Is Val Kilmer in new Willow? Here’s how it could still happen

Before Geralt of Rivia, Madmartigan of Galladoorn was the It Himbo of the fantasy genre. Nobody had ever dared play a swashbuckler who could be equal parts swaggering, ribald, and all-around bro-ish, but also capable of spouting poetry, being soft, and landing the biggest babe in all of Tir Asleen, Sorsha (Joanne Whalley).

The self-professed Greatest Swordsman Who Ever Lived, portrayed by Val Kilmer in George Lucas’ 1988 cult classic fairytale flick Willow, is notably absent on-screen in Disney+’s ambitious (and mostly successful) streaming redux of the franchise. But is there a chance we could still see Madmartigan?

Spoilers ahead for Willow on Disney+.

We hear a lot about Madmartigan in the first two episodes of Willow, and — speaking as a journalist who has been given a magic mirror to see into the future (aka, six episodes in advance) — he continues to be an integral part of this whimsical show. Though perhaps not in the way that Willow fans were expecting to see, considering Kilmer and Whalley’s explosive chemistry in the 1988 film.

That’s because, in a way, Willow on Disney+ couldn’t exist without Madmartigan — the central focus of the story is on his pseudo-adopted baby Elora Danan (Ellie Bamber), now all grown up, and his twin kids with Sorsha, Kit (Ruby Cruz) and Airk (Dempsey Bryk). The excuse we’re given by the series vis-à-vis conversations between Kit and Sorsha, and Kit and Airk, is that Madmartigan isn’t around because the domestic regal duties of simultaneously being fabulously wealthy and a father weren’t exactly his “thing,” and he went off to … possibly die? Possibly adventure more? Possibly attempt to defeat the forces of evil (once and for all) on his own? Who’s to say!

Willow (1988) is available to stream now on Disney+, along with the new TV series spinoff. Lucasfilm/Disney+

So, Madmartigan was diminished to an absentee parent, whose progeny is off doing big things beyond the Shattered Sea under the guidance of his (former?) BFF, the sorcerer supreme of the Mother World himself, Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis).

This wasn’t the initial plan of Willow showrunner/director/EP/writer Jonathan Kasdan, who admitted to Entertainment Weekly that while they really wanted Kilmer back in the role of the handsome rogue, they couldn’t because of his health and the pandemic. Kilmer survived throat cancer, but lost his voice to a severe extent due to a tracheostomy surgery in 2016 and the insertion of a feeding tube shortly thereafter. That doesn’t mean Kilmer has retired from acting— modern technology aided him in his return as Iceman to Top Gun: Maverick this past summer by recreating his voice through artificial intelligence.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic came around, it was too much of a risk for Kilmer to be on-set in Wales with the rest of the Willow cast and crew. Per Kasdan, he wasn’t “written out” of the show until the very start of production.

“As COVID overtook the world, it became insurmountable,” 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. We had to figure out a way to preserve the story we wanted to tell with him about how his story was playing out.”

There may be hope yet for Madmartigan’s return, in a more meaningful way than just mentions made by characters or flashbacks throughout Willow’s first six episodes. Or, at least it seems like Kasdan is teasing a Madmartigan cameo.

“We wanted to leave open the door to any possibility in the future and also honor the spirit of him,” Kasdan said. “We’ve tried to do that and work with him in a way so that he is felt and heard, if not seen.” This may mean hearing the disembodied voice of Madmartigan at some point in Episodes 7 or 8 of Willow. While Kilmer’s health and comfort remain a No. 1 priority — and that should be what true Willow fans care about the most, anyway — we’re also crossing our fingers that we get to see Madmartigan in the flesh at some point throughout the show’s run.

Don’t give up hope on seeing (or at least hearing) Val Kilmer as Madmartigan again. Lucasfilm/Disney+

For now, Willow fans can at least take heart in knowing that Princess Kit is the spiritual (and literal) successor of The Greatest Swordsman That Ever Lived. She’s just as badass, just as bro-ish, and also a total softie. As for Airk, well, he certainly inherited the himbo aspect of his dad.

Willow Episodes 1-2 are available to stream now on Disney+.

Before Geralt of Rivia, Madmartigan of Galladoorn was the It Himbo of the fantasy genre. Nobody had ever dared play a swashbuckler who could be equal parts swaggering, ribald, and all-around bro-ish, but also capable of spouting poetry, being soft, and landing the biggest babe in all of Tir Asleen, Sorsha (Joanne Whalley). The self-professed…

Before Geralt of Rivia, Madmartigan of Galladoorn was the It Himbo of the fantasy genre. Nobody had ever dared play a swashbuckler who could be equal parts swaggering, ribald, and all-around bro-ish, but also capable of spouting poetry, being soft, and landing the biggest babe in all of Tir Asleen, Sorsha (Joanne Whalley). The self-professed…