While Val Kilmer led the “party boys,” Tom Cruise maintained “laser-like focus” in order to become the “greatest action hero in the history of film” -- pausing to undergo a scavenger hunt for champagne!
In a new excerpt published by The Daily Beast from Kilmer’s upcoming book, I’m Your Huckleberry, the 60-year-old actor gets candid about working with Cruise on their 1986 action hit, Top Gun.
Kilmer portrayed Iceman while Cruise played his rival, Maverick, in the film. In the excerpt, Kilmer recounts how the atmosphere off-screen was a reflection of the characters’ rivalry, with actors breaking off into “two camps -- mine and Tom’s.”
“We were the party boys,” Kilmer says about his clan. “Every night we’d hit the San Diego nightlife. Once we were stuck at an intersection where all four lights were red. I peeled out, spinning and burning rubber in a perfect circle, showing off. Until we cozied right up to a cop car. He looked at me like, ‘Really, dude?’”
“He didn’t even bother turning on his lights,” Kilmer continues. “I just pulled over and begged my drunken passengers, in my firm Iceman voice, to sit up straight and to let me do all the talking. Since I hadn’t been drinking, I was able to quickly rely on my actor’s instinct.”
Kilmer says he was wished well and sent on his way by the officer during the outing, just another wild night out.
He notes that Cruise, on the other hand, remained “laser-focused” on the job at hand.
“Tom refrained from our revelry, with good reason,” he recalls. “From day one, he was laser-focused on a singular goal: to become the greatest action hero in the history of film. He was up nights learning lines; he spent every waking hour perfecting his stunts. His dedication was admirable. Of course, even more admirable is the fact that he achieved his goal.”
According to Kilmer, that didn’t mean Cruise, 57, wasn’t involved in some on-set fun -- even if it just meant being on the receiving end of a prank. Kilmer recounts how one of his standout memories filming with Cruise was sending him on a wild goose chase for a pricey bottle of bubbly.
“My favorite moment between us was a small prank in which I gave him an extremely expensive bottle of champagne but placed it in the middle of a giant field and made him follow scavenger-hunt-style clues to find it,” he shares. “I hid behind a bleacher and watched him lug the giant crate to his motorcycle. He never did thank me for the Iceman-style bit. I thought it would break the ice, but I guess the ice was just right.”
In the excerpt, Kilmer also admits that he was far from interested in working on Top Gun, but was “tortured” into meeting director Tony Scott by his agent, who also represented Cruise. Once filming commenced, Kilmer says Scott “overwhelmed my disdain for the project with pure unadulterated positivity.”
Kilmer writes that he enjoyed learning how to fly planes and was “flabbergasted” when the crew cut he sported in the film became a new men’s hair trend.
“The style was Tony’s idea, but I went out of my way to make it weirder,” he explains. “When it turned into a national fad -- thousands of guys started emulating the coif -- I was flabbergasted. And that’s a word you just don’t get to say that often and mean it.”
Almost 34 years later, Cruise and Kilmer have been working on the film’s hotly anticipated sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, directed by Joseph Kosinski.
"It's going to be an amazing movie," their costar, Jay Ellis, told ET in 2019. "Tom is that dude … Tom is literally going to make sure that we go there, and that this exceeds everyone's expectations. We've been filming for about six months now, and we've got a few more to go. It's been an amazing ride."
"Tom Cruise, obviously, as you probably know, takes things very seriously,” Powell told ET. “In terms of the flying in this movie, it's all practical flying. We're actually [in] F-18s this entire time, so if we didn't do the Tom Cruise School of Flying, we would've been passing out and puking the entire time."
"We had to do reports that I thought were not going to Tom Cruise,” Powell continued. “I thought it was like, 'Hey, you're gonna send me a report.' But [I thought] it was to production and then I found out Tom is reading every report. I didn't take it seriously [and] Tom was like, 'So I read that thing. Is that really true?' And I was like, 'What'd you read?' He was like, 'Our book reports?' [And I said,] 'You mean our flying reports?' So Tom reads it all."