Probably one of the most underrated actors of his generation. In my opinion, he's a true actor's actor. One that has surely overshadowed the horrifying new "movie stars" of our current generation. An actor, who unfortunately has been primarily judged for his current resume which has sadly fallen into 'straight to DVD' films with D-list actors, instead of the work he so dominated in the 90s and early 2000's. I mean, come on. Tombstone, Wonderland, Heat, Joe the King, THE DOORS!!! To this day, I still think he's Jim Morrisson.
Now I have had the opportunity to see several of Kilmer's straight to DVD films including The Chaos Experiment, Streets of Blood and the somewhat recent Felon with Stephen Dorff. And then the occassional theatrically released flop. Which include MacGruber (which I am sure Kilmer was embarrassed to be in) and the pointless disgrace to the original, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans. God, that's a long title. And the films may not be so great, but Kilmer's work is always incredible. An unpredictable performer who you can't help but lock your eyes on him for the entire duration he's on screen.
I have come to the theory that Val Kilmer is just too good for Hollywood standards and they really do not know what to do with him. A character actor in a leading man's body. Hey, I don't know what his personal life is. Maybe he burned too many bridges in Holly-weird, maybe he prefers to do low level films where the spotlight and paparazzi are not hounding him 24/7. Which is surely understandable. I mean, I feel like an actor as great as Kilmer could do an even better job in a smaller independent film that the press isn't all over. It's just him and his work.
Born in 1959 in the crazy town of Los Angeles, California, Kilmer started slowly exploding in the 1980's. With such cheese fests as Real Genius, and the ultra box office blockbuster (but really just a flick about guys struggling with their homosexuality) Top Gun.
But he truly came into his own with one of Ron Howard's few good films as a director and that is the wonderful, Willow, from 1988. From then on, we knew Val Kilmer was a real actor to watch and not just a pretty face to look at until the next flavor of the month arrives (eh hemm, Zac Efron, eh emm).
Kilmer exploded in the 1990's. Headlining classics such as Tombstone playing the drunk as always Doc Holliday. Which is truly one of his finest performances. The third installment in the Batman franchise, Batman Forever, in 1995, which I think was fantastic, even though many people did not enjoy it. I thought Kilmer was an incredible Bruce Wayne/Batman, which is very difficult to tackle both. Either your a good Bruce Wayne. Or your a good Batman. He had the charm and darkness of Bruce Wayne, but also the intensity and rage for Batman. And then of course, The Doors... need I say more?
Kilmer then took on starring roles in some not so successful pictures such as the unfortunate Island of Dr. Moreau alongside Brando (whose own career was on its way downtown), The Saint, and At First Sight. But in between these films, he was cameoing in some great cult classics and doing an impeccable job as a chameleon actor. Playing Elvis Presley, aka's Christian Slater's conscious in the Tony Scott/QT crime film, True Romance, and of course, as Noah Fleiss' drunken, abusive father in Frank Whaley's 1999 directorial debut, Joe the King. There is a scene towards the end of the picture when Kilmer tries to connect with his son and show his true colors as a real loving father. Kilmer's in the driver's seat and Fleiss in the backseat. The moment that is shared is so incredible to watch, you can just see how unbelievable of an actor this man is and completely forget about his current resume. All that means nothing when you watch this particular scene in Joe the King. As Kilmer says to his son, "There are people who are good, Joey. Have a family... job. Then there are people like me. Don't get caught on the wrong side of that equation."
When the new milennium began, Kilmer was still on top starring in some very cool, interesting indy films such as The Salton Sea, Masked and Anonymous, The Missing and David Mamet's Spartan. But it was in 2003, when he slipped into a role that was by far his most daring and intense performance of the new decade. Playing the legendary porn star John Holmes in James Cox' Wonderland. A true story centering on Holmes who was caught in the crossfire between two sides of a graphic bloodbath.
But it was after Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in 2005, which unfortunately did not do so well as he and Robert Downey, Jr. (who thought this film was going to be his ticket back into super stardom) had hoped, that Val started dipping into more C and D list indy pictures. And he never really regained that spark in his pictures that he once lit himself. He began to guest star on multiple TV series including Numb3rs and Commanche Moon and random lame films.
I, myself, would love to see Kilmer explode back onto the big screen and SHOW people what acting is really about, but maybe he is just fine with what he's doing. And if he's fine, I'm fine. People can say whatever they want about Val Kilmer's career. Calling it a joke. Calling him a sell out. Calling him a Hollywood ghost. Put him in the same rank as other great actors like Tom Sizemore, James Russo, and Michael Madsen. But when the epic concert sequence at the end of The Doors happens, they just have to shut up and watch.
Chris von Hoffmann
"A good film script should be able to do completely without dialogue."
- David Mamet