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Top Gun’s Val Kilmer’s Health, Throat Cancer Battle Through the Years

As tough as Iceman. Val Kilmer has been on a health journey ever since he was diagnosed with throat cancer more than five years ago.

The actor went public with his diagnosis in 2017 after previously denying he was sick, opening up about how his illness affected his outlook on life.

“I was too serious. I’d get upset when things like Oscars and recognition failed to come my way,” Kilmer told The Hollywood Reporter at the time. “I would like to have more Oscars than anybody. Meryl Streep must feel pretty good, you know? It must feel nice to know that everyone loves her. It’s about being loved.”

The Nice Guys star’s adult children, Mercedes and Jack, joined him in the interview, recalling Mercedes being in the hospital at the same time as her dad after she was hit by a car.

“I was just, you know, miserable, distraught, sitting next to these two,” Jack said.

In addition to undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Kilmer had a tracheostomy, which made it difficult to speak. That didn’t stop him, however, from reuniting with Tom Cruise and reprising his role as Tom “Iceman” Kazansky in Top Gun: Maverick, which hits theaters on May 27, 2022.

“[Tom] said, ‘I’m not making this movie without Val,’” producer Jerry Bruckheimer told THR in 2022. “When we filmed it, it was a very emotional day, having Val there and seeing him work with Tom after 35 years.”

Mercedes also spoke to the outlet about her dad stepping back into the role. “I was on set, I saw it live and it was extraordinary. It means a lot to my dad, as he’s very proud of that film. This is what he loves to do,” she said. “It was trippy, and very special, for my dad to be on set with all of his friends who made this movie when they were my age.”

Cruise, for his part, told Metro that it was “lovely” to work with his former costar again.

“There were so many moments in making it that were very special, incredibly unique,” he said. “[Val] is an actor that I greatly admire, so it was wonderful.”

2015

Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer, keeping his condition under wraps as he underwent treatment.

2016

While Kilmer was cancer-free by 2016, his tracheostomy surgery left permanently damaged his vocal cords.

2019

Kilmer filmed a scene with Cruise for Top Gun: Maverick, which wouldn’t hit theaters for three years due to the coronavirus pandemic. He compared working with the Mission Impossible star again to “being reunited with a long lost friend,” telling People: “The characters never really go away. They live on in deep freeze. If you’ll pardon the pun.”

2021

In his 2021 documentary, Val, the actor revealed he uses a feeding tube.

“I can’t speak without plugging this hole [in my throat],” he said, explaining: “You have to make the choice to breathe or to eat”.

While his son narrated the majority of the doc, Kilmer added, “It’s an obstacle that is very present with whoever sees me,” explaining he sounds “much worse” than he feels.

“I have behaved bizarrely to some,” he continued. “I deny none of this and have no regrets because I have lost and found parts of myself that I never knew existed. I am blessed.”

2021

Kilmer worked with Sonantic on a prototype that used archival footage to create a new voice.

“My voice as I knew it was taken away from me. People around me struggle to understand when I’m talking. But despite all that I still feel I’m the exact same person,” he said in a video in August 2021. “Still the same creative soul. A soul that dreams ideas and stories confidently, but now I can express myself again, bring these ideas to you, and show you this part of myself once more. A part that was never truly gone. Just hiding away.”

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