Tom Cruise And This Co-Star Were Rivals: "It Was Fun To Play Up The Conflict"

On the screen, they were adversaries who grew close. They were pals who later turned into adversaries off-screen. In the first Top Gun, Val Kilmer played Pete "Maverick" Mitchell's flight school opponent Tom "Iceman" Kazansky opposite Tom Cruise as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell. Although the two actors now get along well and feature together in the new Top Gun: Maverick film, they turned their tense on-screen romance into reality when they were filming the original movie in the 1980s.
Kilmer revealed in his 2021 documentary, Val, that he kept Tom Cruise at a distance while they were filming the 1986 movie on purpose in order to give Cruise's role more realism. The actor also discussed how Cruise didn't gel with the other "party boys" on site. Continue reading to learn more about the connection between Maverick and the real-life Iceman.

#1 Kilmer stoked a rivalry with Cruise.

Tom CruiseSource: Paramount Pictures

Kilmer acknowledged in Val that he changed his genuine bond with Cruise while filming Top Gun in order to establish a connection with Iceman.
"On the page, there wasn't much to the Iceman character," Kilmer said (via CinemaBlend). "I thus made an effort to give him life. I created a history for him in which his father disregarded him, which caused him to be motivated by the desire to be flawless in every manner. He was so conceited because of his fixation with perfection."
The actor went on: "I would purposely play up the rivalry between Tom's character and mine off-screen as well. And what ended up happening is the actors, in true Method fashion, split into two distinct camps. You'd have Maverick and Goose (Anthony Edwards) on one side, Slider (Rick Rossovich), Hollywood (Whip Hubley), Wolfman (Barry Tubb), and me, Iceman, on the other. 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."

#2 Cruise kept his distance from the rest of the cast.

Tom CruiseSource: Paramount Pictures

Kilmer revealed in his 2020 autobiography, I'm Your Huckleberry: A Memoir, that he and his coworkers from the set would go out and get drunk while they weren't filming, but Cruise wasn't a member of the group.Kilmer says, "We were the party lads" (via The Daily Beast). "We would frequent the San Diego nightlife every night. At one crossroads, when all four lights were red, we once were stranded. I came out flaunting my ability to spin and burn tires in a perfect circle. Up until we sat next to a police cruiser. He gave me a "Really, dude?" look."
Kilmer goes on to discuss Cruise "Tom abstained from our fun-filled activities for good cause. He had one single, unwavering purpose from the start: to become the greatest action hero in movie history. He spent every waking hour honing his stunts and staying up late learning lines. He had a wonderful commitment. Of course, the fact that he succeeded in his endeavor is much more admirable. Although as animals we come from galaxies that are really far apart from one another, Tom is a companion I respect and admire."
Kilmer pranked Cruise on the set.

#3 Kilmer pranked Cruise on the set.

Tom CruiseSource: Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Kilmer also shares a tale in I'm Your Huckleberry about embarrassing Tom Cruise while they were filming the movie. As far as practical jokes go, it was a fairly good one.
The author quotes Kilmer as saying, "My favorite moment between us was a tiny prank in which I handed him an extraordinarily costly bottle of champagne but put it in the midst of a huge field and made him follow scavenger-hunt-style clues to find it. "I observed him drag the massive package to his motorcycle from behind a bleacher. He never gave me credit for the Iceman impression. I had hoped it would break the ice, but apparently, it was the perfect amount."

#4 The actors—and characters—just reunited.

Tom CruiseSource: Images

It wasn't a given that Kilmer would join Cruise in the recently released sequel Top Gun: Maverick. Kilmer recently battled throat cancer, and the treatments affected his voice. Additionally, he needs to use a feeding tube to eat. However, the actor was allowed to feature in the picture, bringing Iceman back to theaters.
Kilmer was the subject of Cruise's passionate support in the first movie, which she recalled to Entertainment Tonight. Regarding Iceman and Maverick's scene in the follow-up, he remarked, "His level of talent and that particular sequence are quite unique. It's simply so unique."
Kilmer also spoke candidly about the possibility of reconciliation. "The moment I first saw it, I was really moved. A reunion after over 40 years is long overdue "He spoke to USA Today. "All day long, we laughed. Tom is fantastic and unexpectedly amusing!" Added, "It is great to see Iceman achieve such success in the profession he cherished. It's a solid narrative arc. And working with Tom again was incredibly exciting. I cherish Tom. We've always had a fantastic relationship."
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