Willow showrunner explains why Val Kilmer didn't return for Disney Plus series

Val Kilmer in Willow
(Image credit: MGM/UA Distribution Co./United International Pictures)

Willow showrunner Jonathan Kasdan has explained why Val Kilmer doesn't return in the new Disney Plus show, which is currently dropping a new episode weekly. Kilmer played Madmartigan in the original 1988 Lucasfilm movie. 

"We really wanted Val to come be in the show," Kasdan told Entertainment Weekly (opens in new tab). "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.'" 

But, as Kasdan explained, the pandemic unfortunately got in the way of a Madmartigan return. "As COVID overtook the world, it became insurmountable," the showrunner said. "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."

Luckily, this doesn't mean that Kilmer can't come back at all, though. "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."

In a recent conversation with Total Film, Kasdan talked more about Madmartigan. "One of the things I love about the movie is that I've never seen anyone like Madmartigan in a fantasy before," Kasdan commented. "Madmartigan sounded different. He didn't try to do a British accent. He was a completely new version of what a character in that world could look like. And that spirit really is something we tried to carry through into the show, but do it in a way that was contemporary to this moment, the way Val had been contemporary in 1988."

Willow is streaming on Disney Plus now. If you're all caught up, you can fill out your watchlist with our guide to the best TV shows on Disney Plus

Molly Edwards
Entertainment Writer

I'm an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things film and TV for the site's Total Film and SFX sections. I previously worked on the Disney magazines team at Immediate Media, and also wrote on the CBeebies, MEGA!, and Star Wars Galaxy titles after graduating with a BA in English.