I really rallied hard for him to be in the movie, because he’s such a tremendous actor, and [I wanted] to have him play that character.”

While Cruise pushed for Kilmer to be cast, Kilmer himself was eager to reprise his role as Iceman in the sequel. While the actor had been away from the big screen to deal with his health issues, he pushed to be included in Top Gun: Maverick, returning to a role that had helped launch his Hollywood career years ago. Both Cruise and Kilmer clearly knew the impact of seeing them share the screen together would have on fans and how the real-life events of their lives would make their scene together one of the most memorable aspects of Top Gun: Maverick.

NEXT: Top Gun 3 Can Continue Maverick & Iceman’s Missing Story

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