Val Kilmer - The Hollywood bad boy done good

After years of searching, Val Kilmer tells Kaleem Aftab how he finally found his ideal role – as himself

Val Kilmer has been looking for a part to give him a career resurrection, a role that would remind the world of his talent, a part only he could do justice. In The Fourth Dimension, the Top Gun star has finally found such a role: he plays Val Kilmer.

Before half of Hollywood runs to the cardiologist complaining of heart palpitations, worried that the actor would relive the infamous on-set shenanigans that led to his reputation as the most difficult star to work with in the 90s (Charlie Sheen had nothing on him), it should be pointed out that in Harmony Korine's film he plays a fictionalised version of himself. This Kilmer is a former actor, now a self-help guru who preaches to freaks in a roller rink.

It's a sign of how far Kilmer has dimmed from the limelight that the actor admits that an extra on the film asked him, “What's it like to play myself? I said, 'Do you think I ride a BMX, live in Nashville, work as a motivational speaker and live with Harmony's wife as my girlfriend?' The answer is, it's not really me.”

The Fourth Dimension is a collection of three standalone short films about parallel universes produced by Vice Films in collaboration with Grolsch Film Works, a new arm of the beer company. By far the most entertaining short of the triptych is Korine's.

Los Angeles-born Kilmer claims it was an accident that he joined the list of actors, which includes John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich) and, most recently, Al Pacino (Jack and Jill), who lampoon their real-life persona in fictional movies. “I still love saying the premise because it makes me laugh every time. Harmony has written a self-help monologue and the guy is an idiot,” he recounts. “In the script, the character was called Hector, but when we got on set Harmony started calling him Val Kilmer, which I suggested might be bad for me professionally because I say so many horrible things in the film and people might get confused!” But, convinced that it would indeed be funnier, Kilmer jumped full swing into the character.

To some it would seem incongruous that the star of The Doors would be so concerned about his professional reputation. After all, this is the man for whom being difficult has become legend. Most of the stories revolve around his behaviour in the mid 90s. On the set of The Island of Dr. Moreau, original director Richard Stanley was fired after three days of solid fighting with Kilmer and replacement John Frankenheimer had no qualms about saying he would never work with Kilmer again. His maverick behaviour had him cited as “childish and impossible” by easy-going Batman Forever director Joel Schumacher.

Yet, as is often the case, the bad word of mouth comes from movies where directors have a vested interest in blaming others for poor results. Kilmer was also noted for his tremendous dedication, spending a year preparing to play Jim Morrison for Oliver Stone. He was able to work despite his errant reputation because his performances were so good. His turn as tuberculosis-ridden gunslinger Doc Holliday in Tombstone elevated the popular Western.

Kilmer says it was his choice to shy away from blockbuster parts in the last decade. “I never had an ambition, commercial or professional, that was about success,” he insists. “The only way my career makes sense, until about 10 years ago, [is that I made studio films] when I needed money for ranch projects in New Mexico. It takes about a year to make a big movie and I would come back and my daughter would be a different person. I didn't like that feeling. When I found out it was the same with my son, I just didn't want to be away, so I hardly did anything overseas. I did a play in England, but stayed closer to family.”

He has no great love of the press. This comes out in his defence of Francis Ford Coppola's critically derided horror film Twixt, in which Kilmer plays author Hall Baltimore, a bargain-basement Stephen King entangled in a murder case while on a book tour. Kilmer is again at his best delivering a madcap monologue; this one takes place after he drinks himself into oblivion in an attempt to come up with the first line for a new vampire novel. His ex-wife Joanne Whalley has a role and Elle Fanning plays a young ethereal girl who appears from beyond the grave.

“Francis has made some of the greatest films ever, so expectations are higher. But he was very hurt by some of the reviews.” These came after the premier of the film at the Toronto Film Festival. “Francis is really trying to do something, but critics aren't concerned with figuring out what an interesting man is doing at the apex of his career.”

For the past seven years Kilmer has immersed himself in writing one-man play Citizen Twain. The show ran as a workshop in Hollywood in April and is now the basis of a film project about the antagonistic relationship between Mark Twain and Christian Science Church founder Mary Baker Eddy.

The film will be Kilmer's directorial debut and he says that he simply can't get enough information on Twain: “You want to get to a place where you know everything, but the more you know, the more you realise you don't know anything!”

'The Fourth Dimension' and 'Twixt' will be out later in the year

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?