"Often I have been accused of being difficult, when in fact it's a difficult character that I'm playing. (Hollywood) confuses the two. I work hard. I don't know anybody who's good at their job who doesn't get into trouble." Val Kilmer
Considered by some as one of Hollywood's most difficult leading men (though some commend him as a very committed, hard-working actor who is easy to get along with), Val Kilmer tasted his first real taste of success while portraying musician Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone’s The Doors (1991). The actor, who debuted as the Elvis-like teen idol Nick Rivers in Top Secret (1984), gathered more recognition with his role as real-life legendary gunslinger Doc Holliday in Tombstone (1993), Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman Forever (1995), master of disguises Simon Templar in The Saint (1997) and porn star John Holmes in Wonderland (2003). Other films include Top Gun (1986), Willow (1988), Kill Me Again (1989), Heat (1995), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), At First Sight (1999), Pollock (2000), The Salton Sea (2002), Spartan (2004), Mindhunters (2004), Alexander (2004) and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005). He will soon star in the upcoming films: The Ten Commandments, 10th & Wolf, Delgo, Played, Summer Love, Moscow Zero, Coin Locker Babies, Alpha Numeric, and Agent One-Half.
6’ tall, hazel-eyed, lush-lipped, handsome, blond Val Kilmer was one of Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" (October 1997) and People magazine's “10 Worst Dressed” (September 20, 1999). The part Cherokee Indian actor has been linked to several screen beauties, including Drew Barrymore (b. February 22, 1975; dated 1995), Ellen Barkin (b. April 16, 1954; dated 1984), Cher (also singer; b. May 20, 1946; dated briefly in 1980s), Mare Winningham (had a three-year relationship during high school), Daryl Hannah and Michelle Pfeiffer (Kilmer wrote poetry for her, remembering her in his book of poetry, My Eden After Burns). The ex-husband of British actress Joanne Whalley also once dated supermodel Cindy Crawford (b. February 20, 1966; dated 1996) and Jaycee Gossett (businesswoman).
New Year's Eve
Childhood and Family:
"It made me consider time differently, because my year ends when the year ends. I blame my birth date for being hung up about time." Val Kilmer (on his New Year's Eve birthday)
On December 31, 1959, Val Edward Kilmer was born in Los Angeles, California, to parents Eugene Kilmer (aerospace equipment distributor, real-estate developer; divorced in 1968; died in 1993) and Gladys Kilmer. Of Swedish, German, Mongolian, Scottish, Irish, Sephardic Jewish and Cherokee ancestry, Val Kilmer has two brothers: Wesley Kilmer (born in 1962; drowned during an epileptic fit in the family swimming pool when he was 15) and Mark Kilmer (mental health worker; estranged from Kilmer since their father's funeral). His cousin is poet Joyce Kilmer.
Val Kilmer grew up in the San Fernando Valley and on a ranch once owned by Roy Rogers in Chatsworth, California. He attended Chatsworth High School in California with Kevin Spacey and Mare Winningham and graduated in 1977. At age 17, he studied Drama at The Juilliard School in New York, New York, where he became the youngest student accepted to the drama division. Val Kilmer also signed up with the Hollywood Professional School in Hollywood, California.
While filming the 1988 fantasy Willow, Kilmer met British actress Joanne Whalley (born on August 25, 1964; also former lead singer of Cindy & the Saffrons). They married in February of 1988 and have two kids: daughter Mercedes (born on October 29, 1991, in Santa Fe, New Mexico) and son Jack (born in June 1995). Shortly after the birth of their second child, the couple announced their separation and filed for divorce on July 21, 1995. Val Kilmer, who enjoys scuba diving and traveling, has lived in New Mexico since 1983.
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
"I was going to movies and watching TV, going to the theater a little bit. It was, like, 'Wow, you could make a living doing this? Great! What could be better?' There isn't anything I could choose better." Val Kilmer (on why he initially chose acting as a career)
The youngest student at the prestigious Julliard School, Val Kilmer co-wrote and played the lead role in the Julliard School play "How It All Began," which eventually brought on an off-Broadway production at Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival (NYSF). He followed it up with roles in "Henry IV, Part I" (NYSF) and "As You Like It" (at Minneapolis' Tyrone Guthrie Theatre) before he made his debut performance on Broadway in a production of "The Slab Boys" (1983), alongside Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon.
"It's the most fulfilling thing I can do and get paid for." Val Kilmer (on theatre)
Kilmer was soon seen on film and costarred with Michelle Pfeiffer on the ABC short, after-school special One Too Many (1983). He debuted on the silver screen with a starring role as Nick Rivers, a handsome American 50s-style rock-and-roll star touring Germany, in producer-writer-director Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker's parody of Elvis films and WWII spy movies, Top Secret (1984), in which he also sang "Straighten Out the Rug." After starring as science club genius Chris Knight in Martha Coolidge's comedy Real Genius (1985), Kilmer had a breakout hit with Tony Scott's Top Gun (1986), in which he played the supporting role of brash F-14 pilot Lt. Tom 'Iceman' Kazanski, opposite Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis. On TV, Kilmer acted in The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1986) and The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains (1987, as cultural hero Robert Elliot Burns). He also returned to stage to play “Hamlet” at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in 1988.
"Parts. Little people are very funny. They already know that life is weird. So that part was fun. My co-star, I ended up marrying - that was fun. We went to New Zealand and we went to Wales. All the traveling was fun but wearing the pink dress wasn't fun." Val Kilmer (on filming Willow, 1988)
In 1988, Kilmer teamed with future wife Joanna Whalley in Ron Howard's fantasy adventure film based on a story written by George Lucas, Willow (also with Warwick Davis), playing the lead role of great swordsman Madmartigan. The next year, Kilmer became a second-class private investigator and was hired by then-wife Joanne Whalley’s character in John Dahl's thriller drama Kill Me Again (also with Michael Madsen), before he played the title role in the TNT TV-movie written by Gore Vidal, Billy the Kid. He also gained wide attention when director Oliver Stone handed him the role of Jim Morrison, the lead singer and composer of the famous and influential 1960's rock band The Doors (1991), in the musical biopic with the same name.
"I think Oliver's proud of what he did. I would have made a different movie in certain aspects, but I certainly tried to give him what he wanted. I was happy with the film, particularly the singing, because that was the real risk. I think of THE DOORS as the first job I had that was close to what I enjoy about acting. It was very fulfilling." Val Kilmer
More roles rolled in. Kilmer portrayed an FBI man with Sioux background in Michael Apted's Thunderheart (1992) and Christian Slater's Elvis hallucination in Tony Scott's mob film written by Quentin Tarantino, True Romance (1993, Kilmer also sang "Heartbreak Hotel"). After costarring with Kim Basinger in Russell Mulcahy's adaptation of Desmond Lowden's novel, The Real McCoy (1993), Kilmer costarred as Doc Holliday, the real-life legendary gunslinger and old friend of Kurt Russell's Wyatt Earp, in George P. Cosmatos' cowboy movie Tombstone (1993) and played the lead in John Ford's "Tis' Pity She's a Whore" at the Public Theater in New York City. He also costarred with Craig Sheffer in Jean-Jacques Annaud's 40-minute true-life adventure Wings of Courage, the first narrative feature filmed in IMAX 3D.
"I liked being Doc Holliday. It's fun to be insightful and aristocratic, to stand up for your friend and make sacrifices for him. It was fun to be arrogant like he was and have the goods to back it up. He was a very noble character. Although, let's not forget, he did kill a lot of people." Val Kilmer
1995 saw Kilmer replace Michael Keaton as Batman/ Bruce Wayne in Batman Forever, helmed by Joel Schumacher. In this third installment of the Batman movies, Kilmer (thought by many to have been the best actor to portray Batman to date) shared the screen with Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman and Chris O'Donnell. On accepting the role of Batman, Kilmer recalled, "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.'"
Writer-director Michael Mann then gave Kilmer the supporting role of dangerous criminal Chris Shiherlis in his epic tale of crime and obsession, Heat (1995, starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro) and filmmakers John Frankenheimer and Michael Z. Hanan later handed him the role of Montgomery, the title character’s (played by Marlon Brando) assistant, in the remake of the 1977 film adopted from H.G. Wells' novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996, Kilmer unfortunately drove director John Frankenheimer to distraction during the filming). Kilmer then played a bridge engineer, who teamed with Michael Douglas’ character to kill two man-eating lions in Africa, in Stephen Hopkins' true-story based film The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) before he portrayed Simon Templar, a rich and sophisticated criminal who is also a master of disguise, in Phillip Noyce's feature version The Saint (1997). He provided his voice for Moses/God in an animated version of the life of Moses as described in the Old Testament's Book of Exodus, The Prince of Egypt (1998), costarred with Mira Sorvino, playing blind, charismatic masseur Virgil Adamson, in Irwin Winkler's romantic drama At First Sight (1999) and played the title role's (played by Peter Anthony Tambakis and Noah Fleiss) abusive drunk father in actor Frank Whaley's feature directorial debut Joe the King (1999).
In the new century, Kilmer played the supporting role of Willem DeKooning in actor-director Ed Harris' award-winning biographical drama Pollock and starred as Robby Gallagher in Antony Hoffman's astronaut film Red Planet. In 2002, Kilmer played the lead role of Danny Parker/Tom Van Allen, a man in search of redemption, in D.J. Caruso's edgy, independent thriller The Salton Sea and costarred with Christian Slater again, playing corrupt FBI Agent Mark C. Cornell, in Predrag Antonijevic's all-star cast, fast-paced adventure film Run for the Money (a.k.a. Hard Cash).
After appearing in Larry Charles' musical comedy Masked and Anonymous (starring Bob Dylan), Kilmer portrayed legendary porn star John Holmes in James Cox's biopic Wonderland (both in 2003). Being asked about his role in the film, Kilmer described, "He was basically a nerd, and he really had wonderful qualities. I've never really played a hustler before, but he was absolutely a world-class hustler. A liar lies and a thief steals from you, but a hustler gives you something that you don't mind parting with your money for. You're entertained by the meal or the sex or the impression that something is going to happen. You're given a sense of well-being, and he was good at it."
Also in 2003, Kilmer could be seen in Ron Howard's take on Thomas Eidson's novel, the period drama thriller The Missing (starring Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett) and starred as Frank Kavanaugh, a man suffering from amnesia, in Michael Haussman's thriller Blind Horizon. Playwright-director David Mamet offered Kilmer the role of secret agent Scott, who is assigned to rescue the kidnapped daughter of the president, in his political thriller Spartan (with Derek Luke, William H. Macy and Kristen Bell), before Kilmer appeared in writer-director Reverge Anselmo's romantic drama Stateside (starring Rachael Leigh Cook and Jonathan Tucker, both in 2004). That’s same year, Kilmer became one of trainees in the FBI's psychological profiling program in Renny Harlin's psychological thriller Mindhunters (with LL Cool J., Christian Slater, Jonny Lee Miller and Kathryn Morris) and portrayed King Philip, the father of Alexander the Great (played by Colin Farrell), in Oliver Stone's biopic of one of history's most luminous and influential leaders, Alexander (also with Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie). More recently, in 2005, Kilmer costarred with Robert Downey Jr., playing private detective Gay Perry, in Shane Black's Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (also with Michelle Monaghan), which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. He also went back to the stage, performing in a production of David Mamet's "The Postman Always Rings Twice" in London in July of 2005.
A string of film projects are waiting for Kilmer. He will star in Robert Iscove's musical The Ten Commandments, Robert Moresco's crime drama 10th & Wolf (with James Marsden, Giovanni Ribisi and Brad Renfro), Marc F. Adler and Jason Maurer's animated film Delgo (will lend his voice to character Bogardus) and Sean Stanek's crime movie Played (alongside Mick Rossi). He will also play lead roles in writer-director Piotr Uklanski's Western movie Summer Love (with Boguslaw Linda and Karel Rodin), María Lidón's psychological thriller Moscow Zero (will play the head of a group of Moscovites who live in the city's underground; with Vincent Gallo and Alicia Silverstone), Michele Civetta's adventure drama Coin Locker Babies, writer-director Fiona MacKenzie's Alpha Numeric (with Dennis Hopper, Christopher Lambert and Winona Ryder) and Brian Bero's comedy Agent One-Half (alongside Warwick Davis and Arturo Gil).
"The only time it's ever like work is when you don't like what you've done." Val Kilmer
Prism Awards: Performance in a Theatrical Feature Film, The Salton Sea, 2003
Cinequest San Jose Film Festival: Maverick Tribute Award, 2003