Val Kilmer is not your average, everyday actor. He’s enigmatic, unpredictable, and above all else, he’s relentlessly entertaining. The star of Batman Forever and Tombstone has recently written a memoir called I’m Your Huckleberry and, well, it’s something else (comedian Will Forte narrates the audiobook version, to give you an idea of what kind of ride you’re in for). The 60-year-old spills the beans on some of his most iconic roles, which includes sharing some wild and puzzling details on ’80s blockbuster Top Gun.
In an excerpt from the book printed by the Daily Beast, Kilmer recounts how he initially did not want to do the movie because he thought the script was terrible. He even phoned in his audition on purpose in the hopes that he wouldn’t get the part. His plan failed, obviously, and after the movie’s director explained the film to him, Kilmer decided to go all out and commit to the role in basically unheard of ways. At first glance, it seems like Iceman is just a stock ’80s jerk character, but Kilmer explains that there was waaaay more going on beneath the surface. As in, he got so into character that he hallucinated his character’s dead dad. For real:
As filming went on, I grew more serious about my on-screen character. Even though I could play an arrogant jerk in my sleep, 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.
You can read more from Kilmer’s book over at the Daily Beast, and you should because it’s all pretty jaw-dropping. The actor comes off as more than a little insane, but in a good way, if that makes sense. After reading it ourselves, we’re more excited than ever to see what kind of craziness Kilmer has in store when he reprises his role as Iceman this Christmas in Top Gun: Maverick.