Val Kilmer Health, 63, is a Hollywood icon who has starred in memorable films like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Real Genius, Willow, The Doors, The Ghost and the Darkness, Red Planet, and of course Top Gun. His character, Tom “Iceman” Kazansky even returned for the release of Top Gun: Maverick in 2022. Val hasn’t had an easy road back to the franchise — the actor was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015, and the grueling battle nearly cost him his acting career.
While his acting has slowed down, Val’s kids Mercedes, 31, and Jack, 27, have shown their love for their dad on plenty of occasions, including participating in the 2021 documentary about him, simply titled Val. They’ve also shared encouraging messages to their dad on social media. Here’s what to know about the 7 Below actor’s throat cancer battle and how he’s doing now.
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Val Kilmer health Diagnosed With Cancer
Val Kilmer surprised fans when he publicly announced that he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2017. The actor had kept his diagnosis private for a few years, but he first spoke about it in an interview alongside his kids with The Hollywood Reporter. He also spoke about how his outlook changed after he received his diagnosis. “I was too serious,” he said. “I’d get upset when things like Oscars and recognition failed to come my way.”
In recent years, Val’s battle with cancer has had him slow down on acting, although he has managed to make a few appearances for major movies like Top Gun: Maverick, and his battle with cancer was included in the 2021 documentary Val.
What is throat cancer?
Throat cancer is a form of cancer that affects the inside of the throat or the voice box. There are various types of throat cancer that can form in different part of the organ, and it refers to the mutation of cells where they don’t die when healthy cells would, which can lead to tumors forming, per The Mayo Clinic. Some of the causes of throat cancer include tobacco and alcohol use, and exposures to certain types of illnesses.
There are various ways that doctors fight throat cancer, similar to other forms of the disease. Some common treatments include radiation therapy, surgery, and chemotherapy, according to The Mayo Clinic. Val has received radiation therapy and chemotherapy and a tracheotomy, which has damaged his voice.
How long has Val Kilmer been sick?
Val got the diagnosis of throat cancer in 2015, but the Alexander actor denied the tumor was cancerous. After being rushed to UCLA in Santa Monica, California, for bleeding from the throat (per TMZ,) he took to social media to address his health, denying that he had a tumor. “Thank you for all your sweet support,” he said via Facebook in January 2015. “But I have not had a tumor, or a tumor operations, or any operation. I had a complication where the best way to receive care was to stay under the watchful eye of the ucla ICU. Friends have assisted who know my spiritual convictions and have been most sensitive and kind for the extra effort in making sure there’s minimum gossip and silly talk. I am praying for a speedy return to the boards as they say. God bless you all and please don’t worry. Love and deep affection , Val.”
Comments by Michael Douglas seemingly confirming the diagnosis kept rumors about the actor’s health persistent. In 2017, Val finally confirmed his battle with throat cancer during an AMA on Reddit. When a fan asked directly about Michael’s comments, Val responded, “He was probably trying to help me cause press probably asked where I was these days, and I did have a healing of cancer. But my tongue is still swollen altho [sic] healing all the time. Because I don’t sound my normal self yet people think I may still be under the weather.”
How is Val Kilmer doing today?
Val Kilmer is currently in remission from throat cancer, though the Alexander star’s voice was altered from treatment. The actor, unfortunately, endured painful rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but it was a tracheotomy that permanently damaged his voice. In April of 2020, he revealed a drastically altered voice during a Good Morning America interview, saying that he was “diagnosed with throat cancer, which healed very quickly.” The actor was asked what he missed most about the voice that made him famous, and he responded with humor. “That I had one!” he laughed. “And that I didn’t laugh like a pirate.”
Val’s courageous 2021 documentary Val told the story of his journey through throat cancer That same year, a U.K. voice-cloning company called Sonantic miraculously brought back his old voice through the use of AI technology. The results are astonishing. “My voice as I knew it was taken away from me,” Kilmer said in a Sonantic video clip using the AI voice. “People around me struggle to understand when I’m talking. But despite all that I still feel I’m the exact same person. Still the same creative soul. A soul that dreams ideas and stories confidently, but now I can express myself again, bring these ideas to you, and show you this part of myself once more. A part that was never truly gone. Just hiding away.”
Val co-director Ting Poo agrees that he’s evolved. “He doesn’t have the vanity that you would expect from someone of his fame and celebrity,” she said. “There was never any of that kind of artifice or protection that people who are really famous have to put up around themselves. It’s humbling to be around that.”
In recent years, he’s slowed down acting and put more focus on other projects, like painting. He regularly shares his works of art on his Instagram, and he’s been featured in art exhibitions. While it’s good that he still has a creative outlet, the cancer has prevented him from taking part in certain projects, like a Willow reboot for Disney+. Showrunner Jonathan Kasdan admitted that they tried hard to make the show work for him in a November 2022 interview with Entertainment Weekly. “Val really wanted to come out and be in the show. I remember going to see Val right after this thing started to get some momentum, and I said, ‘Listen, we’re doing this. And the whole world wants Madmartigan back.’ And he was like, ‘Not as much as I do,’” he said.
Unfortunately, Jonathan said after sometime they realized that Val couldn’t appear. “We started building out the first season with the intent of having him appear,” he told the outlet. “”[It wasn’t clear we couldn’t get him] until pretty late in the process, frankly.”