Val Kilmer's Daughter Mercedes Talks Working with Dad, His 'Challenging' Throat Cancer Battle

The father-daughter duo stars in heist film Paydirt

val and mercedes Kilmer
Val Kilmer and daughter Mercedes in 2019. Photo: Michael Tullberg/Getty

Val Kilmer went public with his throat cancer diagnosis in 2017, which he received after feeling a lump in his throat and waking up in a pool of blood. As a result, the actor underwent a tracheotomy that altered the sound of his voice. Though it kept Kilmer, 60, from acting for a few years, he returns now with the action movie Paydirt, in which his character, a sheriff chasing the case that led to his downfall, has a speech disability like him.

"It’s pretty historic to have a lead with a speech disability," Val's daughter and Paydirt costar Mercedes tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "I hope that it heralds more doors opening like that in the future."

Val recognizes that Hollywood has already shifted a lot since he started in the industry in the '80s.

"The business changes every six months," the Batman Forever star says, jokingly adding, "The Batmobile has become much smarter since then."

Val Kilmer and daughter Mercedes in Paydirt. Octane Entertainment

Along with Val's comeback to the screen, Paydirt also marks 28-year-old Mercedes' first feature film, an opportunity that came about thanks to her dad.

"The producer called me up and asked me if I would play this role and I said, 'I don’t know if you’ve found anybody yet to play my daughter, but I might have someone for you. Her name is Mercedes Kilmer and perhaps you’d be interested in meeting with her,'" Val recalls. "Mercedes and the producer met and they all had a ball."

For more on Val and Mercedes Kilmer, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

Working on the heist film served as a learning opportunity for Mercedes.

"It’s obvious my dad’s speech is compromised and so this whole experience revealed the personal effort I had put into working with actors with a disability, which I hadn’t done before," she says. "It revealed how much I had to gain from working with people who have different abilities. My dad’s able to very artfully circumvent the limitations of his speech, so I learned so much watching him, how he communicated physically. It taught me so much about acting that expanded what I thought acting was, which was central to speech."

As for Val, he says he's "learning from my daughter about everything — life itself."

RELATED VIDEO: Val Kilmer and Daughter Mercedes Share Sweet Moment in Her Debut

The Top Gun star, who will return for the sequel next year, calls his two children — Mercedes and her brother Jack, 25, from his marriage to actress Joanne Whalley — "really brilliant."

"I am just madly, wildly entertained by them," Val continues. "My only gripe is that I never see them enough, so I never get enough of the wild entertainment that everyone else gets, but they’re really, really, entertaining."

Val's health battle, however, brought him and his daughter closer together.

"The health challenges have been just that, challenging, but so many good things have come out of it," Mercedes says. "We all spend so much time together. Even just getting to meet all my dad’s friends from before I was born — there are so many beautiful things that happen when you need help from people."

Val says of his family, "They really have done everything to make my health as usual."

"My dad is such a smart and creative person that I love hanging out with, even if he wasn't my dad, too," Mercedes says. "He’s a good friend of mine."

Paydirt is available now on demand.

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