“Fame wasn’t my priority, and I had it,” Kilmer told The New York Times in May 2020, despite his lengthy list of movie credits. “I was gambling with being able to maintain the status, and I would’ve won my gamble, except for 2008. I just lost my home like a million other people. It was pretty awful.”
Following notable roles in the likes of Tombstone, Heat and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the actor quickly began choosing his future projects carefully based on his passions. Because of this, Kilmer was initially hesitant to play Iceman in the popular Top Gun film.
“I didn’t want the part. I didn’t care about the film. The story didn’t interest me,” the actor wrote in his book I’m Your Huckleberry: A Memoir, noting that he barely tried during his audition. “My agent, who also represented Tom Cruise, basically tortured me into at least meeting Tony Scott saying he was one of the hottest directors in town. … I read the lines indifferently and yet, amazingly, I was told I had the part. I felt more deflated than inflated. I had to get out of there.”
“As the Temptations sang, ‘Ain’t too proud to beg.’ I’d not only contact the producers but create heartrending scenes with Iceman. Forget the fact that 30 years had passed … I remembered it like it was yesterday,” the California native wrote in his book, which was published in April 2020. “The producers went for it. Cruise went for it. Cruise couldn’t have been cooler. And the next thing I knew I was back. Tom and I took up where we left off. As far as the film’s plot goes, I’m sworn to secrecy.”
The actor has had a legendary career, which was explored in a self-titled documentary in July 2021 — produced by his children, Mercedes and Jack — and discussed his childhood, film experiences and throat cancer battle, which he first confirmed in 2017.
“I’ve lived a magical life and I’ve captured quite a bit of it,” the Tombstone star said in the trailer for the film before detailing his cancer recovery. “I was recently diagnosed with throat cancer. I’m still recovering, and it is difficult to talk and to be understood. But I want to tell my story more than ever. I’ve tried to see the world as one piece of life. It’s a story about my life that is also not my life.”
Scroll down to relive Kilmer’s best roles through the years: