A truly skillful and passionate actor who certainly endured his fair share of scrutiny for being “difficult to work with”–Val Kilmer’s career is certainly idiosyncratic that is dispersed with many highlights (Heat, Tombstone, Willow, The Doors) and disappointments (Batman Forever, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Saint), and he had many fallouts with many directors who didn’t like his methods. The documentary accounts how Val had his peak in the 80s and 90s, who even had some Indie film hits in the 2000s with such films as The Salton Sea, Wonderland, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Spartan, and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Sadly, his acting career was dissolved once he was diagnosed with throat cancer which led to him losing his voice.
Wherever one stands on the iconic actor, the documentary Val will give you many insights and fresh perspectives to why Val Kilmer had such uphill battles with filmmakers and studios throughout his career. While inconclusive to Val Kilmer’s own point-of-view, Val directed by Ting Poo and Poo Scott is a very honest film about acting and Hollywood, at least in Kilmer’s own perspective and experiences in which Kilmer’s son Jack, narrates his own writings, over so much home video footage (Kilmer has always had a video camera on him), interviews, clips, late night show interviews, and this helps simplifies Kilmer’s passion for acting and performances.
Through his own footage, Kilmer chronicles his own life and passage of time. Going way back with home videos of Kilmer staging short film parodies to his favorite films with his brothers (Including his younger brother, Wesley, who died from a seizure as a teenager), to his acceptance and experiences at Julliard, and there is even early footage of Kilmer in a Broadway play that co-stars a very young Kevin Bacon and Sean Penn). There are also auditions in which Kilmer used to make audition tapes specifically for directors he really wanted to work with like Stanley Kubrick–which eventually led to him auditioning as Jim Morrison once he heard Oliver Stone was in-development for The Doors. The documentary shows Kilmer’s last creative crusade which was his own screenplay about Mark Twain, which led to him doing a one-man stage show where he plays Twain as he pitches the movie.
While the documentary never gets involved with the true fallout between him and his ex-wife Joanne Whalley, it was a painful divorce. It is clear that he is closer to his son Jack since his battle with cancer. The documentary shows Kilmer almost mystical, more as a traveler of sort, who was an actor that wanted to make his characters and roles the very best that they could be.
This led to John Frankenheimer taking over the production, and also tension arose between Frankenheimer and Marlon Brando, in which Kilmer noticed Frankenheimer wasn’t allowing Brando creative freedom to one of his icons. Already in bad spirits after being late on set for two days as he was served with divorce papers while in production for The Island of Dr. Moreau, we see the footage between Frankenhemier and Kilmer in which Frankenheimer orders him to turn off the camera.