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The Untold Truth Of Val Kilmer

Val Kilmer has had quite the career as an actor, and he certainly isn't finished yet. Kilmer's heyday was certainly in the late '80s and early '90s, with films like "Tombstone," "Heat," "The Doors" and "Top Gun" doing big box office numbers and making Kilmer one of the hottest tickets in Hollywood. Kilmer has shown remarkable versatility over the years, approaching goofy comedies, realistic action and everything in between with the same focus and gusto that he brings to every role.

One of Kilmer's most anticipated "roles" in years comes from the documentary "Val." That's because it isn't a role at all — for 40 years, Kilmer has been shooting home videos that document his life and work. "Val" is the culmination of that footage, granting audiences a rare look into Kilmer's fascinating story. The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival to rave reviews.

Kilmer's success as an actor has always made him an intriguing public figure, and there are plenty of interesting facts out there about the man who played Batman, Iceman and Doc Holliday. This is the untold truth of Val Kilmer.

He was at the center of an infamous film shoot

There have been plenty of infamous film shoots over the years, but few have quite the legendary aura that 1996's "The Island of Dr. Moreau" has gained. Going into shooting, many assumed that Marlon Brando, who starred in the film alongside Kilmer, would be the difficult one. It was one of Brando's last film roles, and he had developed quite the reputation as a difficult actor. Brando did cause some problems, but he did not seem to be the main issue with "Dr. Moreau."

Kilmer was going through a lot at the time. He and his first wife were going through a divorce. He was brought on to replace actor Bruce Willis, and immediately demanded several changes to the shoot and script. This caused a rift with director Richard Stanley, who was fired by the studio after only three days of shooting.

It seems that Kilmer had already developed a bit of a reputation as ... "mercurial," or whatever you want to dub a talented but difficult-to-work-with actor. That doesn't excuse stories like him getting frustrated and burning a cameraman with a cigarette while filming a scene. "Dr. Moreau" became such an infamously terrible shoot that there's even a documentary about it – one that's much more interesting than the disastrous film it spotlights.

He gave unusual advice on getting into acting

Kilmer has rarely been afraid to speak his mind, a fact he's made clear in recent years when hosting AMAs on Reddit. When one fan asked for Kilmer's advice on breaking into the acting business, he gave a rather unusual answer that served as a backhanded compliment for a few other actors.

Kilmer told the fan that acting is "the best job on earth and worth it when you break thru." He then transitioned to talking about a few actors who stuck with it and improved over their careers. He said, "Dustin Hoffman they say couldn't act his way out of a paper bag, and I knew Kevin Spacey since he was like 15 and he was sooooooooooo bad it used to hurt my eyes. But boy did he work hard and deserves all his awards."

At first glance, it appears he's knocking those two actors, but he isn't. Instead, it seems like Kilmer is suggesting that they were terrible at first, but gradually improved as they continued to hone their skills. Kilmer and Spacey went to the same high school, which is why they've known each other so long. It's also important to note that this AMA surfaced before the sexual assault allegations against Spacey came to light.

He's reportedly difficult to work with

It's often par for the course for an actor to be dubbed "difficult," especially when they start commanding huge amounts of money for roles. Acting is a cutthroat business, so it should come as no surprise that actors often have demands that make normies like us scoff. However, it's rare that behind-the-scenes beef spills into public light, especially in the era before social media.

It was not rare for Val Kilmer.

Despite proving both his talent and commercial viability, rumors and stories swirled about the actor's difficult nature and bristling personality for a long time. "The Island of Dr. Moreau" was a special case, but original director Richard Stanley was allegedly fired so quickly because he couldn't get Kilmer to do anything. Replacement director John Frankenheimer also blasted the actor, telling EW: "I don't like Val Kilmer, I don't like his work ethic, and I don't want to be associated with him ever again."

Joel Schumacher, who directed Kilmer in "Batman Forever," called the actor "childish and impossible." Other directors, even those who have worked well with him, have spoken about his temper and refusal to work, especially when the actor's suggestions are ignored.

Kilmer has an odd obsession

Some people are obsessed with certain celebrities. Maybe you've got a friend who met a famous musician once, and they won't stop talking about it. Athletes, actors and social media stars all have to take precautions, as sometimes their fans' interest in them crosses the line. We aren't saying Kilmer has ever crossed that line, but the dude loves Cate Blanchett.

Kilmer has taken to Twitter to speak of his love for Blanchett. And it's not quite love in the same way as you might expect. In 2017, Kilmer posted a selfie and captioned it with "Once I flew all the way to Australia just to talk to Cate Blanchett. Her husband met me first. Or, instead, I guess, to be accurate." He clarified things the next day by saying that Blanchett is "amazing in person," and that she's "so real it's almost unreal."

Kilmer later posted that he has forgotten lines because he's been so starstruck by Cate Blanchett. He wrote that he once did a cameo just to be near her, but he forgot his line because he was "dazzled" by her. What did she do to throw Kilmer so badly off his game? She picked up a shovel.

His strong religious beliefs conflicted with his diagnosis

Val Kilmer has been an adamant follower of the Christian Science religion for his entire life, but he tends to keep his religious beliefs pretty close to the chest. His beliefs in Christian Science have caused some complications later in his life, due to how the religion views modern medicine.

In 2014, Kilmer went to the doctor because he noticed a lump in his throat. The doctor told the actor that he had throat cancer. However, in an interview with the New York Times, Kilmer said that his religion called it a "suggestion of throat cancer," and the best way to cure it was to visit a religious leader and pray it away.

Kilmer's children, who do not follow their father's religion, convinced him to have a medical procedure. His cancer is now gone, but the actor does not think his doctors or children put him on the correct path. He told the New York Times in the same interview that any suffering he still deals with comes from his surgery and chemotherapy, but he attributes prayer as the weapon that drove the cancer away.

Life on a ranch suited Kilmer

We tend to think of major Hollywood stars as living right in the thick of it, but you've probably figured out by now that Kilmer bucks the stereotype of a lot of actors. It should come as no surprise that Kilmer's most famous stomping grounds were a bit out of the ordinary.

For several years, Kilmer lived on a ranch in New Mexico. Not just any ranch, however – it was originally named "Fork Lightning" and passed through a number of Hollywood hands. It was initially owned by lawyer Buddy Fogelson and his wife Greer Garson, a huge superstar in the 1940s. Years later, Fogelson and Garson's son divided and sold the property: Jane Fonda bought one portion, and Kilmer the other.

Kilmer's ranch sat on over 5,000 acres, and featured rental cabins, a bed and breakfast and plenty of other amenities. He listed the property in 2009, keeping only 14 acres for himself. He originally listed it at over $30 million, but eventually reduced the price to just under $20 million in 2011, which is the price it sold for.

He had high standards at an early age

Several directors have talked about Kilmer being difficult to work with, and that's seemingly always been the case for the star. In fact, Kilmer supposedly exited the set of the very first acting gig he ever took on: a commercial for a hamburger chain. He was only 12 years old at the time.

Apparently, Kilmer got in a fight with the director over the quality of the burgers he was hawking. He was told to act more enthusiastic about the food, but he apparently hated it. Kilmer and the director started to get heated, with Kilmer saying he couldn't find the "motivation" to get enthused about the burgers. The Telegraph reported that Kilmer got so exasperated with the director that he walked off the set.

Even as a 12-year-old, it seems Kilmer had a hard time compromising his artistic integrity. It's no wonder that he's had a hard time adapting to some directors that he doesn't see eye to eye with.

Kilmer's turned down major roles

Val Kilmer has been working in Hollywood for well over three decades at this point, so it shouldn't be shocking that he's turned down some major roles. Considering the versatility Kilmer has shown over the years, it's fun to imagine him in some of these films and how it would have altered the landscape of things in Hollywood.

When Val Kilmer's career was first kicking off, he was starting to develop a reputation as a hunky leading man. He was offered the lead role of Johnny in "Dirty Dancing," but he allegedly turned it down because he didn't want to be typecast. The role eventually became one of the most iconic performances of Patrick Swayze's career. Speaking of hunky roles, Kilmer also turned down a part in "Interview with the Vampire." Producers looked at him for the role of Louis, which later went to Brad Pitt.

One other major film that Kilmer (and seemingly half of Hollywood) rejected was "The Matrix." However, he turned down two separate roles in the sci-fi classic. Kilmer was originally offered the main role of Neo. Later, when the Wachowskis were considering gender-swapping Neo and casting Sandra Bullock, Kilmer was offered the role of Morpheus. He turned down both offers.

He did an impressive impression of a legend

Val Kilmer has had some absolutely iconic roles in his career, but his performance as Jim Morrison in "The Doors" is easily one of the best he's ever done. He nails the look, he nails the mannerisms and he nails the voice. That's actually Kilmer himself singing those iconic songs, and he does it so well that even Morrison's band couldn't tell the difference between the two.

Kilmer worked with music producer Paul Rothchild, who coached the actor on how best to perform as Jim Morrison. Rothchild had pretty good authority to do so, as he produced every Doors album except their last one. Kilmer committed himself so much to the role that Rothchild later brought in some members of the actual band to sign off on his performance. He told the Orlando Sentinel that he would play tracks and randomly swap in Morrison or Kilmer's vocals and ask the band to say which was which. The actual band "guessed wrong 80 percent of the time." That's a pretty impressive performance.

Val Kilmer's strange snack and other Tombstone tales

If any of Kilmer's performances could be held up to "The Doors" as the actor's best role ever, his work in "Tombstone" is probably the closest. His Doc Holliday is so effortlessly cool, even in a movie full of great lines and incredible action scenes. "Tombstone" was another Kilmer film that had a tumultuous time behind the scenes, with one director (Kevin Jarre) becoming overwhelmed by the job and being replaced after a month. The film's credited director, George P. Cosmatos, came in on very little prep time to run things. Kilmer told the Hollywood Reporter that Kurt Russell, who starred as Wyatt Earp, essentially directed the film, with Cosmatos serving more as a go-between for the studio and the set.

There's no evidence that Kilmer did anything directly to drive away the first director of "Tombstone," but one strange anecdote stands out. In a book about Kilmer's filmography, original director Kevin Jarre recalls: "We were deep in conversation about Doc Holliday and this stand-in brought over a very colorful locust and said, 'Look what I found!' I looked up and said 'Hey, that's pretty good,' and Val, without a word, grabbed the locust and ate it. And it was big." 

He endured a terrible family tragedy

Val Kilmer has seen his share of tough times over the years, but few of the difficult events in his life could possibly compare to what he went through when he was 17 years old. He should have been riding high, as he was headed to the extremely prestigious Juilliard School to join their drama program.

The same year he joined Juilliard, Kilmer's younger brother, Wesley, died in a tragic accident. Wesley suffered from epilepsy, and he had a seizure in the family's Jacuzzi and drowned. He was only 15 years old.

Kilmer has reflected a few times on the death of his brother. He says that he tapped into this personal tragedy to better portray his character in the 2002 film "The Salton Sea," who is also coping with a sudden death in the family. He's also spoken out about his brother's intelligence and talent, saying that Wesley was a genius and that he "could have been the next Steven Spielberg or George Lucas had he been alive." This terrible tragedy must still be difficult for the actor to cope with, and our hearts go out to him.

Kilmer took out a one man show

Val Kilmer has played some iconic historical figures, breathing life into Doc Holliday, Jim Morrison and several others. However, one of his most recent is also one of his most fascinating, and it's a role he still embodies from time to time: Mark Twain.

Kilmer starred in a one-man show that toured the country called "Citizen Twain," where he entertained audiences as the comedic essay writer. A filmed version of the stage show, called "Cinema Twain," was also released in 2019. Yet another Twain film is reportedly in the works starring Kilmer as the author, this one entitled "Mark Twain and Mary Baker Eddy." So what gives?

That upcoming film title actually helps explain Kilmer's fascination with Twain. Mary Baker Eddy was the founder of the Christian Science religion, which Kilmer is an adamant follower of. His performances as Mark Twain deal frequently with the philosophical arguments that Twain and Eddy would have in real life. Sorry to break your heart, but it's not because Kilmer is just really into "Tom Sawyer" or something like that.

A young Val Kilmer showed his talent early

There tends to be a misconception about actors that they just sort of stumble into a successful role and that creates success for them the rest of their lives. This might occur on a rare occasion, but that is not the case at all with Val Kilmer. From an extremely early age, he was pegged as an up-and-comer and future star.

The Juilliard School is one of the most prestigious artistic schools in the world, recruiting and attracting musicians, dancers and actors from across the globe. Kilmer himself attended The Juilliard School, and he actually broke a record when he joined their drama department: he was the youngest student in the school's history to be accepted into the program.

Kilmer has since lost his record to several other students, but it should not be surprising to anyone that the actor went on to find success both on stage and screen.