Val Kilmer: Number One With a Bullet?

kilmer kidman batman forever


Ever since Top Gun in 1986, Val Kilmer had been flirting with moviestardom.  While his costar became a megastar, A-list status eluded Kilmer for the better part of a decade.  In 1995, when Kilmer stepped into the Batsuit for Batman Forever, it seemed like that would finally change.  As we know now, things didn’t exactly go as planned for Kilmer and the Bat-franchise.  In the June 1995 issue of Movieline, the eccentric actor discussed his career choices and the possibility of a long and prosperous run as the Dark Knight.

“I was sleeping in a cave full of bats, having just come out of the Kalahari Desert,” proclaims Val Kilmer, trying his best to sound Hemingwayesque, but–clad as he is in shit-kickers, jeans and a two-day stubble –coming off more like Banana Republic. The actor carefully scrutinizes me to make sure I’ve absorbed the irony of how the screen’s brand-new Batman had been camping out in the wilds with real, night-flying mammals when Hollywood sent the call. Satisfied that I have, Kilmer continues, “I was in South Africa with a brilliant artist, Bowen Boschier, who lives in the bush a portion of each year, doing research on an impossible movie project that I’ve been working on for nine years now.

“I hadn’t had a shower in two-and-a-half weeks, I couldn’t even be reached by airplane, my wife was in London,” he says. “I had trouble with the Land Rover, so, while Bowen was off fixing the radiator, I –the complete wimp–thought, ‘I’ll call my agent.’ It was almost a joke, for the phone value of saying, ‘I’m in the largest desert in the world. Where are you?’ My agent said, ‘We’re not having this conversation, but if it works out, do you wanna be Batman?'”

Somebody had to.  Michael Keaton had bailed at practically zero hour from fronting the third installment of the wildly profitable film series. Rumors flew, claiming that new Batdirector Joel Schumacher’s wish list included the likes of Ralph Fiennes and Daniel Day-Lewis. Indeed, Kilmer opines, “It looked like it might not work out with Michael Keaton, so they asked Joel Schumacher, ‘Who do you want for Batman?’ When he said me, I asked my agent, ‘Why? Who did they not get?’ I’d met with Joel a couple of times before about other [movies]. I didn’t know anything in terms of the cast, story or anything, but I said, ‘Sure, sounds like fun.'”

Plenty lucrative fun, at that. According to his agreement with Warner Bros, for this and two more potential Batflicks, a document he describes as “phone book-thick,” Kilmer could conceivably earn, with merchandising and all, in excess of $6 million for Batman Forever, with many more millions to roll in should there be further films in the series. Still, he insists, “It’s no more job security than any other, because maybe they won’t want to do another one.” Then, with a self-contented grin, he adds. “Although from what they’re saying, it’s probable that they will.”

I’m glad to see him smile since it’s the first sign I’ve had that the often self-serious actor has any sense of humor whatsoever. But then, 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 on any theme from the poetic angst of Shelley to the power of the love beads he favors to his new-and-improved attitude toward the movie business. 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. He often seems to be rehearsing for the Brando-type interview he plans to someday give Larry King.

russell - tombstone

Of course, what he needs before that can happen is a career like Brando’s. No question, Kilmer’s momentum has been regained ever since he stole everything but the cameras in Tombstone, playing the most glamorously terminally ill character since Greta Garbo in Camille. But there was a lot of inertia to overcome. After the success of Top Gun in 1987, Kilmer scarred in George Lucas’s much-hyped-in-advance fantasy dud Willow, and later portrayed Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone’s much-hyped-in-advance bio dud The Doors, and either of these projects had the potential to yield mega results, career-wise, but both tanked. Other turns, in such blink-and-you-missed-’em movies as Kill Me Again (where, as in Willow, he played opposite his actress wife, Joanne Whalley-Kilmer). The Real McCoyThunderheart, True Romance, the still unreleased Dead Girl, or, for TV, such telefilms as Gore Vidal’s Billy the Kid, did nothing to further Kilmer’s standing in the industry.

Most of these career choices invite questions like. “Hey, Val, what the hell were you thinking of?” I decide to ask something else instead. “Can it possibly be true that you turned down such movies as DuneBlue Velvet, Flatliners, Backdraft, Sliver, Point Break, In the Line of Fire and Indecent Proposal?”

“It may or may not sound pretentious.” replies Kilmer, “but I’ve turned down, consciously and specifically, many jobs I knew would have been a pretty surefire way to go about making a lot of money, being recognized and gaining power in the industry.” Why? Marital togetherness, for starters. “Many jobs I’ve turned down because Joanne got one, even where the job I’d turned down was clearly more of an advantage to me in the abstract than the job she had chosen was for her.”

Then there are the weird vagaries of career heat, or lack thereof. He shrugs in a carefree way and says, “Nothing’s ever guaranteed. It’s all math, like, ‘This guy has better numbers, so give the job to him.’ If the business people think they can make money with you, it’s not, like, a deep conversation that they have about you. Actors can get into a rhythm of working where the confidence (about them) is like the stock market. Someone ‘feels’ good, so they pay whatever, which gives other studios confidence, like, ‘Those guys have good taste, they hired him,’ so whether he or she is any good, you can do four or five jobs like that until you’re discovered. This town is filled with mystery careers – people who aren’t discovered, found out, and they keep giving money to them.”

Any mystery careers he cares to “out”? He wags a finger, laughing, but no dice. Okay, then, how does Kilmer view himself relative to his Top Gun co-star. Tom Cruise, who’s been making hits like Born on the Fourth of July, A Few Good Men, The Firm and Interview With the Vampire while Kilmer’s career, until very recently, stalled? “He’s got an enormous capacity far all the size of the world that he has wanted.” Kilmer offers about Cruise’s success. “He’s a very conscientious guy, so, if he didn’t want that world, he wouldn’t have it. I don’t, so I won’t. My career is bound to be eclectic because my tastes are.” For example, he tells me. “I’m interested in four projects I have in development, but the budgets that I ask for, for two of them, are less than the million dollars they’ve spent on my costumes alone for Batman Forever.” With a sigh, he remarks. “They’re all impossible movies to make.”

Fine, he’s got eclectic tastes, but then why would he have passed up the decidedly eclectic Blue Velvet, the David Lynch movie which would seem to suit his tastes to a T? “I was given [a copy of that script] because [at one point] I was involved with Dune,” he recalls. “It would have been my first job for damn near a year. So, Dave gave me the script and it was straight-out, hard-core pornography before page 30. I never finished it. I said, ‘Good luck, but I can’t do this.’ It isn’t what he ended up making,” he says, pointedly. “That movie, I would have done.” Suddenly he’s off and running about eroticism in films. “Joanne and I both feel what’s appealing to us, anyway, is mystery,” he tells me. “Sex scenes are almost impossible to do the way I like them, which is when they continue to tell the story, where you’re involved uncontrollably in the character’s mind. The scenes in The Lover were extraordinary in their intimacy, like those in In the Realm of the Senses. You’re involved in the minds of the characters, not just watching sex.”

Aside from the fact that he’s made so many films which didn’t catch fire, I ask Kilmer whether he might have gotten hotter faster, and stayed that way longer, if he hadn’t persisted in living where the movie action isn’t. For 10 years Kilmer lived in New York, where he worked in theater (“the most fulfilling thing I can do and get paid for”) these days, he, his wife and their daughter live in New Mexico.

Kilmer makes no apology for not living in Southern California, whatever the price. “I feel safer in Johannesburg than in L.A. Violence comes out of the blue here. I’ve had friends who have been carjacked, all kinds of things. Successful felons, criminals love L.A. It’s so big, there’s so many freeways to get on after you do your score. Because of its possibilities, L.A.’s the most sorrowful city in the world,” he continues. “It had every kind of land just an hour away, could have been the greatest representation of the melting pot, just because of the ease, the weather, the terrain. I have a kind of poignant view about this city. I moved out to New Mexico and go back and forth. I did it without really any concern of losing whatever momentum was or is being gained.”


Although there have been rumors aplenty that Kilmer’s been clashing with Batman Forever co-star Jim Carrey and even with director Schumacher, it’s all par for the course if the stories I’ve heard of Kilmer’s run-ins with moviemakers dating all the way back to director Martha Coolidge, on Real Genius, are true.

“You called Martha Coolidge, did you?” he asks, laughing. “Coolidge, nothing,” I say. “I’ve heard tales of roaring fits and complete standoffs with filmmakers ranging from producer George Lucas (Willow) to directors Michael Apted (Thunderheart) and Oliver Stone (The Doors).”

”We learn, the hard way,” he replies, “that you can’t change how a film is perceived. I’ve been out of line on one aspect of the way I’ve approached work because I just hadn’t accepted that as a fact. If I’ve been hustled, like, ‘We’ll make these changes,’ ‘We’ll do this or that’– nothing unique to me, you understand, just standard business practice where time gets away–what I never accepted or had any empathy with, from the producer’s, director’s or writer’s side, is that they have stuff they want but don’t get, either. I didn’t learn until Tombstone that an actor cannot change the tone, the predominant feeling of a film. They killed more people behind the camera on Tombstone than they did at the O.K. Corral. Over 100 people quit or got fired. Somehow, strangely, my character survived all the damage.”

Fine, so his story is that he’s a changed man nowadays. Still, what happened on, say, Willow? “I thought acting was harder than it is,” he says. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. Like George Lucas says, ‘A movie is a success or failure from the minute you solidify the concept. Execution is 50 percent. It is the primal attachment to a concept that makes the movie work or not work.’ It doesn’t matter about the press, or who you hired, or anything. If you don’t want to see Arnold Schwarzenegger pregnant, you ain’t gonna go. I was going a little nuts on [Willow], but that was my style then. I didn’t trust that I couldn’t have an effect that would be positive [on the finished product]–I was living out a philosophy that what you think has a direct influence on your immediate surroundings.” He shrugs, then adds, “I apologized to George Lucas for two years.”

kilmer - the doors

So what went down between Kilmer and Oliver Stone during the making of The Doors?

“Jim Morrison is a very important guy in this man’s life,” he asserts. “I mean, the music helped him from going crazy after he got back from Vietnam–it’s a deeply personal thing. In my mind [at the time], the first job that I had in movies that was anywhere close to the theater work I’ve done or want to do is The Doors. I, unfairly to the business, thought I’d been unlucky until that time. I just learned, fairly recently, how lucky I have been, in that it’s damn hard to get a job. The Doors was the first time that I had a role large enough to remain passionate for the months of living inside what adds up to, basically, a minute of screen time a day. There’s a kind of madness required to be meticulous [when so little film is shot per day]; it’s very hard to keep excited. So, the ideas of Jim Morrison, the character, stimulated me. And Oliver is stimulating–uncontrollably! You know, if nothing’s going on, he’ll say. ‘Why is this ceiling here? Rip it out!’ And everybody who works for him likes that kind of juice, Oliver Stone’s the only director I’ve worked with [who] kind of takes on the character of a film or the characters in it. While the style of the Doors’ songs, and the character of Morrison, was about waiting, waiting, waiting to explode,” he says, letting fly with a deep chortle, “we were never waiting. I just think we sometimes damaged what we were filming, ’cause we moved so much.”

When pressed for an example. Kilmer recalls, “I had my own long hair for The Doors, but then [we had to shoot] the period of the movie where Morrison’s much younger, with short hair. So, I gotta pile all this hair onto my head, pin it down, then put on a short wig. At the end of the film, Morrison’s hair was supposed to be frazzled–which would’ve destroyed my real hair– so, again, [my hair was piled up, and] I had a long wig on. [Cinematographer] Robert Richardson used these white lights, I forget what they’re called, that actually made whatever they hit so hot it would glow. What you’re actually seeing is the heat. Well, they melted Ray Manzarek’s organ–his real organ, that he brought in– while Kyle [MacLachlan] was playing. When the heat from those lights went through my wig and hit the pins holding up my real hair, my head was being fried. So, while I was trying to capture something esoteric about Morrison, that he was an existentialist who didn’t believe in existentialism, my head was being fried!”

Presumably, playing Batman and his alter ego. Bruce Wayne, has been a snap by comparison, right? “Well,” says Kilmer, “it is kind of easy to go out and subdue the bad guy, yes–I mean, my preparation as an actor is lo get dressed. That does make it much easier to go to work. Yet, there are truly comic perversions to doing Batman Forever.” Such as? “The suit shrinks.” he replies, referring to the rubber muscle number that, some say, hastened Michael Keaton’s exit from the movie series. “Wet suits don’t shrink, but this particular kind of rubber does after two weeks. If my grandparents were alive, I’d spend much more time with them because [wearing the Batman costume] is like being old, at least from what I hear about being old from elderly people. You feel young, you don’t stop feeling or reacting in your mind, but your body just doesn’t do things at the same speed. Plus, you can’t see. Or breathe. For no reason at all, you can’t find things. Your joints ache for no reason. And you can’t hear anymore.” Are we talking about the elderly now, or about being trapped inside the suit? “They were all quite passionate about telling me the improvements [they’d made] before I put the costume on,” Kilmer goes on lo say. “I really don’t know how Michael [Keaton] did it. It’s 140 degrees in there.” Suddenly, Kilmer breaks out into a hilarious, full-throated version of “What I Did for Love.”

When he’s through. I ask how the guy who once quipped that leather pants killed Jim Morrison has managed to give a performance while encased in this Batsuit from hell? “With my lips,” Kilmer drawls. “Occasionally, with a nostril or an eyelid.” And what, exactly, does a superhero wear under his supersuit? “Nothing.” he says, shooting me his best Clark Gable macho grin. “Buff. man. He’s dedicated. Batman, I tell you.”


When I ask what Kilmer thinks is behind the gossip that he’s been feuding with co-star Jim Carrey–talk that started on TV’s “Hard Copy” and which was later rebutted by director Joel Schumacher in Liz Smith’s syndicated column–he replies. “I don’t know how that started. When those stories came out, I’m not sure, either we hadn’t actually met or it was our first day together. Anyway, I later went over and said to [Carrey], ‘This stuff’s coming out. Don’t know why.” And he doesn’t know why he’s getting all this stuff written and said [about him], either.”

I wonder how Kilmer, who claims he’s better prepared for the success Batman Forever may bring than he’s ever been before, would have handled himself had he landed and succeeded with roles he missed out on, like, say, Interview With the Vampire or Crimson Tide? “The only distress I’ve had [about movies I haven’t made] is when I discard the reality of what the job entails, look at it subjectively and say, ‘Shouldn’t I be able to do that?’ But it never adds up to regretting what I’ve experienced instead of those other movies, no.” About Vampire, he says, “I love that director and would have done that job if they had asked me to. They did a poll on one of those on-line computer services and I came up as the guy the computer nerds wanted to do it. That didn’t mean anything to me at the time, though, because I hadn’t read the book.”

Warming to the topic, he volunteers, “I started off my year saying to my agent, ‘I’ve never been in a movie with someone older.’ I don’t think there’s any actor my age who hasn’t done that style, whatever you want to call them, ‘buddy movies’ or whatever. I would love to work with Gene Hackman and nearly have three or four times. Crimson Tide went around forever, but it’s hard to feel, like, a loss when they chose a black actor. I couldn’t say, ‘I could do that!'”

Up next for him is a role alongside Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in Michael Mann’s cops-and-robbers thriller, Heat. It’s a small role, and I’ve heard that Kilmer’s accepting it sent some of his advisers into apoplexy because they consider it too small after Batman Forever. Others say it is small even in comparison to Dead Girl, a movie with such a low profile Kilmer doesn’t know its whereabouts. “I haven’t seen it and I’m longing to,” he claims. Cupping his hands over his mouth, he shouts, “Adam, where are you?” referring to writer-director Adam Coleman Howard, for whom Kilmer played the son of a Malibu shrink who has run off to produce a movie, leaving his kid to deal with his patients. Kilmer says he’s not sweating it, since, for him, it’s the role, not the movies. “There are only three reasons to do a movie: the cast, the director, the role.” he announces. “Like I say, you live in a minute of screen time, but to prepare for that minute takes much more than a day. You’d better be excited about what those moments are, even if they’re the hardest moments. Or the smallest.”

One final question before he’s back to rehearsals for Heat. Why did he refuse to be photographed while smoking, on moral grounds, for the shots that accompany this article, yet so enjoy posing with a gun? “I’m better at taking pictures if I can think ‘props,'” he explains. “Like. I came to the photo shoot with my briefcase from Heat and your editor said, ‘What’s in it?’ I went, ‘I got beads. I got a gun,’ and he said, ‘Well, let’s take some pictures with that.’ It’s very stylized, gang, right? It’s not like it reads, ‘Go shoot somebody!’ Understand?” Almost, Val, almost.


Stephen Rebello interviewed Denzel Washington for the May Movieline.


Posted on June 25, 2016, in Movieline Articles, Movies and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. I met Phillip Noyce when he was being interviewed on a TV show I was working on down under and being a fan of the Saint (but not Noyce’s take on the character) and he said Kilmer was a “prick” and had burnt too many bridges. At that point in time it looked like he had more bridges still to burn!


    • Val Kilmer is a celebrity good-guy-gone-bad. Unlike Brendan Fraser, I was not surprised when Kilmer went bad because of all the stories of Kilmer being difficult to work with. It wasn’t a matter of IF with him. It was a matter of WHEN.


    • `Saint’ Star Val Kilmer Polishes Tarnished Halo

      Kilmer’s “Saint” co-stars have nothing but good things to say about him. Elisabeth Shue calls him “a generous actor, beautifully intense.” Director Phillip Noyce (“Patriot Games”) says that Kilmer’s bad rap arises from his insistence on being a partner in the creative process.


      • It’s not praise, it’s simply an assessment. I don’t know Kilmer, and I don’t know the people who have made the comments about him, positive or negative. I simply hold out a little skepticism for what’s said about a person I don’t know by people I don’t know; if I can’t credit the assessment of Philip Noyce or whomever, it doesn’t mean much, it’s just words. The point is, he works very well with some people and not well with others, and you get radically different assessments from different people. It may not be entirely fair to assume one-sided blame on his part. He doesn’t clash with everyone. But he feels free to question director’s authority, apparently. That much we can land on.


  2. Val Kilmer of more or less, the unofficial patron saint of the “What the Hell Happened to.,,” series, but I wonder who is his closest female counterpart? I would immediately guess, Sean Young (based on the sheer train-wreck value and for the fact that actually directly acknowledged the existence of this blog), but I don’t think that she was ever officially considered “A-list” (which Kilmer pretty much was when he landed the Batman role).

    My next immediate guest would be Katherine Heigl in regards to somebody who spent roughly a decade or so “paying her dues” before finally reaching box office stardom (w/ “Knocked Up”) only to lose it soon after via her poor ego/being a jerk to any and everybody/habit of burning bridges.



    Kilmer’s excellent at being arrogant likable a**holes (Tombstone, Real Genius, KKBB, even Top Gun although the character isn’t meant to be very likable there). Being a brooding Bruce Wayne was a waste of what he does best. If he’d been able to be an arrogant Bruce, even as a facade, the way that Bale was in Begins and TDK, I think Kilmer could have thrived in the role.


  4. I liked Val Kilmer as Batman, because he made Bruce Wayne kind of a weirdo, which, if you consider that his whole steez is running around at night dressed up like an animal in search of crimes in progress, he really is. A charming weirdo that no one would indulge if he weren’t rich and hot. But I don’t know how his performance was received at the time.
    I’ve always liked Val Kilmer, though I can’t say why exactly…probably ‘cuz I’m a weirdo and I know my people. But, he’s been in some crappy movies, but I don’t think he’s actually given a really bad performance in anything and it’s mostly not his fault that they were bad- he just didn’t make good choices, at least if what you were looking for is box office hits. ‘The Doors’ was overwrought and heavy handed (it is an Oliver Stone film, after all), but his performance in it is one to be proud of. I thought he was really good in ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ and paired off really nicely with Robert Downey Jr. I would like to see him in something with Josh Brolin; I think that they have a similar vibe. In fact, had Kilmer’s career aged better, I think Kilmer could have been good in Brolin’s role in ‘Inherent Vice’. Brolin’s kind of a reverse Kilmer: his career floundered in his youth, then suddenly started taking off in his late 30s. Both claimed stalled momentum due to pickiness in scripts and lack of ambition, even though the choices they did go with don’t necessarily bare that out.


    • Kilmer is often the best thing in a bad movie. I agree, he rarely gives bad performances. The general consensus on his Batman is that his Bruce Wayne seemed sleepy. Kilmer phoned that one in which he rarely does. Still, Batman isn’t a part that requires a lot of effort. Jack Nicholson told Michael Keaton to let the wardrobe do the acting and he was right. 50% of the part is just standing there in the costume. For my money, Keaton did a much better job of giving Bruce Wayne a quirky personality, but Kilmer had the right look.


      • Yeah, I always thought Keaton didn’t look athletic enough for Batman.
        On a side note to my Kilmer-Brolin connection, it seems that Brolin was actually considered for Batman before they landed on Ben Affleck. I don’t think he would have been right for it, either.


  5. Kilmer is often stiff in wooden in flick kiss kiss bang bang ,heat and tombstone is the exception. Terenece clay kilmer was not officaly a list when he landed batman forever it takes more then 1 hit to make actor a list. He had buzz after batman forever and people thought he would be a list had his post batmna forever flicks been hit thne he would landed a list but they where not.


    • What’s with your obsession with questioning whether or not virtually every WTHHT subject was ever remotely “A-list”? We can go on forever (no pun intended) in deciding on what actual qualifications or “measure of success” (which is kind of suggestive anyway) makes an actor such a thing.

      Val Kilmer regardless, definitely became a “household name” when he landed the Batman role (and not just “that guy from “Willow” who was also once, Iceman, Jim Morrison, and Doc Holliday”).


  6. I just think it is interesting how huge kilmer was in 90s but did not have box office numbers ot back it up. Guess he was not that loved in 90s


    • Val Kilmer wasn’t “that loved” because of his horrible, unprofessional attitude (hence why he’s the unofficial “mascot” of the WTHHT series), not because of his box office numbers.


      • I agree. Was anyone really surprised when he went bad? I like the guy, (and I think he’s a babe), but I wasn’t surprised when he went bad because of all the stories I heard about him being difficult on set. (Let’s not forget the time where he burned a crew member’s face with a cigarette.)


        • In a way, “Batman Forever” was not only the “pinnacle” of Val Kilmer’s career, but it was also perhaps, the beginning of the end so to speak. Maybe because since the Batman role drastically increased his profile/stock people (in an outside of Hollywood) began to get more in tune w/ his on set issues. I don’t know if since Val was now “Batman” (and theoretically, had an increased amount of clout), had had a greater licence to be a prick (to put things bluntly).

          Val should in a sense, be fortunate that the prime of his career happened before the advent of social media or stuff like TMZ, where the media’s attention or coverage of celebrities’ behavior (good and bad) is more fragmented and easier/faster to dissect. I mean, it’s still kind of murky about why he didn’t play Batman a second time. It’s sort of a “he said, he said”, with Val claiming that he was in a scheduling conflict with “The Saint”, while Joel Schumacher claimed w/o hesitation that Val was an a**hole on the “Batman Forever” set.

          It wasn’t until “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, that we finally got the big “smoking gun” regarding Val Kilmer’s bad on-set behavior.


  7. IAm sure someone questioned his a list status back then ., Its like uma thurman she was huge in 90s but aside from kill bill and pulp fiction none of her movies where hits. She literary owes her career to Quieten . Uma and kilmer had great pr but none actually anchored a movie I used to think actors massive popularity was due to their box office.


    • The funny thing is that in a way, Val Kilmer you can argue, owes his career to Tony Scott, whom he worked with in “Top Gun”, “True Romance”, and “Deja Vu”. It really makes you wonder what Tony Scott “had” in him that could keep Kilmer under control so to speak, that no other director had.


  8. I am talking about fan base he had such huge fan base in the 90s . Yet those fans did not see his films .


    • I was a fan and I did, indeed, see his films. Not all of them, granted. I heard great things about his performance in Tombstone, but I don’t like Westerns. But I agree that there are some celebs who have a lot of critical buzz and media attention that doesn’t seem justified if you look at box office takeaway and actual fanbase. But I don’t personal see those factors as indicators of greatness; I think that a lot of what is popular is that which is familiar and unchallenging, and many succeed by being mediocre. There are plenty of crowd pleasers who are not great actors. I don’t think Val Kilmer aimed to be a crowd pleaser. I don’t think he minded being a huge star, but I think he wanted to feel like he was doing that as a serious artiste. He made the mistake of throwing his weight around before he had enough of it to throw. I don’t think he was a bad person, just arrogant.


      • It’s kind of like what Marlon Brando of all people told him on the set of “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, “You’re confusing your talents with the size of your paycheck.”


        • Well, it depends on who you ask, though. His Moreau co-star Fairuza Balk said that his rumored awfulness was media hype and she had no idea where it came from, and she didn’t find him to be an asshole at all. Brando’s not exactly known for his agreeableness and breezy attitude either. Robert DeNiro and Michael Mann both praised his professionalism, and Irwin Winkler, the director of “At First Sight” said he had a wonderful experience working with him. Maybe he’s just an asshole if you’re an asshole, and Hollywood is not short on assholes. I think he’s just a headstrong guy who sticks by whatever he thinks is right and gives fuck all about the consequences. It’s not really like he was some vapid kid like Alicia Silverstone, a know-it-all who knows fuck-all. He did have the goods to back it up.


        • Then again, on the same set of “The Island of Dr. Moreau” (regardless of Fairza Balk’s own personal experiences with him), John Frankenheimer (who replaced Richard Stanley, who in essence, got fired for being unable to control Kilmer) made no bones about his hatred of Val Kilmer after having to deal with him.

          Martin Bregman, the producer of “The Real McCoy” (that ill-advised caper movie that Val did w/ Kim Basinger back in ’93) claimed that they had to rewrite the movie because of him (according to Bregman, Kilmer basically tried to “destroy the picture”).

          Kilmer was also apparently responsible for ousting the initial director of “Tombstone” in favor of George Cosmatos (although Kurt Russell after Cosmatos’ passing claimed that he really ghost directed it).

          Sure you may praise Val Kilmer all you want for being “headstrong” sticking w/ what he believes is right regardless of the consequences, but you also have to make compromises and pick and chose your battles more carefully.


  9. Good point his ego grew before he really built up a resume. Kilmer does prefer dramatic stuff to popcorn films I do not think he ever wanted to be a huge star. I do not think box office is indication of good actor. For example Will smith movies gross more then sean penn movies but penn is the superior actor


    • I doubt that Val Kilmer wouldn’t have signed up to play Batman is he didn’t want to be a “huge star” to some degree.


      • Yeah, obviously not. There certainly are actors out there who turn down really big jobs because they don’t want to go in that direction. But then there is an argument to be made that if you go for the big money and super-exposure, you get the money and the power to get smaller films greenlit and make the kind of movies you really care about. Maybe that was his game. He probably thought he could do something original and interesting with that role as opposed to just filling the suit. It looks like he didn’t necessarily not want to be famous, he just didn’t want to be a sellout. To his credit, he did a much better job than George Clooney. There’s still something about him I find likeable; for instance, his self-funding his Mark Twain passion project, that’s the kind of thing I respect. And I heard that he was really good, too. I feel like he doesn’t mind his professional self-sabotage because he felt like he stood for something. He probably regrets a few script choices, though.


        • Honestly, I don’t know right off the top of my head why Val Kilmer agreed to the Batman role. From what I can recall, Joel Schumacher, the director (after it was certain that Michael Keaton wasn’t going to work with him), felt that Kilmer would’ve made a good Bruce Wayne after seeing him as Doc Holliday in “Tombstone”. Kilmer believe it or not, was literally in a bat cave somewhere in Africa when he was first offered the Batman role. Apparently, Kilmer agreed to it without reading the script or learning whom the director was.


  10. Some actors pick popcorn films to pay the bills so they can afford to do smaller flicks. Some actor do big budget films to fund their smaller films. John cusack perfect example


  11. Another actor like kilmer who had hype in 90s but I do not think was really a draw was pitt/ Pitt was defintly a draw in 2000s-2016 but if you look at most of his hits in 90s themla and louise 12 monkeys interview with vampire they all had bigger stars in them. seven legends of fall and sleepers where only box office hits his name drew people in. he did not really become a draw until 2000s much like denzel wahsingotn


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