In the world of entertainment, career trajectories can go in wildly different directions at different points in time in an actor's career. Sometimes there are lulls, and sometimes actors are the hottest thing in Hollywood and every major studio, network, and director wants to work with them. For a very long time in Hollywood, Val Kilmer was where it was at, and he was the lead in a number of massive productions.
One of his more memorable roles was in the 1986 Tom Cruise–led Top Gun, where Val played rival fighter pilot Iceman. The tension between the two men was palpable on camera, but as often is the case in movies and TV shows, that on-screen "bad blood" doesn't necessarily translate off camera. So are Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise friends in real life? Or was there some authenticity to their Maverick/Iceman feud?
Are Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise friends?
Kilmer's new documentary that delineates his battle with throat cancer has viewers interested more than ever in the Hollywood actor's career. His turn as Doc Holliday in 1993's Tombstone as a devoted friend dying of tuberculosis who just so happened to be one of the fastest guns in the West is a great cinematic performance. 1995's Heat was another iconic role; standing out in a cast that featured Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino was no easy feat either.
But there are stories about Val not getting along with fellow cast members, like Tom Sizemore on the set of Red Planet, which was a box-office flop costing $80 million to make and raking in only $33.5 million. The movie is credited as "end[ing] Val Kilmer's acting career" as a huge star, but a little-known fight behind the scenes only adds to the legend of the film's failure.
According to Sizemore's 2013 memoir (via the Daily News), Sizemore says that a tiff over an elliptical machine he requested be brought to set is what set off the physical altercation between him and Kilmer. Val reportedly didn't like the idea that Sizemore was having exercise equipment shipped in, and the Saint actor told Sizemore, "I'm making ten million on this; you're only making two."
Sizemore then threw a 50-lb weight at Val but missed him. The fight between the two got so bad that a producer asked Tom to not hit Val in the face, so Tom instead punched him in the chest, knocking him down.
And although Val and Tom didn't fight one another on the set of Top Gun, there was a certain faction between actors and crew members that formed while filming the Tony Scott film.
Val wrote in his 2020 memoir (per the Daily Beast) that his group consisted of "party boys" which was the exact opposite of Cruise's "laser-like" focus: "Tom refrained from our revelry, with good reason … 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."
Val also reportedly played a prank on Tom on set: "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. 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."
Val's current opinion of Tom appears to be very positive, stating that the star was "cool" when Val basically "begged" to be a part of 2021's Top Gun: Maverick: "Forget the fact that thirty years had passed since I’d seen the ghost of Iceman’s dad. I remembered it like it was yesterday… The producers went for it. Cruise went for it. Cruise couldn’t have been cooler. And the next thing I knew I was back, as the Beatles said, where I ‘once belonged,'" Val wrote in his memoir (per Yahoo).
You can watch the documentary Val on Amazon Prime, free with your subscription to the service. If you're not a Prime member, please don't ask me for my login info because I will feel bad and will most certainly cave.