Val Kilmer recalls partying, pranking Tom Cruise on Top Gun set in new memoir
For Val Kilmer, making Top Gun was apparently almost as wild a ride as the '80s blockbuster's fighter jet stunts, involving ghosts, drunken parties, and pranking Tom Cruise. In his new memoir I'm Your Huckleberry, out now, Kilmer discusses his experience making the film, which began with him very reluctantly meeting director Tony Scott for an audition.
"I didn’t want the part. I didn’t care about the film. The story didn’t interest me," the erstwhile Iceman writes. "My agent, who also represented Tom Cruise, basically tortured me into at least meeting Tony Scott, saying he was one of the hottest directors in town and I could never afford to not meet with as many of them as possible, and also he was completely obsessed with me."
Scott, it seems, won Kilmer over with his own enthusiasm for the project, purportedly telling the actor, "I know that the script is insufficient, but it will get better, Val. Wait until you see these jets. They take your breath away." Kilmer also recalls Scott "imitat[ing] aircraft sounds and motions as if we were six years old."
"Tony Scott’s British enthusiasm was the pick-me-up my ego craved," Kilmer writes of the late filmmaker. "Ultimately, he overwhelmed my disdain for the project with pure unadulterated positivity. Every day he would exclaim, 'This is incredible! This is beautiful! This is beyond belief. You guys are going to be kings.'"
Meanwhile, the cast developed a camaraderie that mirrored the onscreen rivalry between Cruise's Maverick and Kilmer's Iceman. "Off set, the actors broke into two camps—mine and Tom’s," Kilmer writes. While he and his costars partied nightly, Cruise "refrained from our revelry, with good reason. From day one, he was laser-focused on a singular goal: to become the greatest action hero in the history of film. He was up nights learning lines; he spent every waking hour perfecting his stunts. His dedication was admirable. Of course even more admirable is the fact that he achieved his goal."
Kilmer adds that his "favorite moment" with Cruise was "a small prank in which I gave him an extremely expensive bottle of champagne but placed it in the middle of a giant field and made him follow scavenger-hunt-style clues to find it."
"He never did thank me for the Iceman-style bit. I thought it would break the ice, but I guess the ice was just right," the actor adds.
In the end, Kilmer says he developed a strong attachment to his role, even seeing Iceman's father in his trailer, "the way Macbeth saw the ghost of Banquo." (Uh, okay.) And the final cut of the film won him over: "When I finally saw the film for the first time, on the Paramount lot, I jumped up after the first five minutes and yelled, 'This is a hit!'"
Kilmer also reprised his role as Iceman in the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick, the release of which was recently pushed to December. In a Good Morning America interview on Tuesday, Kilmer said reuniting with Cruise on the sequel's set was "very moving."
"Tom was wearing his jacket, the original jacket from the first movie. It was just very moving," Kilmer said. "I don’t want to give away anything, but in between takes, Tom and I just laughed like we were in high school."