Val Kilmer has long been one of Hollywood’s most iconoclastic actors. Over the course of several decades, he’s seemed to crave stardom and despise it, love the media and hate it, cherish his fans and reject them. He’s delivered great performances in some movies (Real Genius, Top Gun, Tombstone, True Romance, Heat), good performance in others (Batman Forever, The Doors), and looked as if he were just collecting a paycheck and/or battling his directors in others (The Island of Dr. Moreau, and, in the past 15 years, a slew of direct-to-video titles). He’s developed lifelong friendships and professional partnerships, and alienated co-stars, producers, and directors. He got sick with cancer, but initially denied it. Really, Kilmer is an enigma. And that brings us to VAL, a documentary that promises to deliver glimpses into Kilmer’s mind, heart, and soul.
What the hell is VAL?
VAL is directed by Leo Scott and Ting Poo. Kilmer, who is one of the producers, spent years making home movies with his brothers (including his late sibling, Wesley, who died as a teenager in a drowning accident), shooting footage on 16mm film. Later, as an actor, his video camera became a ubiquitous presence. He used it to document his time on movie sets and in the presence of his fellow movie and theater stars (Tom Cruise, Kevin Bacon, Sean Penn, etc.), and to shoot audition tapes. Kilmer kept all those reels and videotapes, amassing thousands of hours of it, much of which has been digitized and distilled down to the bits seen in VAL. Scott and Poo also recorded recent conversations with Kilmer in an effort to put everything in context and bring audiences up to date (he toured with a one-man Mark Twain show, has a passion for painting and collage-making, and earns money/connects with fans at autograph shows, doing so with understandably mixed feelings). It should be pointed out that Kilmer endured a tracheotomy in 2014 and now speaks with great difficulty (using a voice box), so his son, Jack Kilmer, reads comments written by his father (for his autobiography, I’m Your Huckleberry). Sample comment: “I have behaved poorly. I have behaved bravely. Bizarrely to some. I see myself as a sensitive, intelligent human being, but with the soul of a clown.”
When does Val come out? How can you watch it?
The film just screened at the Cannes Film Festival, where it’s received mostly favorable reviews. Amazon Studios will release Val in theaters on July 23, and it will begin streaming on August 6 on Amazon Prime Video.
What has Kilmer said about it?
Kilmer has been touting VAL for the past several months via Twitter, and his kids, Jack and Mercedes, attended the photocall at Cannes. He tweeted twice about it on July 6. In one tweet, he wrote, “It feels like yesterday and yet it has been a lifetime. As I write this, my documentary is getting ready to premiere at Festival De Cannes. And as grateful as I am for being selected with this high honor, I look forward most to sharing my life’s story with all of you.” In the other tweet, he shared, “As a lifelong filmmaker it thrills me to say the film will be in theaters July 23. And as a person who also enjoys getting cozy, I’m possibly more happy that it will be on @PrimeVideo on Aug 6. Here’s to giving every day the opportunity to be the most beautiful of your life.”