Date of Birth: December 31, 1959
Place of Birth: Los Angeles, Calif, USA
Sign: Sun in Capricorn, Moon in Aquarius
Relations: Ex-wife: Joanne Whalley-Kilmer; kids: Mercedes, Jack
VAL KILMER WAS born in California on New Year's Eve, 1959. His mother was a homemaker, his father, who died last year, was an aircraft-parts distributor who decided to become a real-estate developer. Some of his formative years were spent living in a house once occupied by Roy Rogers.
As early as elementary school, Kilmer knew that drama was in his future. As befits a future actor, his childhood was filled with oddball characters, most notably his grandfather, who had a metal plate in his head, lived outdoors and would "go crazy" in cold weather. The Kilmers had a male nanny, a young Vietnam veteran, who introduced Val to the music of The Doors, a seemingly tiny piece of trivia which would later take on major significance in Kilmer's career. On a scarier note, the Manson family lived nearby, and one of its members would regularly take young Val horseback riding in the mountains.
He attended high school in Chatworth, California, where he spent three years dating a future actress (although, so far, not a future co-star), Mare Winningham.
At seventeen, Kilmer became the youngest student ever to be admitted to the drama division of the Julliard School in New York. Shortly after leaving Julliard, Kilmer found himself on Broadway in Slab Boys, co-starring with then-unknowns Kevin Bacon and Sean Penn. His big-screen break came in 1984's parody Top Secret, in which he played a self-obsessed rock star. True to his Method roots, Kilmer did his own singing.
1986 found Kilmer playing second-banana to a newcomer named Tom Cruise in Top Gun. Although Kilmer gave a laudable performance, it was Cruise who was the breakout star from that hit.
The following year, Kilmer landed the male lead in Ron Howard's offbeat fantasy Willow and immediately fell in love with his co-star, Joanne Whalley. Although she declined his advances at first, Kilmer eventually won out - for a while, at least - and the two were married in 1989. They moved into an adobe house in New Mexico, had two children (Mercedes and Jack), and lived happily ever after... until their divorce in 1996.
It was Kilmer's disturbingly accurate portrayal of Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone’s The Doors that brought him worldwide acclaim. The actor spent six months lobbying Stone for an audition; to prepare for the reading, Kilmer grew out his hair, lost weight and memorized every song Morrison ever wrote. One the actor landed the role, he sent Stone a tape of himself singing Doors songs, to convince the director he could handle his own singing. Legend has it that even members of the Doors claimed they couldn't tell Kilmer from Morrison. Although the film was a box-office bomb, Kilmer had established himself as a premier actor.
Kilmer kept a mid-level profile through numerous mid-level films, always garnering praise for his performances, but never really becoming a household name until he inherited the Bat-cape from Michael Keaton. As the lead in a hugely successful film franchise, Kilmer became an "overnight" sensation -- and he managed to keep his dramatic integrity, which is arguably the most difficult aspect of playing Bruce Wayne.
Directors either love or hate Kilmer. His notorious temper has landed him in hot water more than once, and numerous directors have either quit or been fired in the first week of a Kilmer film. Joel Schumacher, who directed him in Batman, wound up exchanging fisticuffs with the hot-blooded Kilmer. On another occasion, the actor was so frustrated that he fired a gun at a prop car. Many directors have said they'll never work with him; others say he's fine, as long as they treat him like a serious actor. Kilmer himself says he only has problems with "stupid people."
Kilmer is now a bona-fide A-list actor, having playing multiple roles in The Saint and taking on an enormous challenge of a blind man whose sight is restored in At First Sight. As long as he doesn't anger every director in Hollywood, this is an actor who will be around for a long, long time.
1999 At First Sight
1999 Joe the King
1998 The Prince of Egypt
1997 The Saint
1996 The Ghost and the Darkness
1996 The Island of Dr. Moreau
1996 Dead Girl
1995 Batman Forever
1995 Wings of Courage
1993 The Real McCoy
1993 True Romance
1991 The Doors
1989 Billy the Kid
1989 Kill Me Again
1987 The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains
1986 Top Gun
1986 The Murders in the Rue Morgue
1985 Real Genius
1984 Top Secret!
1983 One Too Many
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)