Truth About Val Kilmer’s Health: Did He Smoke or Have Cancer?

Top Gun star, Val Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer in January 2015. Treating the ailment required the Hollywood icon to undergo a tracheotomy as part of his treatment. The procedure which involves a partial or complete removal of the trachea, left Kilmer needing a voice box to communicate.

It remains to be seen whether the actor who began smoking at a young age got sick from his addiction to the extremely harmful substance but he is currently cancer free. We take a look at the truth about Val Kilmer’s health challenges and the effect it has had on his life and career.

Is Val Kilmer Sick?

Val Kilmer is technically no longer sick. Although some may argue that the effects of the treatment of throat cancer that left him needing a voice box to communicate effectively translate to the fact that he is still sick.

In 2014, Val Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer, and while he has received treatment for the disease and declared himself cancer-free, the effects of the ailment are those he will most likely carry for the rest of his life.

Following his diagnosis, the actor actively denied rumors that he was battling cancer even after they came from a reliable source like fellow Hollywood icon Michael Douglas, who himself had dealt with another form of cancer. In 2017, however, the Top Gun star addressed the health challenge that required him to use the box in the first place.

While expressing his feelings on the matter, Kilmer admits to being free of the ailment, but he also talked about missing out on experiences that allowed him full use of his vocal cords including laughing like a pirate.

Did Val Kilmer Smoke?

Yes, he did, and for a long time too. To put the subject in a clearer perspective, Val Kilmer became addicted to smoking from a very young age. By the actor’s admission, he began smoking when he was around eight years old.

He would steal some of his uncle’s Pall Mall cigarettes and a second to his tree house to indulge in the nasty habit of smoking. He carried on to the point that it eventually became an addiction.

These days Kilmer regrets smoking and understandably wishes he could have those years back. While smoking is one of the leading causes of any form of cancer, it remains to be seen whether Kilmer’s addiction to the habit contributed to the throat cancer he experienced.

How Did Val Kilmer Get Throat Cancer?

In his 2021 biographical documentary Val, Kilmer did not expressly indicate that he had gotten throat cancer through smoking, but he might as well have after he addressed his struggles with the undesirable habit.

Furthermore, several leading sources on the major causes of the kind of throat cancer that the Hollywood star dealt with list tobacco use as one of the major causes of the ailment.

Other causes include viral infections like the human papillomavirus (HPV), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), excessive alcohol use, diets lacking in fruits and vegetables, and several others.

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However, when one considers the fact that the actor has no medical history of HPV or GERD, and that he knows enough to incorporate fruits and vegetables into his daily diet, it becomes increasingly obvious that he got throat cancer through his addiction to cigarettes.

Has Val Kilmer Had Plastic Surgery?

Val Kilmer did not have plastic surgery but he did undergo a surgical procedure as part of his treatment for the throat cancer he was diagnosed with in 2014.

As with almost every other cancer patient, he also had to go through chemotherapy and radiation to combat the disease, but it would appear that the most effective form of treatment he employed to treat the disease was tracheotomy.

A short, but concise illustration of the surgical procedure Kilmer had to go through involves creating an opening in front of the neck so a tube can be inserted into the windpipe. This allows a free flow of oxygen to the lungs assuming the natural route is blocked or reduced just like Kilmer’s was.

However, while his life has become relatively easier following the procedure, the resultant effect has seen Kilmer lose complete control of his voice. It has also seen the actor become a regular handkerchief user which he uses to obscure the hole in his throat.

While talking about what he misses most about his voice, the actor simply stated that he missed having one, and everything it helped him do, including talking and laughing. As well as losing his ability to talk and laugh like he used to, Val Kilmer has also been reduced to feeding through the tube inserted into his windpipe.

Is Val Kilmer Still Alive?

Val Kilmer is still very much alive. A lot has changed in the life of the actor since he was diagnosed around a decade ago but he has weathered the storm that came with dealing with cancer and has come out more determined than ever to push through the limitations placed on him by the illness.

It’s worth noting that battling cancer and its effects have not stifled or obliterated Kilmer’s creative flow. More than that, the actor who currently resides in Los Angeles, California, is still quite active on the entertainment stage as an actor.

In a bid not to let his speech impediment stop him from fulfilling his obligations as an actor, Kilmer partnered with Sonantic, a digital software company based in London. He worked together with them to digitally recreate his voice with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology and some old recordings of his voice.

After a long and challenging process, they were able to generate more than three dozen vocal models for him to use in future projects. Interestingly though, none of the around 40 models of his voice was used in Top Gun: Maverick.

The director of the 2022 film, Joseph Kosinski, revealed this during an interview while also stating that his team had to use Kilmer’s real voice instead, and simply digitally altered it for clarity.

Before his rather brief involvement in the sequel of the 1986 masterpiece, Top Gun, Kilmer had already shown that he was not going to let anything, not even something as life-changing as undergoing two tracheostomies derail his passion for acting.

Every aspect of that passion was well-documented in his 2021 biography/documentary Val, and it would appear that the only aspect missing from that documentary is the 64-year-old star’s voice. He has not lost his zest for life, nor the passion that made him one of the most respected actors in Hollywood.

Hugo Wright
Hugo Wright
Hugo has extensive professional writing experience and has been writing and editing articles on multiple platforms for several years now. Away from work, he is a football addict who loves to catch up on his favourite pastimes.


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