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Val Kilmer Reveals His True Feelings About Working With Tom Cruise On Top Gun

Released in the summer of 1986, "Top Gun" is a classic for many reasons, not the least of which is how it launched Tom Cruise's acting career into the stratosphere. Directed by Tony Scott, and produced by action maestros Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, "Top Gun" — which follows an intensely competitive Naval aviation program in the midst of a U.S. conflict with Russia — boasted a hit soundtrack, intense action, and heartbreaking stories of love and loss.

Best of all, Cruise was surrounded by a roster of bright young stars on the rise, including "Revenge of the Nerds" breakout Anthony Edwards, as well as then-relative unknowns including Meg Ryan, Tim Robbins, and Broadway-turned-film actor Val Kilmer. Unlike the other performers, though, Kilmer has been plagued by stories of animosity between himself and Cruise in the three-and-a-half decades since the film's release.

Kilmer attempts to clear up some of those misconceptions in his new Amazon Prime Video documentary, "Val," which chronicles the actor's career and personal struggles, including throat cancer, which has greatly diminished his capacity to speak, per Military. And while the acclaimed "Tombstone," "The Doors," and "Batman Forever" star is often featured speaking with a low, gravely tone though the aid of a hole in his neck and an artificial breathing tube, the documentary is largely narrated by his son, Jack Kilmer, who sounds like the younger version of his father.

Method acting divided the actors into two different camps on Top Gun, Val Kilmer says

Kilmer believes the stories of indifference between he and Cruise might have stemmed from the dedicated approach each took. Cruise's character, Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, was striving to follow in the footsteps of his late fighter-pilot father. Kilmer said Cruise's dedication was just as intense off-set. Kilmer, meanwhile, invented a backstory of paternal neglect to help him inform Iceman's cold demeanor.

"On the page, there was very little to the character Iceman, so I tended to make him real," Kilmer explained. "I manifested a backstory for him, where he had a father who ignored him, and as a result, I was driven by a need to be perfect in every way. This obsession with perfection is what made him so arrogant."

Kilmer added that the tension between he and Cruise was merely an extension of what was going on in the film.

"I would purposefully play up the rivalry between Tom's character and mine off-screen as well," Kilmer said in the documentary. "And what ended up happening is the actors in true method fashion, split into two distinct camps. You had Maverick and Goose (Anthony Edwards) on one side, and Slider (Rick Rossovich), Hollywood (Whip Hubley), Wolfman [Barry Tubb], and me, Iceman, on the other."

As for any lasting effects of the rivalry, Kilmer revealed in "Val" that they are non-existent: "It was fun to play up the conflict between our characters, but in reality, I've always thought of Tom as a friend and we've always supported each other."

Val Kilmer says Tom Cruise reached the huge goal he set out to conquer on Top Gun

Kilmer also addressed the stories of the tension in his 2020 memoir, "I'm Your Huckleberry" — a title taken from the famous line spoken by his famed gunslinger character, Doc Holliday, in the acclaimed Western "Tombstone." As it turns out, there was no real fellowship off-set between the actors, let alone any other of the cast members, because it was evident to Kilmer that Cruise was pursuing something far greater than just accolades for his work on "Top Gun."

"Tom 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," Kilmer wrote. "He was up nights learning his 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."

Much like Kilmer expressed in "Val," the actor had kind sentiments speaking of his "Top Gun" co-star in "I'm Your Huckleberry" — albeit in a "Star Wars" sort of way.

"Tom is a comrade I respect and admire, though as creatures we hail from galaxies far, far away from one another," Kilmer wrote.

After years in development, the stars have once again aligned for Cruise and Kilmer, who are set to reprise their legendary roles as Maverick and Iceman in the hotly anticipated sequel "Top Gun: Maverick," set for a November 2021 release.