Val Kilmer is known for film roles as diverse as the Elvis-like teen idol Nick
Rivers in Top Secret!, real-life gunslinger Doc Holliday, porn star John Holmes,
rock idol Jim Morrison, cultural hero Robert Burns, as well as larger-than-life
literary characters like Madmartigan in Willow, Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman
Forever and Simon Templar in The Saint.
Val Kilmer was born in Los Angeles, California to Eugene Kilmer and Gladys (who divorced when he was 9); the family has Scottish, Irish, Sephardic Jewish, Cherokee Native American (from a paternal great-grandmother), Swedish, German and distant Mongolian ancestry. Kilmer's paternal grandfather was a gold miner in New Mexico; the poet Joyce Kilmer is a second cousin. Kilmer grew up in the San Fernando Valley with his two siblings, older brother Mark and younger brother Wesley. During Kilmer's teenage years, his brother Wesley drowned in the family's swimming pool.
Val Kilmer, who was raised a Christian Scientist, attended Chatsworth High School, as well as Hollywood's Professional's School. In his teens, he was one of the youngest people to be accepted into Julliard's drama program, where he became friends with actor Kevin Spacey.
Val Kilmer as "Iceman" in Top Gun (1986).In 1981, Kilmer co-authored the play "How It All Began", which was performed in the Public Theatre at the New York Shakespeare Festival. Kilmer turned down a role in Francis Ford Coppola's The Outsiders in 1983, as he had prior theatre commitments. That same year, his first off-stage acting role (excluding television commercials) came in the form of a television short titled One Too Many, which was a educational drama on drinking and driving; it also starred a young Michelle Pfeiffer. His big break came when he received top billing in the comedy Top Secret, where he played an American rock and roll star. Kilmer sang all the songs in the film and actually released an album under the film character's name, "Nick Rivers".
Following a brief hiatus, he backpacked throughout Europe before starring, again as the main character, in the comedy Real Genius. He turned down roles in Dune and Blue Velvet before he was cast as "Iceman" in the big budget action film Top Gun, playing alongside Tom Cruise. "Top Gun" grossed a total of $353,816,701 worldwide. Following roles in television films The Murders in the Rue Morgue and "The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains", he played "Madmartigan" in the fantasy Willow, where he met his future wife, co-star Joanne Whalley. The next year he played the lead in both Kill Me Again and television film Billy the Kid.
After a long time waiting, Oliver Stone finally started production on the The Doors, based on the popular band. Kilmer allegedly memorized all of the lyrics to all of lead singer Jim Morrison's songs prior to his audition. He actually sent video of himself performing some Doors songs to director Stone. After Kilmer was cast as Morrison, he spent close to a year before production started dressed in Morrison-like clothes and spent time at Morrison's old hangouts along the Sunset Strip. His portrayal of Morrison was praised and real members of The Doors noted that Kilmer did such a fantastic job that they had trouble distinguishing his voice from Morrison's. Throughout the early 1990s, Kilmer starred in the mystery thriller Thunderheart, action comedy The Real McCoy and again teamed up with Top Gun director Tony Scott to play Elvis in True Romance, which was written by Quentin Tarantino.
In 1993 he played Doc Holliday in the western Tombstone alongside Kurt Russell, in what some say is one of Kilmer's finest performances. 1995 saw Kilmer star in Wings of Courage, a 3D IMAX film, and in one of his biggest roles, he played Batman in the big budget Batman Forever, the lead in a start studded line up including Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey and Nicole Kidman. The film was a big success at the box office, despite receiving somewhat mediocre reviews. That same year, he was cast alongside Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in Heat, which is now considered one of the best crime/drama films of the 1990s. In 1996, he appeared in largely unknown film, "Dead Girl", and starred alongside Marlon Brando in the poorly received The Island of Dr. Moreau, after its release director John Frankenheimer allegedly vowed never to work with Kilmer again, complaining of how hard he was to work with. That same year, Kilmer starred alongside Michael Douglas in the thriller, The Ghost & the Darkness. The next year he played Simon Templar in the popular action film, The Saint. In the late 1990s, he lent his voice to the animated film The Prince of Egypt, starred in Joe the King and played a blind man in the drama/romance At First Sight, described as one of his most challenging roles.
Val Kilmer's first film in 2000 was a supporting role in the film Pollock,
about American painter Jackson Pollock. He then starred in the big budget Warner
Bros. box office failure Red Planet. That same year, he hosted Saturday Night
Live for the first time. In 2002, he starred in the thriller The Salton Sea,
which was well-reviewed by most critics. The same year, he teamed up with his
True Romance co-star, Christian Slater, in the low budget film, "Hard Cash",
also known as "Run for the Money".
In 2003, Kilmer starred alongside Kate Bosworth in the drama/thriller Wonderland, as well as appeared in The Missing, where he again worked with Willow director Ron Howard. The next year, he starred in the thriller Spartan, where he played a United States government secret agent who is assigned the task of rescuing a kidnapped daughter of a high ranking government figure. Subsequently, he had a role in "Stateside", and starred in Mindhunters. He also starred in the big budget Oliver Stone production, Alexander, which received mixed reviews. Also in 2004, Kilmer returned to the theatre to play Moses in a Los Angeles musical production of The Ten Commandments produced by BCBG founder Max Azria. The production played the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Kilmer had already voiced Moses for the animated film The Prince of Egypt.
Val Kilmer was in negotiations with Richard Dutcher (a leading director of Mormon-related films) to play the lead role in his 2005 film Prophet: The Story of Joseph Smith. He was initially cast in the part and was excited about playing the Mormon church founder, but had to back out due to other acting obligations. Kilmer performed in The Postman Always Rings Twice on the London stage. The play is receiving excellent critical reviews, as are Kilmer and his co-stars. In 2005, he starred in the action-comedy film Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. His performance was praised and the film was well reviewed, but received only a limited release. It later won the award as "Overlooked Film of the Year" from the Phoenix Film Critics Society.
Val Kilmer's ex-wife is Joanne Whalley, an actress and former lead singer of Cindy & the Saffrons. The two met while working together on the film Willow. They were married from March 1988 to February 1996 and have two children, Mercedes and Jack.
Val Kilmer is regarded as "difficult" by some in the industry, such as directors John Frankenheimer (The Island of Doctor Moreau), Ron Howard (Willow) and Joel Schumacher (Batman Forever) . Frankenheimer reportedly became so angry that he had Kilmer physically escorted from the set of his film, later commenting "At my age there are two things I will never do, climb Mount Everest or work with Val Kilmer ever again!" Frankenhiemer also quipped ""If I were making the Val Kilmer story, I wouldn't cast Val Kilmer". It was claimed that Kilmer purposefully burned a cigar on a cameraman's arm during filming, but Kilmer himself insists that it was an accident.
This Val Kilmer Biography Page is Copyright The Planets © 2004 - 2006 Chuck Ayoub