In 1996 Val Kilmer was a Hollywood star. Ten years after “Top Gun” and right after “Heat”, where he starred alongside Al Pacino and Robert de Niro, he landed on the set of “Doctor Moreau’s Island”. At his side would be Marlon Brando, film legend and known for his complicated nature. Kilmer, for his part, wasn’t considered the friendliest actor in town.
Two years earlier, Kilmer took on the role of Batman in “Batman Forever” from Joel Schumacher. It would be the first and last time he would play the role. After the production premiere, he asked for the sequel to be postponed. The studio refused and replaced him with George Clooney. Schumacher raved about the decision.
In an article for “Entertainment Weekly” entitled “Psycho Kilmer”, the director, who died in 2020, pounced on the actor and his behavior during the shoot. “He was irrational, he freaked out with my assistant, with the cameraman, with the cloakroom people. It was rude and unreasonable. It was childish, impossible to take. I had to tell him that I wouldn’t tolerate this behavior for another second. Then he didn’t speak to me for two weeks, it was a pleasure. “
The reputation of the hooligan spread throughout Hollywood and the first few days of Doctor Moreau’s Island recording proved it. Richard Stanley, the film’s director, was fired after three days for allegedly unable to control Kilmer’s temper. John Frankenheimer was the man who followed – and he ran into the same problems.
The conversations between Kilmer and Frankenheimer are one of the highlights of “Val”, the new documentary about the actor’s life that serves as a look back at a remarkable career that could have been much bigger and better. Today, Kilmer is voiceless due to throat cancer, relying on thousands of hours of home recordings made since he was a teenager.
Obsessed with cameras, Kilmer always carried a small camera with him and recorded everything. Even the famous discussions on set. One of them, shown in full in the documentary, shows exactly the clash between the actor and Frankenheimer.
“The film was doomed from the start,” reveals the documentary with the voice of Jack Kilmer, the son who made up for his father’s voicelessness caused by the illness. Kilmer tries to apologize but is unable to erase the stories revealed at the time.
Although he had the opportunity to interact with his idol, he did not want to be left behind and made it several times not to enter the studio until Brando was the first to arrive.
The tense atmosphere became complicated when Kilmer received his wife’s divorce papers during filming. Always with the camera in hand, the actor irritated everything and everyone. He provoked arguments, read sentences to other actors, and reportedly burned a cameraman with a cigarette.
One of the discussions revealed in “Val” shows Frankenheimer’s impatience with the actor. “Let’s start rehearsing, can you turn that off?” Asks the director. Kilmer refuses, stating that he is too emotional after the director threatened to abandon the project.
“If this continues, I don’t know how I can work under these conditions. You’re supposed to be doing creative work and none of it can make us create a good scene. “
“I don’t like Val Kilmer. I don’t like his work ethic and never want to be associated with him again, ”Frankenheimer later admitted.
Kilmer was a pure talent. As the youngest to be accepted at the renowned Juilliard Drama School, he almost always shone in unconventional roles.
He himself is of the opinion that he has a talent for more and better roles than the ones he was given. Troubled fame was no reason in his favor. He has few memories of the iconic role as Batman – he still appears in the documentary today and signs autographs on merchandise items from the saga.
“Any youthful excitement you’ve had [sobre o papel] were overwhelmed by the reality of using the batsuit. Yes, all kids want to be Batman, but they want to be and not necessarily pretend they’re in a movie. The fact – “restrictive and heavy” – didn’t even allow him to hear the other actors. “I couldn’t hear anything and after a while people stopped talking to me.”
The documentary ignores nearly a decade of films, and Kilmer is even bothered by some of his works. The ambition has always been great and the fact that despite his difficult fame he has worked with big names like Terrence Malick or Francis Ford Coppola doesn’t seem to matter. It also seems to be taking on its more problematic side.
It was precisely his unhealthy obsession and fascination with cameras that prompted him to do his own audition for “Full Metal Jacket” by Stanley Kubrick and “Goodfellas” by Martin Scorsese.
When he heard that Kubrick was preparing a new film, he took his camera and recorded himself, gun in hand, firing and reciting sentences in four different pronunciations. He even traveled to London to deliver the video directly to the director, who wasn’t convinced. The same thing happened with Scorsese.
The obsession and pushy and unusual method of applying for a role paid off with Oliver Stone – and opened the door to arguably the greatest and best performance of his career as the lead singer of The Doors. For a year he wore leather pants similar to those of Jim Morrison, memorized all the lyrics of his songs and recorded himself performing, a video that he later sent directly to the director. Stein never had any doubts. Nor does Kilmer.
“Don’t play the role of Jim [Morrison] it was never an option, ”he admits in the documentation, which has been available on Amazon Prime Video since August 6th.