Val Kilmer Was Written Out of Disney+’s ‘Willow’ Series Last Minute

Val Kilmer in 'Willow' (1988)
MGM/courtesy Everett Collection

Val Kilmer has been out of the spotlight for some time, following a long battle with throat cancer. But back in the ’80s and ’90s, the actor had a string of leading man roles, one of which was in Willow. Unfortunately, Kilmer is nowhere to be found in Disney+’s new revival — but not because the creators didn’t try to include him.

When Jonathan Kasdan pitched a revival of the Ron Howard film in series form, he had every intention of including Kilmer, who memorably played Madmartigan in the 1988 film, alongside Warwick Davis as the titular Willow. In fact, he revealed to Entertainment Weekly that Kilmer was written into the script until the very last minute.

“We really wanted Val to come be in the show,” Kasdan said. “And 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.'”

Val Kilmer and Warwick Davis in 'Willow' (1988)

MGM/courtesy Everett Collection

So they wrote the series assuming he would be there, but when COVID-19 came around, it put a wrench in those plans. With Kilmer’s health issues, being on set was no longer a risk the star could take, particularly during the worst wave of the disease early on, when they were filming.

“We were prepping in the spring of the year that it was most happening. And Val reluctantly didn’t feel he could come out,” Kasdan noted. “We had to figure out a way to preserve the story we wanted to tell with him about how his story was playing out.”

But that doesn’t mean Kilmer will never appear in the series. He appeared in the recent Top Gun: Maverick sequel in a brief, mostly non-speaking role, so Kasdan hopes that now that COVID protocols are fully ironed out, Kilmer might be able to appear should they be greenlit for a second season.

“We wanted to leave open the door to any possibility in the future and also honor the spirit of him,” he said. “We’ve tried to do that and work with him in a way so that he is felt and heard, if not seen.”

Willow, Streaming Now, November 30, Disney+