Val Kilmer’s Top Gun backstory makes the original film even better
The backstory that Val Kilmer created for Top Gun’s Iceman deepens the character’s contrast with Maverick and makes the film’s central conflict stronger.
Val Kilmer has its own backstory as a Top gun‘s Iceman, and the story he made up, managed to deepen the existing themes of the film and enrich the characters. Released in 1986, Top Gun was a star-making vehicle for Tom Cruise and a massive blockbuster for its director, action cinema icon Tony Scott. However, one thing Top Gun was not known for was his subtle character work.
A bombastic blockbuster about reckless test pilots performing all kinds of potentially fatal stunts, Top Gun got by more with adrenaline and fun than with heavy drama or the most self-serious moments. Maverick’s story had tragic elements, such as the loss of his father and the death of his best friend Goose, but these took a back seat in the story of the fast-paced plot. So much so that Kilmer’s main character, Iceman, didn’t even have a backstory until the actor came up with one that perfectly shaped the pilot and delved into Top Gun’s themes.
According to the documentary Val, Kilmer said he was discouraged by the lack of background for his character. This won’t come as a surprise to fans of the actor, as Kilmer also admitted that he originally turned down Top Gun for the same reasons as Matthew Modine and that he only took over the role of Iceman due to contractual obligations. Carried by this thinly written antagonist, Kilmer made his own backstory as a result, and his Oedipal addition further cemented the contrast between his iceman and screen nemesis Maverick.
Per Kilmer: “I manifested a backstory for him in which he had a father who ignored him and, as a result, was driven by the need to be perfect in every way. The obsession with perfection made him so arrogant. ”While this lore may superficially resemble the backstory of his rival, who seeks to prove that he is as heroic and formidable a pilot as his late father, it differs from Tom’s story in two major ways Cruises from fatherless Maverick. For one, Iceman’s father was present in his life while Mavericks was absent, which made Iceman’s perfectionism a foil for Maverick’s rebellious refusal to rely on others.
Second, Iceman was prepared to hate Maverick, who instead taught him never to obey the rules. From Iceman’s limited perspective, Maverick was apparently rewarded for disobeying the rules at every turn, while for Maverick Iceman cared more about the rules than about life. After learning a lot from each other, both men eventually quit the film and become fire-forged friends as their journeys heal the respective psychological scars left by Iceman’s father – and his obsession with perfection – and Maverick’s father and early death. Maverick always needed Iceman to make the plot work, but Kilmer’s backstory serves to deepen their connection and improve upon the otherwise rather thin characterization of Top gun‘s supporting actor.
More: Why Top Gun’s Reviews Have Been So Mixed (And What It Means To Maverick)
- Top Gun: Maverick / Top Gun 2 (2022)Release DATE: May 27, 2022
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About the author
(934 published articles)
Cathal Gunning has been writing about film and television online since 2020. His obsessions include The Simpsons, Stephen King, the Scream series, and the horror genre in general. He’s spent more time thinking about Stranger Things than the writers of Stranger Things, and he’s never seen a Star War.
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