Val Kilmer opens up about cancer treatment that lost him the use of his voice

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
Actor Val Kilmer (L) attends the 2019 annual Thespians Go Hollywood Gala at Avalon Hollywood on November 18, 2019. (Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)

A new profile of the actor Val Kilmer by the New York Times has revealed the impact of the Top Gun star’s recent cancer treatment.

According to the in depth interview, conducted before the global coronavirus lockdown, a tracheostomy has reduced the actor’s speaking voice to “something between a squeak and a voiceless roar.”

“He can still squeeze air up through his windpipe however,” explains journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner, “and past the hole that was cut into his throat and the tracheostomy tube, in a way that makes him somewhat understood — not very, but somewhat.”

According to the NHS website, a tracheostomy is “an opening created at the front of the neck so a tube can be inserted into the windpipe (trachea) to help you breathe.”

Read more: Kilmer ‘hallucinated’ on Top Gun

The profile explains that Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014 after he developed a lump in a throat that made it hard to swallow while touring his Mark Twain-inspired stage show Citizen Twain. The profile adds that the 60-year-old actor who played Batman in 1995’s Batman Forever “had woken up in a pool of his own blood a time or two” before seeking treatment.

Kilmer, a follower of Christian Science called it: the “suggestion of throat cancer.”

He explains that in Christian Science, “the idea is rather than say I have it or possess it, there is a claim, there’s a suggestion that this is a fact.”

He worked with a Christian Science practitioner to “pray his fear away so that his body would no longer ‘manifest outwardly what can be diagnosed as a malady’”, but also sought a traditional treatment to allay the fears of his own family.

The movie "Top Gun", directed by Tony Scott. Seen here, Val Kilmer as Lt. Tom 'Iceman' Kazansky. Initial theatrical release May 16, 1986. Screen capture. Paramount Pictures. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

The feature reveals that he had throat surgery, then chemotherapy and radiation that left him with the tracheostomy tube and a feeding tube. Kilmer says he no longer has cancer, and it was the medical treatment that causes him to suffer now, not the cancer. No longer able to ingest food orally, he has to feed himself through the feeding tube directly into his stomach.

Read more: Willow sequel in development

The actor revealed that he’d filmed five film roles already in 2020, and would next appear in Top Gun: Mavertick, the long-awaited sequel to his 1986 fighter pilot film, coming to cinemas over Christmas.

He teases though that his character Ice Man is no longer at loggerheads with Tom Cruise’s Maverick, and that in the sequel they’re “friends”.

Read NY Times’ excellent profile in full.

Top Gun: Maverick hits cinemas on 23 December.