With “Top Gun: Maverick” making about a zillion dollars at the box office, many are revisiting the 1986 original. The original “Top Gun,” directed by Tony Scott, is cinema at its most unashamedly 1980s, with themes of jingoism and questionably self-aware homoeroticism that have either aged extremely poorly or amazingly well, depending on your point of view.
One of the performances that helped the film to absolutely drip cheese was that of Val Kilmer as the cold-hearted fighter pilot known as Iceman. Kilmer, who reprised his role in “Top Gun: Maverick,” played the haughty flyboy with the sort of stereotypical 1980’s bully mannerisms that simply are not found in most movies made past the 1990s. He was every bit a jerk, from his behavior to his appearance, which Kilmer wrote about in his book, “I’m Your Huckleberry.”
‘I was flabbergasted’
In the book, Kilmer discusses “Top Gun” at length, including one of Iceman’s defining features. “I must also take partial credit for the weird crew cut I sported. The style was Tony’s idea, but I went out of my way to make it weirder,” wrote Kilmer, referring to Iceman’s extremely obnoxious coiffed hairdo. As you can see, it carries with it such an air of scumbaggery that you may instinctively punch your computer screen.
The haircut is absurd, and it’s a masterstroke on Kilmer’s part for making his character even more cartoonishly unlikable. Kilmer was, however, surprised by how the haircut caught on after the film’s release. “When it turned into a national fad — thousands of guys started emulating the coif — I was flabbergasted. And that’s a word you just don’t get to say that often and mean it.”
Creating a monster
Much like Dr. Frankenstein before him, Kilmer created a monster. That hairstyle coming into vogue at any point is the sort of Reagan-era disaster that people could look to in order to see precisely when the United States lost its way. One imagines some dullard teen in 1987 running to the barber holding a picture of the bad guy from the shirtless volleyball movie, and the barber shrugging his shoulders and allowing himself to violate the Geneva Conventions on the guy’s scalp.
The subject of a well-received 2021 documentary, Kilmer has had a great career, despite being known as the worst Batman ever put on the silver screen (unfairly, in my opinion, especially when George Clooney has basically admitted as much). To think any part of the great actor’s legacy is the proliferation of the Iceman haircut is a chilling thought, but one Kilmer will have to live with. But knowing he lives with having starred in “Batman Forever,” I think he’ll sleep just fine.