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Val Kilmer Planned to Join Willow Series Until 'Insurmountable' Last-Minute Obstacles Forced His Exit

Val Kilmer
Val Kilmer

Rob Kim/Getty

Val Kilmer was set to make a return as Madmartigan before the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The actor, who was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015, was forced to leave his role in the new Disney+ series as a precautionary measure in response to the COVID outbreak.

"As COVID overtook the world, it became insurmountable," series showrunner Jonathan Kasdan explained to Entertainment Weekly. "We were prepping in the spring of the year that it was most happening. And Val reluctantly didn't feel he could come out."

Kilmer, 62, starred in the original 1988 film as a disgraced knight who helps sorcerer Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) save the life of Elora Danan. His character was so beloved that Kasdan knew he had to get Kilmer involved when the series was announced.

val kilmer
val kilmer

Tom Stratton

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"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,'" recalled Kasdan. "And he was like, 'Not as much as I do.'"

Despite his ongoing health struggles, Kilmer was looking forward to reprising his role, according to Kasdan.

"He embraced me when I left. He picked me up, and he said, 'See? I'm still super strong.' And I was like, 'Great,'" he said. "We started building out the first season with the intent of having him appear. [It wasn't clear we couldn't get him] until pretty late in the process, frankly."

While the show was eventually forced to proceed without Kilmer's reprisal for season one, Kasdan expressed that the actor is welcome to make a return in the second season.

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

RELATED VIDEO: Val Kilmer On Surviving Throat Cancer: 'I Want to Share My Story More Than Ever'

Earlier this year, Kilmer was able to reprise his role as Iceman in Top Gun: Maverick but struggled with his scene after a tracheostomy permanently damaged his speaking voice.

"I can't speak without plugging this hole [in his throat]. You have to make the choice to breathe or to eat," he told PEOPLE in 2021. "It's an obstacle that is very present with whoever sees me."

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Despite Kilmer's challenges, becoming Iceman once again was "like being reunited with a long lost friend."

"The characters never really go away," he told PEOPLE in a new Top Gun special edition. "They live on in deep freeze. If you'll pardon the pun."