Val Kilmer Interview by Tim Nasson
Los Angeles – It’s safe to say that Val Kilmer’s star peaked in the early 90s. In a span of five years, Kilmer portrayed Jim Morrison in “The Doors,” Elvis Presley in “True Romance,” Doc Holliday in “Tombstone,” Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, in “Batman Forever,” and one of the leads in “Heat,” one of Michael Mann’s best films.
Perhaps there was something in the water at his high school. Not only were the early 90s good for Kilmer, (to date, Julliard’s youngest student ever accepted to the drama department), they were good for his fellow high school alumni, Kevin Spacey and Mare Winningham.
However, Kilmer’s most popular role, Iceman, in “Top Gun,” – at least with kids of the “Top Gun” generation – was in a movie released twenty years ago.
The past ten years have not been very kind to Kilmer, as an actor. If one thought “Batman Forever” would be the movie Kilmer was paid most handsomely for, one would be incorrect. Kilmer’s highest salary to date, $9 million, was for the movie “At First Sight,” which was released in 1999, and one of that year’s lowest grossing movies. For “Batman Forever,” Kilmer received only $7 million.
Kilmer’s rapid decline, as Hollywood heartthrob, admired actor, and box office attraction, began with the 1996 film, “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” That film was rife with problems, most, according to the late director John Frankenheimer, due to the on-set tantrums of the film’s co-star, Val Kilmer.
“The Island of Dr. Moreau,” opened to dreadful reviews, citing both the horrific directing and abominable acting, and performed as should be expected at the box office – poorly.
The next Kilmer bomb was “The Ghost and the Darkness,” which was followed by a mediocre, not dismal film, “The Saint,” (also the movie I first interviewed Kilmer for.)
After that it was mostly nothing but trouble; “At First Sight,” “Joe the King,” “Red Planet,” “The Salton Sea,” “Masked & Anonymous,” “Wonderland,” “The Missing,” “Blind Horizon,” “Spartan,” “Stateside,” “Mindhunters” and “Alexander.”
All is not lost, though.
Kilmer’s ten year downward spiral may be about to change, at least with the critics, if not the mass audiences, for his latest film, the film nourish, black comedy, “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang.” (Opening in select cities October 21st.)
I spoke with Kilmer recently, while on the west coast. He was in a cheerful mood, quite silly, at times, seemingly glad to be back in the good graces of Hollywood and his critics.
In “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang,” forty-five year old Val Kilmer plays Gay Perry. A private eye. A gay private eye.
“It was just too good of a movie for me to pass on,” answers Kilmer, when I ask how and why he chose this movie, as his ‘come back’ film. It’s not like “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang” is a big budget, “Batman” like film. It had a budget of less than $15 million and is directed by a first timer, Shane Black.
“It was the screenplay, the genius of the screenplay, the way not only the film was written but how the role I was asked to play was written, that grabbed me. Gay Perry? Gay Paris. Should I go on? I could,” says Kilmer, who is obviously in a silly mood.
As for preparing for the role of a gay Private Eye, “I went out and bought a bunch of Liza Minnelli records. What do you think I did?” he asks, rhetorically. “The role of Gay was written kind of anti-stereotypical gay. So I play him kind of straight. Not queeny. But, there were plenty of queeny moments going on off camera between me and Robert [Downey Jr.,], if you catch my drift,” laughs Kilmer, who obviously had a lot of fun making “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang.”
“As a matter of fact, Robert had all the work, and I had all the fun making this movie. All I had to do, more or less, was tell Robert to ‘shut up.’ His character is the one being chased for two hours.”
“Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang” tells the story of a petty thief (Robert Downey Jr.) posing as an actor, who is brought to Los Angeles for an unlikely audition and finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation along with his high school dream girl (Michelle Monaghan) and a gay detective (Val Kilmer) who’s been training him for his upcoming role.
“I learned a lot from Marlon Brando,” says Kilmer, in a serious tone. “He always said, ‘The first rule of filmmaking is to not bore the audience.’ If I have accomplished that with my role in this movie,” says Kilmer, “I will have done my job.”