Val Kilmer Committed So Hard to ‘Top Gun’ He Hallucinated His Character’s Ghost Dad

     April 21, 2020

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Listen: I’m begging you to read this Daily Beast excerpt from Val Kilmer‘s memoir I’m Your Huckleberry in full, and then I’m begging you to read the full book available now, and then I’m begging you to listen to the audiobook narrated, of course, by Will Forte. The chapter excerpted from the talented, eccentric actor’s wild life tells the tales of his time shooting Top Gun with Tony Scott and Tom Cruise, and every single detail is wilder than the last.

For example: Kilmer initially wanted nothing to do with the film. He found the script horrible and purposefully tanked his audition: “I read the lines indifferently. And yet, amazingly, I was told I had the part. I felt more deflated than inflated. I had to get out of there.” But when Scott stopped him in the elevator, admitted the script’s lack of quality but promised enthusiastically the film’s overall joie de vivre, he won Kilmer over. And Kilmer committed wholeheartedly to the shooting, to the point where he “was the only one who didn’t regurgitate” when performing the film’s high-flying flights.

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Image via Paramount Pictures

How hard did Kilmer commit? While he admits he “could play an arrogant jerk in my sleep,” he needed to know more about his character, Iceman. And I don’t use the word “need” lightly. He… well, look, just read how Kilmer describes it, and don’t skim over any damn part:

I actually found myself looking deeply into this guy. What made him arrogant? The question intrigued me. I thought about it for long stretches of time. Even dreamed about it. And then, without any forethought, I applied whatever I had learned (or unlearned) at THE Juilliard School, whatever I had read of Stanislavski and Suzuki, whatever natural instincts I had, and brought it all to bear in Tom “Iceman” Kazansky. I became so obsessed that at one point in my trailer I actually saw—the way Macbeth saw the ghost of Banquo—Iceman’s father, the man (my imagination told me) who had ignored his son to the point where his son was driven to prove himself as the absolute ideal man. So real was the elder Mr. Kazansky that I saw him take a chunk of ice and chew on it like a wild dog (which inspired my improvised ice-chewing and teeth-chomping moment in the film). I even spoke to him. As Iceman, I asked him, “What do you want of me, Dad?”

He answered, “To stay on your journey.”

“What journey is that?” I asked.

“A journey,” he said, “for the clergy. You’re on a journey for the clergy.” I’m not sure I understood that exchange, but I am sure that this encounter with Iceman’s father imbued my character with greater fury.

Val Kilmer is perfect. May he write 9 memoirs a year from now on.

For more Top Gun stories, check out some of the dope stunts featured in the upcoming sequel.

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