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The Real Reason Val Kilmer Returned For Top Gun: Maverick

Tom Cruise is back in the cockpit for "Top Gun: Maverick" later this year, as his iconic character Pete "Maverick" Mitchell returns to teach a new class of pilots for a deadly mission. The sequel has been hit with numerous delays — like most films of the last two years, you can probably guess the reason — but it'll finally arrive in theaters on November 19. 

It's been 35 years since the first "Top Gun" film roared into theaters, thrilling audiences with high-octane action sequences before breaking their hearts with a slice of emotional drama. Maverick's return looks just as entertaining in the trailers for the film, although he's dating Jennifer Connelly's Penny Benjamin this time around, not Charlie Blackwood (Kelly McGillis). "Top Gun: Maverick" also introduces us to Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller) the son of Maverick's former wingman, Goose (Anthony Edwards). That'll definitely make things a little tense. Rooster is part of the new class of pilots under Maverick's tutelage, with Teller appearing alongside other stars like Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, and Manny Jacinto. 

Surprisingly, there's another legendary cast member from the film who will also reprise their role in "Maverick," and that's Val Kilmer. Fans will remember that Kilmer played Tom "Iceman" Kazansky in the 1986 movie: though Iceman and Maverick have a fiery rivalry in the original movie, their initial dislike of one another eventually transforms into a genuine friendship. However, when we find the duo in the sequel, Maverick has refused any promotion in favor of staying in the cockpit — whereas Iceman has progressed further, becoming an Admiral and the Chief of Naval Operations. 

Why did Val Kilmer come back to the role? It turns out that Tom Cruise was a big factor.

Tom Cruise spearheaded Val Kilmer's return

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer recently spoke to People Magazine about "Top Gun: Maverick" explaining that Tom Cruise was the person who was most determined to get Val Kilmer back onboard for the sequel: "[Tom Cruise] said, 'We have to have Val, we have to have him back. We have to have him in the film.'" Clearly the intention was always to bring the character back into the fold, and it'll be interesting to see if Maverick and Iceman's friendship has deteriorated over the years or if they've maintained a strong connection.

Bruckheimer also suggested that Kilmer's involvement was a key factor regarding whether Cruise was willing to make the sequel in the first place, adding "And he was the driving force. We all wanted him, but Tom was really adamant that if he's going to make another 'Top Gun,' Val had to be in it." 

Kilmer hasn't had an easy few years, as he fought throat cancer and has a damaged voice following a tracheostomy — so it'll be great to see the star back on the big screen. The producer also went on to praise the star saying "He's such a fine actor, and he's such a good individual." Bruckheimer also said that it was a major career highlight seeing Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer work together after all these years, saying "It was a really emotional experience for all of us." He added "It was a long time getting there, but we did."

"Top Gun: Maverick" will finally arrive in theaters on November 19, 2021.