What the Hell Happened to Val Kilmer?

Val Kilmer

Val Kilmer

In the 80’s, Val Kilmer was Tom Cruise’s rival both on-screen and off.  Top Gun launched the actor to super stardom and Batman cemented his status at the top of the A-list.  But then, Kilmer’s career spiraled out of control.  Today, the former sex symbol is considered by many to be a bloated tabloid joke and his movies go straight to video.

What the hell happened?

At 12, Kilmer landed his first acting job in a TV commercial for a fast food chain.  He walked off the set because he could not find his motivation.  He told the director he could not pretend to like the hamburgers he was advertising.

At the age of 17, he became the youngest person at the time to be accepted into the Julliard School’s Drama Division. This success followed a personal tragedy.  His brother had recently drowned after an epileptic seizure in a swimming pool.

kilmer - the slab boys

Val Kilmer – The Slab Boys – 1983

Kilmer began his career as a stage actor.  He turned down a role in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 film, The Outsiders due to prior theater obligations.  In 1983, he appeared Off Broadway in “The Slab Boys” with Kevin Bacon and Sean Penn.

kilmer - top secret

Val Kilmer -Hot Shots – 1984

Kilmer’s first big break came in 1984 when he landed the lead role in the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker spoof, Top Secret!

Kilmer played an American rock and roll star in the mold of Elvis Presley who gets roped into the world of espionage while touring East Germany.  Kilmer sang all of his own songs and released an album under his character’s name.

The film got mixed reviews and disappointed at the box office.  Top Secret opened at #7 beaten out by both Rhinestone and The Karate Kid.  But over time, Top Secret ! has become a cult film.  While it’s not a classic like Airplane!, it is better than your average spoof with many genuinely funny moments.

Co-director Jim Abrahams, remembered conflicts with Kilmer even at the start of his career. ”We would all butt heads when we couldn’t define a motivation for his character. He wanted to know who Nick Rivers was and why he would say things, and in the context of a parody, you think, ‘Is it really so important?”’

Val Kilmer - Real Genius - 1985

Val Kilmer – Real Genius – 1985

The following year, Kilmer starred in another cult comedy classic, 1985’s Real Genius.

Kilmer played a student at a school for geniuses who is building a laser for his senior project.  Although his character is not the lead, Kilmer steals the show with a manic performance.  He delivers one quotable punchline after another.

Producer, Brian Grazer described Kilmer’s on-set behavior thusly: ”He would just evaporate. No one could find him.”  He went on to say,  ”There’s always a point when I work with him when I vow not to work with him again.”

Director, Martha Coolidge described Kilmer’s on-set behavior:

“Val was the best guy for the part, but not so easy to work with. He was intellectually challenging and erratic, not so surprising since that was the character. It was a big demanding part and he often avoided working by asked a lot of questions and was sometimes late to the set and moody. He was almost in every scene for about 75 days – and I’m sure he was nervous. I’ve learned to give young actors space and discipline, encouragement and pushing when they need it. I like actors with ideas and he had many.”

In spite of mostly positive reviews, Real Genius also disappointed at the box office.  But like Top Secret!, it has gained cult status on video.


Val Kilmer and Michelle Pfeiffer – One Too Many – 1985

Later that year, Kilmer appeared in an ABC Afterschool Special about the dangers of drunk driving titled One Too Many.  And yes, that is a young Michelle Pfeiffer as his co-star.  Kilmer was so taken with Pfieffer that he wrote a book of poems entitled My Eden After Burns that included poems inspired by the future Catwoman.  Pfeiffer was married to the director, Peter Horton, at the time.

I believe a clip is in order.

The movie was filmed in 1983 when Pfieffer and Kilmer were still unknowns.  It aired two years later as the stars’ careers were heating up.

Next: Top Gun

Posted on May 5, 2011, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 423 Comments.

  1. I think he knocked “The Doors” out of the park, ostensibly about a white man wishing he were an Indian and “Thunderheart” the same year coincidentally about an Indian wishing he were white. And don’t forget “The Salton Sea” (2002) which made me wonder for everyone involved’s sanity.


  2. To Roger, boy you have a simplistic view of Kilmer’s work. First off, Thunder heart was based on a true story about a native american civil revolt. It was released in
    1991. To reduce Jim Morrison’s entire life as a white man who thought he was an Indian really demeans what the Doors contributed to Rock and roll. It was released in 1992. In between that and Salton Sea, you left out Spartan , Heat, Batman, The Saint, Ghost in the Darkness and then summarily dismiss Salton Sea saying everyone’s sanity should be questioned. In there was also Wonderland based on John Holmes, oh and you seemed to have totally overlooked Tombstone both films giving Kilmer high critical acclaim for stunningly depicting actual characters. I think based on your comment that you did not understand Salton Sea and maybe were not even aware that Kilmer has made all these films and more. Perhaps you are a Tom Cruise fan ,am not really sure but you definitely don’t appreciate a fine acting job when you see one. To reduce a thirty something year career to three films is missing something…….And to Lebeau see Salton Sea it is sad, yet darkly comedic and the ensemble cast is great.


    • He certainly covered Tombstone and The Ghost in the Darkness- I don’t think you flipped through his whole essay.


      • My response was to Roger L he only mentioned Thunderheart the Doors and then Salton sea. I think there were a few films in between that. I stated to Roger not leBeau. I leave my resonse to Roger as stands.
        And this to Mastro


    • I don’t want to speak for Roger, but I took his comment to be a simplification of Oliver Stone’s movie rather than Jim Morrison’s life. I took it as a joke. You can watch Stone’s The Doors and take away that it was about a little white boy who wanted to be an Indian. I think there was a good deal of snark intended in that comment.

      The list of movies I need to keep an eye out for keeps growing. I’ll add Salton Sea to that list.


    • Heavens, Denise, I love Kilmer’s work and both the films I brought up – I was merely pointing out the interesting synchronicity of Indian-related subtexts of Thunderheart and The Doors in the same period, in addition to their own strengths already mentioned.

      And everything related to The Salton Sea is undeniably nuts. That’s what I love about it. ;) Peace.


  3. Absolutley loved him in Salton Sea, Heat, and of course, Tombstone. Salton Sea was a great surprise and ranks in my top 3 for Val easy.


    • Thank you Matt, I was beginning to think my years of studying film were wasted and that I was somehow dellusional. Salton Sea was not just a Val flix it was a great story,
      the ensemble cast was brillant and I loved
      How they used the tweeker, black comedy
      To lighten what was a sad story. It was not a mass appeal film for sure but to overlook
      It in the ‘Val is over’ catergory makes me wonder what have they really seen? I still stand by David Mamet’s Spartan and Blind
      Horizon. No, i don’t know Kilmer nor have any vested interest in his succes unlike others on here who claim to speak for him.
      What about the trout farm tour Val?


    • Another endorsement for Salton Sea!


  4. Quick! Kick him again before he gets back up!


  5. Big fan of The Ghost and the Darkness. I never thought Kilmer’s character was unlikable in that film.

    I wonder what that comment is about?


  6. I don’t think the character he played in Ghost and the Darkness is unsympathetic.
    I think, as I read the film that at first his character doesn’t realize how bad the problem is but straight off, he goes for a lion. Once again you know I liked the film, of course I imagine he and Douglas were great pals off set. At times especially in
    The fireside side you can almost see the tension between them.


  7. 10 Excruciating Films That Ruined Your Image Of Batman Actors:

    3. Kilmer Goes Mad – The Island Of Dr Moreau

    The legendary turkey is probably the best example of how not to make a movie: it is wayward, messy, and criminally stupid in places (most of them, in fact,) and while Val Kilmer’s performance is not the worst thing about it by any means, noone emerged from it with too much credibility intact.

    Kilmer was a brilliant Batman – the best in the important opinion of Bob Kane – and though he was moved on for various reasons (mostly because he thought the villains were getting more screen time than himself – ironically a concern that might have saved some face for Batman & Robin if heeded) he could have gone on to be considered a great whose Batman career was cruelly cut short.

    Sadly, films like The Island Of Dr Moreau, which unthinkably followed the triple-headed success of Tombstone, Batman Forever (comparatively and personally) and Heat, made everyone question why exactly Kilmer had ever been so highly praised.

    The Low Point

    The occasional flashes of brilliance – like Kilmer’s mimickry of Marlon Brando – serve only to make the ludicrous low moments even worse.


    • 10 Excruciating Films That Ruined Your Image Of Batman Actors:

      8. Kilmer Phones It In For Ironically Titled Bore-Fest – Hard Cash

      It’s incredible to think, in hindsight with this slop fresh in your memory, that Kilmer was ever deemed good enough for Batman, given how little skill or enthusiasm he brings to a role that is clearly beneath him.

      Starring opposite Christian Slater – another former star relegated to this sort of awful dross – Kilmer is an FBI agent on the tail of a reformed (ish) con, who is working as a paramedic (because noone does security checks on people working with heavy-duty, easily-saleable prescription painkillers) and helps a bank robber escape with the money.

      It’s awful, and cements the moment (around 2002) when Kilmer hit the bottom of the pile – though he stuck around for a few more films, he wouldn’t enjoy any kind of success until Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang three years later. Watching this back, it’s ridiculous to think Kilmer is even the same person who starred as Batman some 5 years beforehand.

      The film does unwittingly however win some points for having the only poster of Verne Troyer brandishing a gun while standing on the bonnet of a sinking high security vehicle, about to be run over by a boat emerging from a fireball…

      The Low Point

      The tragic look of resignation behind Kilmer’s eyes.


  8. 10 Actors Who Completely Wasted Their Careers:

    6. Val Kilmer

    After strong performances in supporting roles and getting a reputation as a ladies’ man in Hollywood, Val Kilmer was exposed to mass audiences in the 1986 blockbuster Top Gun, and received critical praise for his portrayals of Jim Morrison in The Doors and Doc Holliday in Tombstone.

    It all built to 1995, which was a huge year for Kilmer: not only did he star alongside Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in Heat, but he played Batman in Batman Forever. It doesn’t get any bigger than playing the Caped Crusader, right?

    While it looked like Kilmer dodged a bullet by deciding not to return for the abomination that is 1997′s Batman and Robin, his next film was the box office disaster The Island Of Dr. Moreau, which he actually wasn’t awful in. And that was about the end of that.

    Since then Kilmer has been prolific, but not successful; for every good film he is in (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), he seems to make a half-dozen bad ones. He appeared in seven movies that were released in 2009 and six that were released the year before, and a number of them were never even in theaters. His increased output also parallels his weight, which has ballooned significantly since his Batman days.


    • I hate to say this, but, how many times are you going to repeat this particular article about Val Kilmer? I have read this same exact one about him now about 15 times. Something new about him would be nice. If there is any. I love the guy but, nothing new ever comes about him. Give the guy a break.


      • The article isn’t being repeated. I do very minor updates from time to time. Usually to link to a new article. Sometimes to add new info, pictures or clips. I do intend to update this article to include The Spoils of Babylon and some of his other more recent appearances. But there probably won’t be a completely new article on Kilmer.

        I am perpetually confused by people telling me to give so-and-so a break. What kind of break am I supposed to give my subjects? At best, I give them a gentle ribbing compared to most of the internet.


        • That’s true.  Normally I like reading the comments and ribbing about him most times, but sometimes I read quite a bit about how much peiple hate this guy.  Not by you really, but some of the comments made about him are really about how bad a person or actor he is. Just saying. lebeau’s


          • I could be wrong, but I think most of the people posting here have a lot of affection for Kilmer. Even when we give him a hard time, I think it’s largely well-intentioned. I haven’t gone back and reviewed all 300+ comments recently. But it seems like most of the comments come from Kilmer fans. I remember very few people actually hating on him here. Although I have certainly seen the hate on other sites.

            Personally, I’m always glad to see Kilmer pop up in something. I loved seeing him in Spoils of Babylon on IFC last week.


            • What did you really think about that program? I don’t know, I thought it was very strange. Kind of hard to follow. It almost seems to me that the characters are really horrible actors. It might be the story-line. It just seems “Weird” somehow. Just might be me. I don’t get alot of stuff.


              • It’s very typical of the Funny or Die style of comedy. If you like Will Ferrell, you’ll probably like the show. If not, you probably won’t. I find it to be funny, but usually not as funny as it thinks it is. Sometimes, they drag out a gag way too long.


          • Val brought it all on himself Erin. At the end of the day, (and I wish that Val Kilmer’s most ardent fans would finally see this), Val is a primary example (even w/o this particular WTHHT blog to provide evidence) of how a one could sabotage a Hollywood career. I mean, Val went from playing the Caped Crusade to making direct-to-DVD movies w/ 50 Cent!


  9. The article should be updated with Val’s weight loss added into the mix. And for every negative comment, there are as many positive ones from people who he’s worked with. You totally skip over all the praise he got for films he did. Tombstone and Heat specifically. Nobody forgot about him in Heat. He practically walked out with every scene he was in.

    director, THUNDERHEART (1992)
    “I went to London to meet him, and he was Jim Morrison with long hair. Later, he came to see me in Los Angeles, and he came in as an FBI agent, with short hair and a suit. What was interesting was that I never met Val Kilmer. I remember seeing him later in Santa Fe and he was very much who he was. But the way he works, which is both intriguing and can be slightly difficult for others, is that he is that role.”

    director, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1996)
    “He is wonderful in the movie. He is a very talented actor.”

    GEORGE COSMATOS: director, TOMBSTONE (1993)
    “Kilmer’s mouth and eyes rarely convey the same emotion at the same time. We bounced ideas off each other. One [Kilmer had] was whistling on the way to the OK Corral. I think each director has different relationships with actors you know. I think the ones who don’t like him are the ones who tie him up in knots and not let him move, the autocrats.”

    director, HEAT (1995)
    “In that one expression is Chris’ total understanding of who he’s been and where he’s come from, all that history, the volatility, the dysfunctional parts of his marriage, the contradictions. It’s the accumulation of all the work we did. It’s not just an accumulation of Chris’ history crashing at that moment, it’s Val’s history and my history and everybody’s history doing that picture. In that moment, Val is Chris. He’s not Val; he’s not acting. He is being Chris. You can’t fake that. When you work with a brilliant actor like Val, you get those transcendental moments when an expression says everything.”

    Juilliard classmate; costar in TOP GUN (1986) and AT FIRST SIGHT (1999)
    “He’s been nothing but generous to me. [The bad press] is the price you pay for fighting for what you believe in.”

    costar in TRUE ROMANCE (1993), HEAT (1995) and RED PLANET (2000)
    “Never have I heard so much crap about an actor I had such a good time with. It’s all bull. He doesn’t explain himself to people, so people talk.”

    cochairman of DreamWorks SKG; Executive Producer of THE PRINCE OF EGYPT
    “Val was one of the first people cast. He was there every step along the way, patient, understanding, and phenomenally generous with his time.”

    New Mexico neighbor; executive at Warner Bros. studios/Turner Enterprises
    “You know, people have said I’m a little crazy. But if you’re the slightest bit different, you’re gonna get a little of that, right? He’s got his own style. I kind of like that. I think he’s an interesting, fun person. I think he’s a hoot.”

    writer, producer & director of AT FIRST SIGHT (1999)
    “Bob (De Niro) said he was great. And when I met Val, I have to admit I was charmed by him. He worked incredibly hard and I like him so much. I still socialize with him. Brains can scare a lot of people in Hollywood.”

    writer of TO SEE AND NOT SEE on which AT FIRST SIGHT (1999) is based
    “I was very impressed by the way all of them, especially Val, studied the almost impossible task of trying to represent a blind man and then an agnosic man – someone who is able to see but is mentally blind and cannot decipher what he is seeing. Sometimes I was quite puzzled and a little miffed during filming when I would go up to talk to him and he wouldn’t greet me. I thought at first he was being supercilious but in fact it turned out he couldn’t see me.”

    costar, AT FIRST SIGHT (1999)
    “He’s very creative. Very improvisational. He’s always coming up with great ideas. Very natural. Every take is different. We have a really fun time. It’s going well.”

    director, THE SAINT (1997)
    “I didn’t need just another action man, I needed a real actor, someone who could pull of playing 13 different characters – 12 the audience knows about, one important disguise they mustn’t cotton on to. Val Kilmer has shown how incredibly diverse his talents are in such films as The Doors and Tombstone. Val has all the qualities of a leading man; he’s handsome, debonair and charismatic. But what distinguishes him from all the others out there is that he can play other people. He doesn’t just rely on projecting an extension of his own persona. He was the only person who had the true acting ability to play all the diverse parts Simon Templar must adopt. Val has never been used in this way before – I think people are going to be really surprised with what he comes up with here.”

    producer, THE SAINT (1997)
    “Val and I met for the first time on our lot in London. I’ve worked with great actors before, and I was aware of Val’s reputation, so I asked him how does he see making this movie. He said to me, ‘I do a lot of movies where they won’t listen to my suggestions.’ I said that we will listen, and he said, ‘That’s all I want.’ So he suggested how to create all these characters that Templar uses in the film. They were not on the page, they were just scenes dealing with a man in disguise, but what that disguise was going to be, the particular accent and attitude along with body language, it was all coming from Val.”

    costar in THE SAINT (1997)
    “Val has a beautiful intensity of spirit that you feel when you play opposite him,” says Elisabeth Shue, Kilmer’s love interest in The Saint. “He’s very reactive. And you can see his mind working on film, which is rare.”

    costar, BATMAN FOREVER (1995)
    “Val’s an actor’s actor, wonderfully complex. Before we made BATMAN, Tom [Cruise, her husband, who had worked with Kilmer in TOP GUN (1986)] said, ‘You’re really going to get along well. He’s really bright, and he’s really dedicated.’ and that was true. We just clicked.”

    producer, THE SAINT (1997)
    “Val has been a complete gentleman. He’s given us extra days he’s not required to do by contract. He’s been very adaptable. But most artists require someone who will listen to them – you’d better listen to a serious actor, and Val is a serious actor.”

    director, THE GHOST & THE DARKNESS (1996)
    “Val is a very vulnerable and fragile person …. I think that’s why his performances are so good. He dares to let his own, interior workings come out on screen”

    director, THE DOORS (1991)
    “Working with Val was the best part of the movie.”

    costar, TOMBSTONE (1993)
    “I’ll be honest: I was a little concerned about Val because I heard he had a rep for being difficult. I can tell you, he was a love. I mean, he gave me the same kind of loyalty that Doc Holliday gave Wyatt Earp. It was really on the line for me, and he came through. And I think that’s what it is with Val: he needs a challenge to be at his best – the challenge of a difficult role, or a difficult situation, or a challenging director. Val doesn’t have a coasting gear.”

    director, BATMAN FOREVER (1995)
    “If I were to guess,” says Schumacher, “I would think that Val’s survival instinct forced him to be as involved as he is with acting craft, because with his looks he could have been very easily thought of as just a fox, just a pretty boy. His career is just starting to roll now. And I think it’s a better moment than when he started, because he’s older, he’s more mature, and he will continue to grow as an actor, because he’s really got his craft.”

    costar, BATMAN FOREVER (1995)
    “I think he’s just a little more…virile,” [than Batman predecessor, MICHAEL KEATON] “He’s very less-is-more. He just gives you enough to make you feel there’s something beating underneath.”

    costar in TOP SECRET! (1984) and BATMAN FOREVER (1995)
    “With Michael Keaton and Val, the actual performances are both very good. I think that perhaps Val is more…. Michael would give you something that he just made, open his hand and say, ‘There it is; I’ve just made it.’ And Val just opens his hand and it’s there; it’s part of his hand. I don’t know how else to put it.”

    costar, BATMAN FOREVER (1995)
    “At one point we were on a gimbal that was swerving and dipping in the air, and I was supposed to kick him (Val) in the face. I think on the third or fourth take, the helicopter zigged when it should have zagged, and I popped him on the nose. I was mortified, but he was a perfect gentleman.”

    director, WILLOW (1988)
    “Val is such a good actor that he can turn a joke, run and pick up a sword, then do a serious acting moment, and never make a false step. Discovering that Val was so great at the physical aspects of the film, I felt blessed in the same way I did when I discovered Darryl Hannah could hold her breath under water for more than a minute.”

    costar, TOMBSTONE (1993)
    “He’s probably one of the best American actors right now – he’s in his prime. This movie could be very big for him. It’s the best-written role in the script and he’s doing a heck of a job. He’s learned how to play on of Chopin’s nocturnes. He’s a bright guy. He does a lot of research, he gets used to all his props, he works hard with his accent. He’s got a lot going for him.”

    costar, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1996)
    “I actually like Val. I know he gets a lot of bad press, but I like him a lot. Sometimes (people) can want a little bit of control and want (their) own way…and not have an idea in their head. The fact is that Val wants the control, but he has some great ideas. I think if they would have listened to Val a bit more, the film might be a little bit better.”

    costar, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1996)
    “But it’s weird because like right now, I’ve read two things where there seems to be this massive kill campaign against Val Kilmer. And he was in DR. MOREAU and it just *#&@*’d me off because it’s just so not true. I mean, I worked with the man…he’s just not, he’s not an *#&!@#. He’s been given this awful rap for nothing. He never did the things they say he did. I was there. I would know, you know?”

    Juilliard teacher
    “When I first saw Val as a young actor, I thought two things. One was that I thought he was talented and two, I thought that he would work – that he would get work. That he had the kind of personality and the kind of looks and the kind of putting that all together that could make him very employable – and I was right.

    consultant on THE DOORS (1991)
    original Doors guitarist, played by Frank Whaley in the film
    “When I first met Val, I didn’t think he was right. He didn’t look the part, and his voice didn’t sound like Jim’s at all. But when he put on makeup and got into the part, he reminded me of Jim in everything from his voice to his manner. It was like having him back for a while. Spooky.”

    producer/co-star in THE GHOST & THE DARKNESS (1996)
    “For Val, he understood not only what was on the page but the spiritual essence of what the movie was trying to say and he has sort of lived and breathed the character of John Patterson for a long time.”

    Widow to Chief Ted Thin Elk, Grandpa in THUNDERHEART (1992)
    “I will never forget the smile on his (Ted’s) face when he spoke of Mr. Kilmer. When I read horror stories about how difficult he is to work with, I just remember the wonderful things Ted told me about him and realize the stories cannot be totally accurate. If you have a way to get in touch with Mr. Kilmer, I would very much appreciate your letting him know how much the late Chief Ted Thin Elk thought of him as a man and an actor.”

    co-star in TOMBSTONE (1993)
    “I¹ll tell you who I really have a lot of respect for is Val, Val Kilmer. Val and myself and Kurt, I can remember sitting around and talking and talking and talking about the characters and Kurt¹s characters and Val and I must have rehearsed the scenes we did hundreds of times and talked about different variations and different ways we could play it and just attack it from every way we could. Val is the hardest working actor that I²ve ever worked with and he¹s gotten a bad reputation, but he¹s a perfectionist. People say, he¹s a… some people mistake being a perfectionist for being a prima donna and he¹s not.”

    co-star in THE DOORS (1991)
    writer/director of JOE THE KING (1999)
    “People have said to me they think it’s his best work,” (in JOE THE KING) “He’s had glimpses here and there – I’ve known him since we did THE DOORS – but here he was just relaxed. There was no money involved, of course. He just did the part.”


    • I’m sure a lot of people love Kilmer. He has made friends in the industry. He’s also pissed a lot of people off. Some people you have quoted hate him, but said nice things about him to promote the movie he was in. When you quote press releases, you will find mortal enemies praising each other.

      Having said that, your posts provide a good counter-point to some of the content of the article. So, thanks.

      Has Kilmer lost weight? I haven’t seen him looking any slimmer. This article probably is due for an update.


      • Here’s Kilmer a few months ago on Conan. Looking slimmed down

        The quotes I really look at is Fairuza Balk’s, Anna Carroll, and Tom Sizemore. There is pictures of them holding hands on the red carpet at the Red Planet premiere. So, the truth seems jumbled up a lot. Kilmer says that during the divorce his wife used friends in the media to smear him, for custody’s sake. True? Who knows… Nobody can deny he’s probably been difficult and taken himself too seriously, been unsympathetic to other’s needs, but is he some insane terrible human being? I can’t see it. From turning down Coppola’s Outsiders because if he accepted it an entire troupe of actors would be out of work. Most of the unopinionated stories I’ve read about him just seem to say he lives on Planet Val. That he’s odd, but nice enough. Even Joel Schumacher who bashed him like crazy in Batman Forever, offered him the lead role in Time to Kill at the same time. So, what’s the truth?

        There is too much smoke for there to be no fire, no one can deny that. But I think things were taken into hyperbole, rumor, and false claims after a while, to just build the fervor and sell papers. For instance, there is a story that Val demanded no extra look at him on the set of the Saint. But if you read more into it, the director told extras to stop looking at Kilmer because they were ruining shots by staring at the star. It’s easy to turn that story into psycho Kilmer.

        Val will never A-list again. He’s 54 years old. There are not many 54 year old A-listers. And even with the weight loss, Val is not a hunk anymore. But he could become a strong supporting actor in big movies, and find new life in indie films as a lead. He’s still got talent pouring from himself. He was almost Ray Winstone’s part in Darren Aronosky’s Noah. That would’ve been a major comeback.

        Currently he’s touring the country and raising money for his Mark Twain movie that he’ll be writing, directing, and starring in. He may be making his own comeback, having seen the youtube video teaser, and the live show, if the movie is up to snuff, it could be academy worthy if it finds the right distribution.


        • Thanks for the link. While he’s not back in his Iceman shape, he does appear to have slimmed down a bit. Good for him.

          You’re 100% right. Kilmer is not a monster. He’s certainly guilty of bad behavior in the past. And it probably helped end his mainstream movie career prematurely (which is what the article is really about). But he does have lots of friends and people who will work with him. So, it’s not like he’s evil incarnate.

          I think you raise some excellent points. I will definitely need to see if I can incorporate some of them into the article to give a more well-rounded picture.

          Thanks for sharing your POV.


          • I agree that it probably led to him not getting offers for things that he would’ve been great in. Add that with his inability to pick the right script (he turned down the Matrix and did red Planet instead, yikes) and his turning down a lot of other good opportunities (he turned down Robert Altman 3 times, Tony Scott, ron Howard, and others, one of the things that guarantees an actors a list longevity is the teaming with an alist talent director (Denzel Washington/Tony Scott, Depp/Burton, Crowe/Ridley Scott, DiCaprio/Scorcese etc…) and instead Val repeatedly turned down the great directors that wanted to work with him again. Add bad rumors and you’re done. I had hoped he’d make a living doing indie stuff like Salton Sea, Wonderland, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and others.
            One of Val’s main problems was that he was trying to be a serious actor like a Sean Penn or Daniel Day-Lewis while doing more mainstream fair. If he had done like Penn and just focused on intense character oriented dramas with directors who would’ve been happy to deal with is perfectionism he’d have Oscars, instead he brought that same intensity to movies like Ghost and the Darkness (a personal favorite) and The Saint, which were more popcorn movies, and they and the director didn’t have time to make a popcorn movie about a character, which frustrated Val I think. He didn’t seem to understand that. He was essentially doing Tom Cruise type movies and acting like Sean Penn or Daniel Day Lewis in them. He could’ve easily done what Christian Bale has done post Batman which is not look for big grossing movies and go be an actor.

            Val was just a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. Maybe the ill fate of his matinee good looks, and Top Gun throwing him in the action picture. Method intensity rarely works with genre pictures. Which is almost exclusively what he did. When he did work in films that suited his style (Doors, Wonderland, Salton Sea, Heat) he turned in amazing performances.


            • Good post- he basically need to work within a director’s expectations- Schumacher can try for Oscars on occasion- but I doubt he wanted his lead getting all perfectionist on Batman Whatever when there were just too many things to worry about.

              I do like the story how he got all Method in Top Secret!- which is funnier than half the jokes in the movie.


            • You’ve clearly studied Kilmer’s career and have a very good understanding of what went wrong – as well as what went right. I should have you post an article!


              • I’m something of a Val Kilmer expert, as well as a huge movie buff, I literally (literally literally) own every movie Val’s ever been in. Which as you know is a lot of DVD schlock. It’s embarrassing, It started as a joke because he was my favorite actor, and then I just went, hey, why not, I bet no one else does.

                And I’d gladly write an article. I’m an actor/movie buff. I’ve enjoyed your site quite a bit. The Val article sequel?!


            • Although I know Val will probably never make it back onto the A list (I wont count him out just yet), I would love to see him working with Johnny Depp. What a movie those two would make. Awesome.


              • Kilmer has shown that A-list or not, he will continue working. So I think you can look forward to seeing him work for a long time. You just might have to hunt down his movies because most of them won’t be in the mainstream.


                • 9 Actors Whose Hot Careers Fizzled:

                  1. Val Kilmer

                  During the ‘80s and the ‘90s, Val Kilmer was considered one of the most promising actors in Hollywood. He had roles in some of the biggest blockbusters including “Top Gun,” “Willow,” “Tombstone” and Joel Schumacher’s “Batman Forever.” Despite his success, somewhere along the way, Kilmer developed a reputation for being difficult to work, which pretty much landed him on Hollywood’s black list. We haven’t seen much of him since.


                  • Which ’90s actor has fallen the hardest? What movie did them in?


                    What really hurt his career wasn’t any movie he was in but the fact that he is VERY hard to work with. Most actors and directors who worked with him once avoided working with him again. He’s the Kathleen Battle of ’90s movie actors.

                    Also, Kilmer has the skills to be a very good comedic actor, but has some kind of complex where he is desperate to be regarded as a top dramatic actor.. which he simply isn’t. After Top Secret and Real Genius, he was offered any number of really excellent comedic parts, but he refused them.

                    Also, he needs to step away from the buffet table. His girth has cost him any number of really good roles.


  10. And a couple corrections: Spartan was written and directed by David Mamet. Val has only worked with Michael Mann once. He was offered a role in Collateral but had to turn it down todo a show in the West End.

    Here are some quotes of nice things reporters have said:

    He is as complex, as inviting and distancing, iconoclastic and respectful, acquisitive and generous, as the Land of Enchantment he lives in.

    An opaque conundrum at the least.

    He’s personable but intense. Nice but no pushover. He’s also passionate and extremely intelligent, a combination that easily could be confused with arrogance. Above all, Kilmer is incredibly serious about his work.

    What the hell can you say about Val Kilmer that hasn’t been said? He really does live on Planet Val. I go into all these interviews thinking I’m going to be surprised and that someone will be nothing like their “persona,” Val Kilmer is. Is that a bad thing? Not particularly.

    Kilmer’s voice is soft as if he’s shy, his eye contact strong as if he’s sure. His body language is caffeine-free, as fluid and mellow as reggae music.

    Kilmer is no more a bad boy than he is a choir boy. He’s simply a man unafraid to give a dense piece of himself to his work and his life.

    He is friendly, buoyant and so open that he often volunteers personal details about his life and is quick to laugh at himself. Still, Mr. Kilmer seems prone to philosophical ramblings. He segues with ease, for instance, from what it was like to meet with real-life crystal meth addicts as part of his research to why communism failed in Tanzania.

    Mr. Kilmer is a man of contrasts. Intensely playful with a smidge of danger and always himself.

    Val Kilmer isn’t afraid to give his opinion – never has been, never will be. No question. . . Kilmer isn’t scared to mouth off. But underneath the conviction, the ruggedly handsome star is a bundle of puzzling contradictions.

    Val Kilmer is one of our most reluctant hunks, a brainy and opinionated man who chooses his projects based on the limits they’ll push him to, not the grosses they’ll win.

    He shares fragments here and there, communicating through wandering sentences, nearly silent body language, and placid eyes, which occasionally sit behind purple sunglasses.

    Hazel-eyed and lush-lipped and so damn perfect-looking that reason flees and you think, “So this is what God intended.”

    There’s something about Val Kilmer that makes even the most earthbound person invoke the spiritual.

    This is clearly quite an intense, serious young man struggling to balance craft and commerce, the art of acting with the business of show business. The actor takes a pretty philosophical approach to the whole process.

    Val Kilmer is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most gracious actor it has ever been my pleasure to meet. He is modest, he is well-spoken, he is generous. Val is really from the planet Kilmer, a world of great physical beauty located in the Galaxy of Abstract Ideas. A conversation with Val Kilmer does not tend so much to wander as to accrue various layers of content. This tendency toward the abstruse is a Kilmer hallmark.

    In a nutshell, Kilmer is a very, very nice man, and a very, very thoughtful man, as well as a very, very good actor, but he is not a good movie star, and he not only doesn’t want to be one, he is constitutionally incapable. His many parts would get in the way. . .

    Behind the talented actor Val Kilmer is a person who has thought deeply about the challenges of love and the meaning of death and life.

    Val Kilmer embodies the lightness of a mellow Southern Californian, and his presence pulls you out of dark thoughts. Devastatingly handsome

    Kilmer is anything but easy to figure. I’ve quickly learned that to pose him any question is to invite an obtuse, not always coherent, frequently entertaining discourse that might touch an any theme from the poetic angst of Shelley – to the power of the love beads he favors. . . He is, as I was warned by people who know him, a piece of work: by turns – sarcastic and friendly, puffed up and self-spoofing, sincerely grounded and almost calculatingly off-centered.

    The great thing about Kilmer’s silences, one quickly learns, is that they’re merely the prelude to a non-answer or a joke. Calculated pauses happen to be the cornerstone of his dry comic timing.
    Self described as shy, Kilmer is introspective and philosophical, qualities that may be masked by his matinee idol exterior.

    There is something strangely innocent, even beguiling and charming about Kilmer. This despite all the rumors. . .

    What does exist is a pattern of exacting standards, a relentless pursuit of excellence, often to the point of exhaustion, and the liberal use of the “why” word.

    Val Kilmer is almost unnervingly placid. . . No matter what, Kilmer’s voice remains as level as his gaze. His distinctively lush mouth. . . holds only an amiable smile.

    When Kilmer glides into a room, he fixes your eyes with a steady gaze, holds out his hand for a warm, firm shake and talks in a whispery voice that sounds both friendly and sincere.

    Kilmer is not just another pretty face. A poet in his spare time, Kilmer projects a mercurial charm, and his musings reveal both a keen mind and a high-strung artistic temperament.
    Val Kilmer, the tamed savage.

    His chiseled good looks and dramatic intensity have earned Val Kilmer a place in movie history as one of cinema’s most devoted and charismatic actors, yet he remains an enigma, at once sarcastic and friendly, sincerely grounded and almost calculatedly off-center, meticulously well-spoken but still so difficult to pin down.

    Bright, polite, sensitive, articulate – his literary references over 90 minutes range from Isak Dineson to Jung to Irish poetry – Kilmer is an interviewer’s dream.

    He’s an engaging character. And, though the language may occasionally get a little convoluted, his passion for the things that mean a lot to him comes across loud and clear.

    Kilmer is not a mirror-gazer, although with his shocking blond hair, mischievous green eyes, impudent smile and expensive Armani suit, he could pass for a rock star.

    Kilmer is a man interested in ideas. And admirer of Shakespeare, Van Gogh, Jesus Christ, Jacques Cousteau and the English poet John Donne. . .

    Here is his defense of himself:

    “I made mistakes regarding my career. Some of these, like people saying bad things and letting it have some hang time, are just because I haven’t had any discipline about defending myself.”

    “Like all rumors, they based those stories on something that was part true, and then made up something to make it worse than it really was. If you actually look at them, there’s no real accusation anywhere – because if any of it were true, then we’d have a legal problem.”

    “Something I know I contribute to my work is that whatever it takes, I find a place, I find a way to be able to concentrate. And some things that have been said about me being hard to work with, things I knew were deserving – it’s hard to communicate when you’re preoccupied and become unresponsive like I do, and to say, Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t say please when I asked for lunch.”

    ~ Val Kilmer

    I met him after one of his Mark Twain shows (he was brilliant). He was perfectly nice and cheerful if not a little dazed after the show (I know the feeling, I too am a method actor)


  11. http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ0705VALKILMER_120

    Val is described as nice by Chuck Klosterman

    And he and Robert Downey Jr became great friends

    Good series of videos about Val


  12. UKLANSKI: What is this about you not drinking anymore?

    KILMER: I quit drinking. I never really drank.

    UKLANSKI: You were lying to me about waking up next to two Russian girls in a dingy hotel in Moscow after a three-day binge? What about smoking?

    KILMER: What, dope? No! Everything in high school was reversed. If marijuana was supposed to make you mellow, I would be like, “The cops, the cops, the
    cops . . .” I was what you call the buzz kill. [both laugh]


  13. He looks pretty good in The Spoils of Babylon and he is nailing the role of a sinister general easy enough.


  14. What does this have to do with Val Kilmer?


  15. I have enjoyed watching his movies since Top Gun…above all he continues to be a great actor!


  16. Does Batman Forever Deserve To Be Slated As Batman & Robin?


    Post by jmfabianorpl on 6 hours ago
    The writing is on the wall, and they try to turn the villains into Joker clones (Riddler it works better with, Blueberry Pie Fa…er, Two-Face? Not so much.). But it did try harder to flesh out Bruce Wayne, and added the “one rule” to Batman’s philosophy.

    And I admit it, I cheered for the “Holy rusted metal” scene, as did most of the theater.

    This is another example of the WWF Russo vs. WCW Russo comparison I made between the Michael Bay of Transformers 1 and 2, and oddly enough, it applies to Tim Burton between Batman and Batman Returns. Same thing can be said for BF Schumacher (kind of reined in) vs. B&R Schumacher (just throws all his crap to the wall)

    Post by ZombieElvis on 5 hours ago
    Batman & Robin is at least fun to watch and make fun of how terrible it is.

    Two-Face in Batman Forever ruins the movie for me since they don’t go into detail about his life as Harvey Dent and how Two-Face came into being. Two-Face is the type of character that needs to be developed and can’t just be thrown out there like they did in Batman Forever.

    Other reasons I dislike Batman Forever are that Jim Carrey was too over the top, Kilmer being a terrible Bruce Wayne and Nicole Kidman was just dull in it. I actually liked Kilmer’s work in the bat suit, but his portrayal of Bruce Wayne is the worst live action Bruce Wayne IMO.

    Post by Death to Analog on 4 hours ago
    To me, it’s better than Batman Returns, and only Nicholson raises Batman ’89 above it.

    Two-Face is a horrible character that throws away any and all complexity and menace associated with the character and replaces it with generic wacky howling “look at me I’m crazy!” nonsense.

    Bruce Wayne is a two-dimensional bore, and if Batman is the World’s Greatest Detective it’s a wonder that anybody actually follows the law. He got outsmarted by one the villains’ molls for Christ’s sake!

    Dick Grayson as written would have been a great 15 year-old, but Chris O’Donnell was 25 at the time so there was a clear disconnect between the character and the actor.

    Jim Carrey is outstanding at times, and other times he’s just doing typical ’90s Jim Carrey shtick.

    Commissioner Gordon is still a bumbling goofball, Chase Meridian is a walking “Batman isn’t gay, really!” assertion and nothing more, and the less said about the schlocky performances from most of the supporting cast the better.

    All that considered, I love the production design. Say what you want about the copious and illogical amounts of neon in Gotham, it works for me. It feels like a comic book come to life, is as distinctive as TAS’ version of Gotham, and doesn’t feel like a tiny back-lot set as Burton’s Gotham did.


    • 12 Least Successful Recastings Of Iconic Film Characters:

      1. Val Kilmer – Bruce Wayne/ Batman

      Film: Batman Forever (1995)

      Replacing: Michael Keaton

      The obvious choice when talking about the early Batman films would be to single out the casting of George Clooney in Batman and Robin – and sure enough, he does a pretty awful job. But all too often people are soft on Batman Forever, which for all its goofy charm represented a big climb-down from the heights of Batman Returns. Fellow WhatCulture! columnist Alex Leadbetter has already laid into the film here, but there’s one crucial thing that he forgot to mention: Val Kilmer’s planky performance as the Caped Crusader.

      After Batman Returns underperformed at the box office, Warner Bros. wanted to take the series in a more family-friendly direction. Tim Burton stayed on as producer but Joel Schumacher replaced him as director, and set about “lightening down” Burton’s early concept for the Riddler. Michael Keaton, dissatisfied with this new direction and wanting to vary the roles he played, turned down $15m to appear in the film. Schumacher hired Kilmer on the basis of his performance in Tombstone, and Kilmer signed on without knowing who the director was and without having even read the script.

      It’s very hard to act when only half of your face can be seen. It’s a challenge that each of the actors who’ve played Batman have had to face, with Keaton bringing dry wit and aggression and Christian Bale relying heavily on the voice to intimidate people. Kilmer, on the other hand, acts overly haughty as Bruce Wayne and seems to spend all his time in the mask either pouting or mumbling. It’s a very good example of making the very least of the props and costume, setting a low bar under which Clooney subsequently limboed.


  17. The most notable thing about Red Planet was the bad ass robot A.M.E.E it’s not that bad a movie either.


  18. This is awesome. But you forgot one role (or you did and I missed it, if so I apologize) In 2004, Val played a drill Sargent in the indie Stateside, starring Jonathan Tucker and Rachel Leigh Cook. It bombed, but Kilmers role was impressive, I thought anyway.
    Cheers :)


    • Glad you liked it. Usually once the subject’s time in the spotlight has faded, I start being a little more selective. I skip around a bit as the central question of what happened has already been answered. But maybe I’ll go back and update this article with that info. Thanks for reading!


  19. he should try cable show like a cop show. I could totally see him in a criminal minds role


  20. kilmer never really took off to a list. People watched batman forever to the batman flick. Other then that he never had a movie make a lot of money on his name alone. I maybe wrong but kilmer was one of the actors close to a list but missed by a bit, He was a good actor but like costner he argued with directors alot and then the top directors didnt want to work with him. He should take a cue with cruise work with top directors and let them call the shots


    • At the time, Kilmer sure felt like an A-list actor. In retrospect, you are probably right that he was not. The same has been said of Michelle Pfeiffer. She was considered A-list for a very long time. But aside from Batman Returns, her biggest hit as a lead was Dangerous Minds. That is the only movie you can ever say she opened.


  21. what lies beneath made a lot of money although maybe it sold fords name iam not sure. From what i heard he is even difficult then before so i dont really see him ever coming back unlike other actors on the list if kilmer became less difficult worked with a top director became supporting role to big star it might lead to better roles but thats for his agent to decide if kilmers keeps being a prick to directors iam gonna continue seeing him in direct to dvd movies


  22. my friend went to movie festival and apparently him and bruce willis dont sign autogrpahs an are very rude about it. I never liked willis or kilmer thought they were bad actors hearing this made me relizie why kilmers career went down. Hes not just dick to directors hes an ass to fans who actors wouldnt have career without


  23. From box-office bomb to cult favorite in the making: Classic MacGruber:

    by Matt Singer

    Each week, The Dissolve designates a Movie Of The Week for staffers and readers to watch and discuss, with a lead-off essay on Tuesday, a roundtable-style Forum on Wednesday, and other related features to follow. Feel free to pitch in or suggest your own discussion points.

    According to Box Office Mojo, 129 films played on more than 1,000 screens in the United States in 2010. The lowest-grossing wide release of the year was The Warrior’s Way, a bizarre ninja Western starring Jang Dong-gun, Geoffrey Rush, and Kate Bosworth. The second-lowest was MacGruber, an adaptation of a mildly popular Saturday Night Live sketch parodying the 1980s action series MacGyver. Among the movies that made more than MacGruber: Extraordinary Measures, Jonah Hex, and Furry Vengeance, starring Brendan Fraser as a real-estate developer at war with a raccoon, which holds just an 8 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but more than doubled MacGruber’s domestic gross.

    MacGruber fared better with critics—it got a 47 percent on Rotten Tomatoes—and worse with general audiences. In its first three days of release, MacGruber made just $4 million, about $65 million less than the weekend’s biggest movie, Shrek Forever After, and only about $1 million more than the Tina Fey comedy Date Night, which had already been out in theaters for a month and a half. Of the 113 films in domestic theaters that May weekend, 40 films had better per-screen averages than MacGruber, including Princess Kaiulani, Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, and the re-releases of The Cremaster Cycle and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. MacGruber lingered in the theaters for just two more weeks, and ended its pitiful 21-day run with $9.3 million in worldwide ticket sales. MacGruber cost just $10 million to make—and somehow it still lost money.

    It was a sad fate, but also an appropriate one. Created by director Jorma Taccone, MacGruber has one schtick. He’s MacGyver—a plucky, resourceful adventurer with a flowing mullet—but completely incompetent. Where MacGyver found his way out of every death trap through the use of improvised gadgets he built out of everyday household items, MacGruber fails to disarm the explosives he and his assistants encounter. Each SNL sketch ends with a fatal blast, and each subsequent sketch begins with MacGruber and his team back on the job, no worse for wear. There’s something beautifully poetic about all of this: MacGruber, the man who could never stop a bomb, couldn’t stop his own movie from bombing either.

    In hindsight, the film’s failure looks just as inevitable as its hero’s. By 2010, Saturday Night Live had rightfully earned a reputation as the supplier of Hollywood’s most consistently unfunny comedies. (Another ignominious stat: MacGruber is the lowest-grossing widely released SNL movie ever.) Even fans of the MacGruber sketches would concede they were an uncomfortable fit for a movie; few ran longer than 90 seconds, and one was essentially identical to the next. What were Taccone and co-writers John Solomon and Will Forte (who also plays MacGruber) going to do with the remaining 88 minutes? The average MacGyver episode ran half that length, and the show had been off the air for more than 15 years by 2010; few, if any, of SNL’s young audience had ever watched it. Taccone was one of the creative minds behind Saturday Night Live’s popular Digital Shorts, but he had never directed a feature, and Forte had just one starring role to his credit: The Brothers Solomon, which made even less money in theaters than MacGruber. On paper, the film looks like one of MacGruber’s jury-rigged gadgets, cobbled together from unlikely elements, and almost certainly doomed to disappoint.

    But bad ideas occasionally produce good movies, and MacGruber is a perfect example. Where most saw a guaranteed misfire, Taccone saw an opportunity: Rather than trod the same ground by further parodying the MacGyver television show, the MacGruber movie would send up the excessively macho action movies of the same period. Forte’s hero may look like Richard Dean Anderson, but he acts more like Rambo—if Rambo were a narcissistic coward who didn’t know how to fire an Uzi and also occasionally had sex with his wife’s ghost. After an opening scene where the villainous Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) steals a nuclear missile, MacGruber becomes a near carbon copy of Rambo III (and, to a lesser extent, Hot Shots! Part Deux, a previous Rambo spoof), with MacGruber retired to a Buddhist monastery in Ecuador, where his old boss Col. Faith (Powers Boothe, playing Richard Crenna) finds him and begs him to return to duty and save the world.

    MacGruber puts together a team of heroes (hilariously and inexplicably, they’re all played by professional wrestlers), and then after he accidentally murders them all with homemade C-4, he reluctantly partners with Ryan Phillippe’s uptight Dixon Piper and Kristen Wiig’s Vicki St. Elmo to infiltrate Cunth’s operation and retrieve the missile before it can be detonated on American soil. Or at least that’s what MacGruber should be doing. Mostly, he’s distracted by other, pettier concerns, like proving he’s a better soldier than Piper, flirting with Vicki, and finding and destroying the man who cut him off while he was driving in Las Vegas. (Piper later finds MacGruber’s “Clues Notebook,” which is just page after page of the man’s license plate—KFBR392—and doodles of MacGruber shitting on his face.)

    A lot of these gags are engineered to poke fun at the ridiculously noble and ripped he-men of 1980s action cinema, as is the visual aesthetic, designed by Taccone and director of photography Brandon Trost, which apes those movies’ glossy imagery. Every hallmark of the genre is faithfully duplicated—and then hilariously deflated. MacGruber falls to his knees and screams to the heavens to mourn the death of his brothers-in-arms—except he’s the one who killed them all. MacGruber walks away from an explosion in slow motion—except its the KFBR392 guy’s car, and MacGruber’s the one who set it on fire. MacGruber has a sweet ride of his own—a Mazda Miata with a front-end bra. It’s unveiled to the swaggering sounds of The Black Keys’ “Heavy Soul”—which gets interrupted by Toto’s cheese-pop “Rosanna” as Grubes turns on his detachable Blaupunkt stereo. MacGruber has a tough-guy one-liner—“Let’s go pound some Cunth”—but he says it over and over out of desperation and his inability to think of anything else to say. MacGruber and Vicki engage in a chaste, candlelit sex scene—and then Taconne cuts to a long, graphic shot of Forte humping Wiig while grunting like a wounded animal.

    Every good spoof needs a straight man. Airplane! had Leslie Nielsen’s Dr. Rumack, who never cracked even as he pulled eggs out of a sick woman’s mouth. Blazing Saddles had Gene Wilder’s Waco Kid, who didn’t bat an eye at outlaws punching horses in the face. Boothe’s unflappable Col. Faith is a sturdy presence throughout MacGruber, but the movie’s true straight man is Taccone, who shoots MacGruber as if it were a legitimately badass balls-to-the-wall action spectacular. Most modern spoofs, shot on the cheap by hacks, look like garbage. MacGruber looks good enough to stand beside (or, in some cases, ahead of) its inspirations. No matter how broad Forte gets—and at one point, he’s waddling through an action scene naked, with a celery stalk hanging out of his ass—Taccone never shoots him like he’s in on the joke. There are many deadpan actors; Taccone is the rare deadpan director.

    Forte, for his part, is a singularly fearless comedian, and not just because he’s willing to appear onscreen with celery up his butt. MacGruber is more than an idiot; at times, he’s an absolute monster. The origins of his feud with Cunth date back to their time together in college, when MacGruber stole Cunth’s girlfriend and then forced her to get an abortion. MacGruber, naturally, sees himself as a victim in the entire scenario, and Forte delivers the backstory in a stunning cold monologue. Most actors would be terrified to look this bad, and would try to redeem their character with charm or cheap laughs. Forte refuses to offer even a single redemptive quality—and then caps the scene by using Piper as a human shield in a gunfight. Classic MacGruber!

    Comedy is subjective, and humor that edgy is bound to turn off some viewers—and in this case, it did. MacGruber earned its share of positive reviews, but the writers who hated it really hated it. Newsday called the movie “contemptible.” The Daily Mail said Forte “lacks the slightest vestige of credibility or charm” and doubted he’d ever star in another movie. (Not a great prediction.) Big Hollywood said it was “a MacWaste of time,” while The Globe And Mail called it “MacAwful.” When the film was nominated for Movie Of The Week consideration, one writer at The Dissolve who shall remain nameless (Scott Tobias) groaned in disapproval. (To his credit, he’s since come around.)

    In his own dismissive pan for The New York Times, A.O. Scott repeatedly asked his readers “Why does this exist?” and ultimately found, within certain “ontological parameters,” that it did not. MacGruber’s box-office disaster nearly proved Scott right. But to MacGruber partisans, the film’s unfathomable origins were a significant part of its charm. In a world where seemingly every decision in Hollywood is motivated purely by its impact on the bottom line, MacGruber stands out by defying every rational commercial impulse. No studio executive alive (or at least employed) would request a soundtrack with so much terrible 1980s music, or a hero this shallow and despicable. Whatever your personal opinion of it, it’s hard to dispute that Taccone’s direction, Forte’s performance, a wildly unpredictable script, and a general go-for-broke attitude all make MacGruber unique. Good or bad, it’s no factory product.

    Furry Vengeance earned more at the box office than MacGruber, but it’s already been completely forgotten. Meanwhile, MacGruber is well on its way to becoming one of the biggest cult comedies of the last decade—and people are still discovering it. In a sense, the story of every cult movie is the story of a tragedy, because a film can only acquire true cult status through box-office failure. But the same things that ensured MacGruber’s financial failure cemented its creative success, and while it’s frustrating to watch a great movie flounder in theaters, quality does eventually win out. There’s some kind of cosmic justice in that. In the end, the cream rises to the top. And then it pounds some Cunth.


  24. KILMER could have capitalized in batman picked better roles by better director.i disagree with the person that said he not have balanced indies with blockbuster hanks does that even cruise it too nothing with it .Its called make one movie from the audience then one movie for the studio i heard he turned down thomas hayden church role in sideways if its true hes dumber then i thought i also saw him in interviews hes weird


  25. one movie for the actor one for the studio


  26. Michelle resume has always been more consistent then val she has a better opportunity her body of work is much better she been lead in more hits movies then val her last hit hairspray showed she still got it most of her movies unlike val are not direct to video now so she has some buzz


  27. 8 Most Demanding Hollywood Stars:


    My lecturer’s friend was an extra on The Saint. Everybody was told not to look Kilmer in the eye. Unfortunately the guy accidentally made eye contact with Val, and the next day he was fired as an extra.


    I read somewhere that on the set of Heat, Val Kilmer was giving Hell to a female assistant. And who but Al Pacino came to her defense, and put Kilmer in his place.


    Val Kilmer has some of the harshest quotes on the record I’ve ever heard from directors about an actor and considering he’s often brilliant which usually tends to gain more latitude that’s saying something.


    “There are two things I will never do in my life. I will never climb Mount Everest, and I will never work with Val Kilmer again. There isn’t enough money in the world . . . I don’t like Val Kilmer, I don’t like his work ethic, and I don’t ever want to be associated with him again . . . Will Rogers never met Val Kilmer.”—John Frankenheimer, “The Island of Dr. Moreau”

    “BUZZ magazine reported that after shooting Kilmer’s last scene, director John Frankenheimer shouted, ‘Cut! Now get that bastard off my set.'” –From PEOPLE, October 21, 1996

    [Whenever Kilmer sought to contribute his ideas, Frankenheimer snapped and said, “I don’t give a *****!” Kilmer also ran afoul of a cameraman, whom he burned with a cigarette while seemingly joking around]

    “Val is the most psychologically troubled human being I’ve ever worked with. The tools I used to work with him–tools of communication, of patience and understanding–were the tools I use on my five-year-old godson. Val is not just high-strung. I think he needs help. I say this to you only because I have said it to him.” –Joel Schumacher PREMIERE, April 1997

    “He was rude and inappropriate. He was childish and impossible. I was forced to tell him that this would not be tolerated for one more second. Then we had two weeks where he did not speak to me – but it was bliss.” –Joel Schumacher

    “Tombstone” was marred with onset difficulties, including the firing of original director, Kevin Jarre. Let go after a month of shooting, Jarre later remarked that “[t]here’s a dark side to Val that I don’t feel comfortable talking about.” To back his claim, he relayed an anecdote to Entertainment Weekly about Kilmer taking a locust from an excited stand-in and eating it in front of him before saying, “As you know, I have a reputation for being difficult. But only with stupid people.”

    “Kim [Basinger] was a delight to work with. But Kilmer–oh, my God, the guy is nuts! We paid him a million dollars and he was nothing but trouble. During the contract negotiations he was nice as pie. He was looking forward to the movie, couldn’t wait to work with director Russell Mulcahy–all the usual platitudes. But when he turned up on the set and Russell said something innocuous like ‘Val, if we could just run through this scene,’ Kilmer rounded on him and snarled, ‘Don’t you ever talk to me like that again.’ There was absolutely no logic to it all–it was ‘Looney Tunes’ stuff. It was the first day of filming and we all looked at each other and knew we had a big problem on our hands. From that moment, it was a case of struggling through.” —On the making of “The Real McCoy”, an unnamed executive quoted in DAILY NEWS June 23, 1996

    [His on set troubles continued when news surfaced that he lost control during an argument with director Russell Mulcahy over changing his scenes, leading to him firing a prop gun at a car.]


    I wonder how difficult Kilmer was to work with during “Prince of Egypt” since most, if not all of the other actors wouldn’t even be required to be there on set with him while he recorded his lines. Of course, the sound people and the studio, and of course the director would still have to be around.


    I wonder if Kilmer still tries to be a demanding bully on set now that he’s reduced to being in movies like MacGruber?


    • As I said, the man is a perfectionist; he is also a genius. These are normal “Prima Donna” things my attorneys do and use. Why does this make him any more different or difficus to work with than others? All the comments work to black list the actor; that really isn’t fair. After all that is why he is on the set, maybe it’s nerves?


      • Are any actors blacklisted today?


        This is true, and Sean Young is a good example, even if the reputation isn’t fair. The reality, as I understand it, is that she clashed with James Woods on a film (the rumor is that she refused his advances), and Woods, a notorious prick, started spreading slanderous rumors about her.

        A better example would be Val Kilmer. He’s an amazingly talented actor who gets bored really easily, and acts out. Look at his performance in The Island of Dr. Moreau — during the dinner table scene, where he’s supposed to just be sitting there, he’s doing all sorts of little business in the background, trying to upstage the other actors. He obviously thinks he’s wasting his time with the stuff Hollywood usually gives him, so he behaves badly to demonstrate his displeasure. It’s too bad, because when he’s actually engaged in a part, he does amazing work (Tombstone). Unfortunately, that happens rarely, so he has the reputation of being exceedingly difficult on a set (read what Tom Sizemore said about him on Red Planet), and he doesn’t get as much work as he might otherwise.


    • As I said, the man is a perfectionist; he is also a genius. These are normal “Prima Donna” things my attorneys do and use. Why does this make him any more different or difficus to work with than others? All the comments work to black list the actor; that really isn’t fair. Let’s be honest though…Val back in the day had a lot of movies he should have, could have, and would have if he had just thought “it’s all for business” instead of canceling movie after movie after movie. I remember when he was huge and had first choice at any movie…however, other co-actors on the script caused him to make poor, irrational, and bad career choices. No one’s fault there but Kilmer being arrogant and his backside? Go figure. I am hoping for his return sooner rather than later, and know a host of smoothie recipesto help him loose any extra weight. I have faith he will be back.


  28. kiss kiss bang was close to the right direction taking quality in supporting roles would help like conneray in untouchables this is problem with big stars they think taking supporting roles is a step down but u know its better to have a supporting role in good movie then starring role in crap one costners supporting roles in man of steel helped him a bit kilmer should take note


  29. out of three actors in slab boys penn career is the best bacon is 2nd kilmer


  30. hoffman was difficult to work with but had amazing body of work close to deniros if your movies sell directors dont care if u are difficult entertainment industry is a business and the number goal in business is to make money most of kilmers problem was choosing bad scripts but being difficult didnt help me either penn and crowe are asshole but they make better choices then kilmer


  31. lebeau kilmer has a movie called knights of cups coming up with bale portman and gosling three box office stars terence malliack a well respected director directing it could be like kiss kiss bang bang a strong supporting role i think strong supporting roles is what kilmer needs but not to critize your website its a good site i just notice u seem to pick on kilmer a lot like he has the worst career out of everyone on the site he dosent there r worse like segal snipes patric too


  32. Still an attractive individual with beautiful eyes…with Val it’s easy…he just has grown tired and digested with who he has become today. Wonder why his movies have dropped off, when Val usedbto be a very bug household name. Maybe, no scripts worth putting him back in the front of the camera? His performance in Salton Sea for this perfectionist was over the top, well done, a part made just for him. However since then, demons of his past seem or at least could be affecting him now. He is alone without a wife, children, or family…. Everyone ages, and we all at some point gain a few extra pounds here or there. He also is drinking a lot of alcohol. It shows in his face and his pores; but today “He” is His worst enemy.

    Movies like Top Gun, The Doors, Salton Sea, or who could forget, The Saint, put him over the moon and solidified his popularity. He is however, and everyone knows that he is a complicated actor always honing his craft.

    The very best actor of all time. I could never figure this man out. People I know who know of him, worked with him on set have noted a perfectionist, at times he being both difficult and moody, but these are the traits of a true perfectionist especially when “your name” is connected to a film. Kilmer has been a favorite if mine for decades; I always wish him well. I wonder if he ever grieved the death of his sibling? Years of history eventually catches up with us all. Sometimes we can handle the demons, but a lot of times we can’t. He’s human so I wish him the time needed to grapple with, adjust, and get back on track.


  33. kilmer was never a list people he was all hype heartthrob magazines everywhere but batman forever was his only leading hit did they watch for him no he was hyped as a list but didnt have a box office records to really back it up when an actor is hyped a lot it gives the idea hes an a list he was on the verge of it but failed


    • How Tobey Maguire Almost Lost “Spider-Man 2″ (long story):

      For Maguire, the stakes were extremely high. In the past, rising stars have seen their fortunes change when they did not reprise their roles in major action franchises. It happened to Alec Baldwin after he balked at continuing as Jack Ryan in the Paramount Pictures films based on Tom Clancy’s bestsellers. And it happened to Val Kilmer after a troublesome turn as Batman.


  34. Retrospective / Review: Willow (1988):


  35. i didnt relize till i read the comment yes he never made a list lebeau i think u should edit it about saying he may never have reached a list


  36. better we need a separate article if kilmer was ever a list people can comment on it


  37. oBYTuary: RIP Val Kilmer


    Sometimes I wonder where Val Kilmer is and then it occurs to me…Fat Val Kilmer must have eaten Thin Val Kilmer, there’s just no other explanation for it. It’s like an Ouroboros that keeps getting bigger with each new cycle.

    My earliest cinematic memory of Kilmer is from the film “Top Secret!” in which he plays Nick Rivers, an Elvis-like pop star who goes to East Germany for a cultural festival (hell of a lot of culture in East Germany) and becomes involved with a beautiful woman and the French resistance. Kilmer has flawless comedic timing. It’s that egotistical, dry sarcasm that Vince Vaughn later adopted and never let go. My favorite scene in the film is entirely backwards. It’s brilliant.

    One year later one of my top 10 favorite films was released, “Real Genius.” Kilmer stars as Chris Knight, a lazy super smart senior attending Pacific Tech whose main purpose at the school is to develop a laser for the slimy Professor Jerry Hathaway (who is actually selling this to the military), played by William Atherton. In this film Kilmer’s character is newly roommated with Mitch Taylor (Gabriel Jarret) a mere 15 year-old. Now let’s just pause for a moment here. Does anyone remember what Gabriel Jarret looks like in this film? He lands a pretty hot broad all while wearing a sweater vest and having more lady qualities than I do on my best day. Let’s continue. Chris Knight is intelligent, witty, charming, goofy, everything you could ever want in a boy you date before you find the guy you’re actually going to marry. Kilmer fucking nails it. Also the final scene of the film involves a house filled to the brim with popcorn while a Tears for Fears song plays. Can’t beat that.

    Then Kilmer’s career took a slightly more serious turn. I “said” slightly…with the film “Top Gun.” Kilmer played Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazanski the antagonist to protagonist Pete “Maverick” Mitchell played by Tom Cruise. Ice Man is the straight flyer while true to his name Maverick is the daredevil. Always going for the big score if you know what I mean (I don’t really know what I mean). There are jets! There are women! There is a danger zone with a highway leading directly to it! There are homoerotic undertones between Ice Man and Maverick! This film truly has it all plus a then in the closet Kelly McGillis.

    I may lose a few people here but I’m glad Kilmer decided to dip his toes in the fantasy waters with the film “Willow,” released in 1988. Kilmer was in top physical shape during this movie. He had to be. His character Madmartigan is a mercenary sword fighting loner who begrudgingly befriends Willow, played by the lovely and talented Warwick Davis. Willow is sent on a mission to return a child to the world of humans but soon discovers she is part of a great prophecy. Kilmer still uses his biting wit here and is half-naked throughout the entire film. Also, magic!

    Over the next few years Kilmer really showed his darker side, first by playing a very convincing Jim Morrison in the film “The Doors,” (fun fact my mom once made out with Jim Morrison at a concert and maybe I’ll bring things full circle by making out with Val Kilmer someday!) then by playing the ailing Doc Holliday in “Tombstone.” The film also starred Sam Elliott’s moustache and everyone’s favorite line “I’m your huckleberry.”

    Now things will begin to take a confusing turn as Kilmer stepped into the role of Batman formerly played by Michael Keaton (who I think we can all agree on was the best Batman). My favorite part of this film is Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose,” because that song makes no sense and we finally learned what happened to Seal’s face…kissed by one too many roses I guess.

    A couple of years after “Batman Forever,” (it literally felt like it lasted forever) he played Simon Templar in a bizarre espionage film called “The Saint,” also starring Elizabeth Shue. I loved this film. He’s deep and brooding and everything Batman should have been. It was oddly romantic and worth a watch if you’ve never seen it.

    He did a bunch of terrible movies then landed on “Wonderland,” where he played 1970’s porn star John Holmes in this film about the famed Wonderland Murders. It was dirty, drug-addled and was basically something I’d watch on Investigation Discovery since I watch that channel 8 hours/day. Find it. It’s great.

    Then in 2005 Kilmer, just beginning to balloon up, landed “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” with an on his way back up Robert Downey Jr. This fucking film is HILARIOUS and Kilmer plays a gay detective. I’m sure I had you all at RDJ and gay detective.

    And then I literally don’t know what happened. Scrolling through the list of films Kilmer made after “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” I barely recognize any of them (THE TEN COMMANDMENTS: THE MUSICAL????). What in the world happened? If we could just get some kind of timeline, which let’s face it would look suspiciously like a buffet. When and why did Kilmer start eating his feelings? I sincerely hope he makes a return to the big screen and is slightly less big on screen. Until that day I’ll just pine for the days when I wanted to kiss kiss bang bang him.


    • He was never a list outside batman and top gun have any if his movies made money .answer is no and he was not the reason they made money


  38. i agree never made a list. He was never the reason people saw his movies his movies that made money were top gun and batman forever there is no way people saw it for him. Take hanks for example he was on screen by himself for over 1 hour in castway it made money can kilmer do that


  39. david would you agree with me never made a list. It seemed like the only leading hit he had ws batman forever and people went to see batman forever not the next kilmer flick


    • 10 Overlooked Positives Of Batman Forever:

      1. Val Kilmer’s Batman

      Poor Val Kilmer. The once promising co-star of Top Gun, Heat and Tombstone came so close to making the A-list. Now making a living from supporting roles and the butt of far too many cruel ‘look how fat these celebrities got’ clickbait article jokes, Kilmer is destined to go down in history as the most forgotten Batman. Coming after the wonderful Michael Keaton and before the too-memorably awful George Clooney, this suave, thoughtful Bruce Wayne never stood a chance. And now, following the intense Christian Bale and in the run-up to the much publicised Ben Affleck, it doesn’t look as though he’ll be getting his share of the appreciation anytime soon.

      While Kilmer’s quiet performance hardly sets Gotham on fire, it’s just the anchor Batman Forever needs. Amidst the hyperactive tomfoolery of Tommy Lee Jones’s Two-Face and Jim Carrey as The Riddler, Kilmer tries to keep things grounded, beset with buffoonery (more of that later) from all sides. Having to share a screen with the surprisingly terrible Nicole Kidman and ridiculous Chris O’ Donnell can’t have helped either.

      Giving a fine performance in a flawed movie, Val Kilmer is to Batman as Timothy Dalton is James Bond. Replaced after one film, we can’t help but wish he’d stuck around for a while longer. With Kilmer still under the cowl, just imagine how much more mileage Schumacher could have wrung from his many ‘Iceman’ jokes in Batman And Robin.


  40. yes tereence u r right kilmer never a list this article proves it he came close but nothing


  41. Leabu I think he is right. It seemed like at kilmer was a successful character actor.I read your article that said jake was never a list even though currently he is a huge draw he had alot of leading hits that would not have made money without him. it makes no sense how you consider val one but not him


  42. ok lol could you at least do a kevin costner vs ben affleck smackdown


  43. thats all i ask for


  44. Val Kilmer Allegedly Rushed To The Hospital Because He Was ‘Bleeding From The Throat’



  45. i bet u feel bad about those fat pictures now


  46. hes in the hospital now what if god forbid he dies u wont feel bad for all that ridicule you gave him. I dont think hes a good actor plus hes a jerk but i feel bad for insults i said about him. I dont want anything to happen to him .I wouldnt wish death upon my worst enemy


    • As I have said in the past, I wish all of my WTHH subjects well. Kilmer maybe more than others. He’s practically my mascot. He’s the face of the site.

      Having said that, no matter what happens I’m not going to feel bad about poking a little fun at a celebrity. He can take it. Some day, everyone I have written about will be gone. Most likely, I won’t live forever either.

      I think I speak for us all when I say I wish Mr. Kilmer a speedy recovery and many years of happiness and good health. But I don’t regret anything.


      • Refusing medical treatment: selfish & unintelligent. Article:

        Actor Val Kilmer was hospitalized on Saturday, Jan. 31, after he started bleeding from the throat. While Kilmer posted to his Facebook that he was going to the hospital for a “complication,” not a tumor, tumor operation, or any operation, his family isn’t convinced.

        According to TMZ, doctors at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, Calif., found and removed a throat tumor via invasive surgery — and Kilmer’s family is worried Kilmer delayed this surgery because it doesn’t fall in line with his spiritual convictions. Kilmer has identified as a Christian Scientist, a group that’s been known to “advocate prayer before or instead of medical treatments when a person is ill,” Reuters reported.

        Apparently, Kilmer’s family said, the actor has been neglecting his health since the summer. His neck swelled so much he would cover it up with scarves, and he had trouble speaking. After this weekend’s alleged surgery, his family is hopeful Kilmer will be more receptive to medical treatment now that his “complication” has gotten more serious.

        Kilmer himself, however, hasn’t written another Facebook message or released a statement to confirm TMZ’s report. His last post was on Feb.1, calling out USA Today for sharing the idea contrary to his own admissions on the social network, a representative of his said he is, in fact, undergoing tests for a possible tumor. In a lengthy response, Kilmer added if fans want to know anything about him to ask him on Facebook. He said he’ll go as far as coordinate live chats and interviews.

        Of the representative USA Today quoted, Kilmer wrote, “Maybe she can help get me into the 21st century communicating honestly and consistently with people who enjoy my work and deserve better than the no fact-checking blogging that gets sold as legitimate news today to our grand lazy public.” His Facebook fans excluded, of course.


    • you don’t have to…everyone dies no matter what we do. It would be sad if he were to die prematurely, but to think that any of the trifles we’ve posted here has any relationship to that would be to vastly overrate our own importance.


  47. you dont feel slight bit bad about insulting val on his weight.


    • Asked and answered.


      • Hey moviemike, if you read through a lot of Lebeau’s writings I think you’ll find he will be the first to wish good things for his WTHH subjects.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Moviemike has been around here for a while under a bunch of different aliases. He has a habit of picking a subject and staying on it no matter what.

          If Mr Kilmer takes a turn for the worse, I will probably change my avatar. It could be seen as bad taste. The article will get an update at some point. I have been meaning to incorporate Kilmer’s weight loss. But the fat pictures will stay no matter what. They are part of the story.


      • I am a bit worried about the actor who played Mr. Mojo Risin’. Reportedly he had lost weight for a role, and he had been enjoying somewhat of a career resurgence. But the rumour about his being hospitalized for a throat tumor, and the fact that he is now in ICU, is troubling. He apparently posted on his FB page that he doesn’t have cancer. I appreciate that his family is protecting his privacy and I don’t think any of us are entitled to know anything beyond what he wants us to know. I’m hoping for the best for him.

        Liked by 1 person

  48. moviemike does that alot. i dont care if val was a list or not he was batman and iceman


  49. iam not movie mike


    • Sure you’re not.

      I get info from WP that identifies people no matter what name they use. Feel free to post under whatever name you like. But let’s not pretend to be different people.


  50. i just hope val i sok


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