Val Kilmer

Val Kilmer in Déjà Vu

Val Kilmer in “Déjà Vu”

At the time, Val Kilmer was the youngest student accepted into the prestigious Julliard School to study drama in New York when he was 17. It was clear he had talent, but it was not yet known how legendary his acting idiosyncrasies would become on movie sets. Like his high school classmate Kevin Spacey, Val would thrive in theatre but rely on movies to pay the bills. He would play Ice, Madmartigan, Elvis, Jim Morrison, Doc Holliday, Batman, The Saint, and King Philip of Macedon – all gods in their own right. Val Kilmer would like to think he too is a member of that pantheon.

Growing up in southern California’s San Fernando Valley, he was the second of three sons. After his studies at Julliard, Val returned to the West Coast. Never a fan of California, he settled in New Mexico in 1983 where he’s lived ever since. The following year he landed his first movie role in “Top Secret!” While reluctant to participate in “Top Gun” two years later, Val was forced to do so under contractual obligations. On Ron Howard’s “Willow” in 1988, Val met his eventual wife Joanne Whalley with whom he had two children. They divorced in 1996. It wasn’t until as Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone’s “The Doors,” however, when Val Kilmer became truly noticed. And so it was throughout the 90s that Val took his game to new heights, particularly as Doc Holliday in “Tombstone” in 1993. Its success and recognition prompted Warner Brothers to turn the Batman franchise over to not only director Joel Schumacher, but also to the first blonde Batman ever – and the result was “Batman Forever” in 1995. That same year, Val is part of the superlative cast in Michael Mann’s “Heat” alongside Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. On “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” Val incensed director John Frankenheimer so much he vowed never to work with Kilmer again.

In the 2000s, Val took more offbeat roles and avoided the kind of blockbusters he was part of the decade before. Among these is a part in the Bob Dylan fiasco “Masked & Anonymous,” a small role for friend Ron Howard in “The Missing,” and reuniting with Stone in “Alexander.” He even performed Moses on the stage, guest starred on the TV series “Numb3rs,” and worked alongside Robert Downey, Jr. in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” He continues to both frustrate and fascinate, is a consummate preparer for any role given him, and manages to remain in the shadows. Which is where he probably wants to be.

ALSO: See how Val’s Doc Holliday fared in our Badass Bracket!

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Val on the Screen

Val’s career starts as Nick Rivers in “Top Secret!” in 1984. He’s Eric in the after-school special “One Too Many,” Chris Knight in “Real Genius,” Ice in “Top Gun,” Madmartigan in “Willow,” and William Bonney in “Billy the Kid,” a 1989 TV movie. His breakout role is as Jim Morrison in “The Doors,” followed by a turn in “Thunderheart,” Elvis in “True Romance,” Doc Holliday in “Tombstone,” Batman/Bruce Wayne in “Batman Forever,” and one of De Niro’s men in “Heat.” He’s Simon Templar in “The Saint,” voices Moses and God in “The Prince of Egypt,” Virgil in “At First Sight,” and closes the 90s with “Joe the King.” He’s in the Mars movie “Red Planet,” the drug movie “The Salton Sea,” as John Holmes in “Wonderland,” Scott in “Spartan,” and also appears in “Mindhunters” and “Alexander.” He more recently teamed with Denzel Washington in 2006 for “Déjà Vu.”

Val Says

On survival:
“Be mean. Nothing but mean. And all I’m doing 20 years and 50 movies later is just still trying to live the life.”

On reporting:
“If you look up the definition of news in the dictionary, it isn’t what you watch on TV.”

On Los Angeles:
“Because of its possibilities, L.A.’s the most sorrowful city in the world.”