If there’s one thing we know for sure about the bright lights of Hollywood, it’s that they can raise someone up just to bring them crashing down just as quickly.
How many stars have we seen come and go, really? How often have we seen someone being tipped for greatness just to have their name fade from public consciousness just a few years later?
For this reason, I find it extremely impressive when an individual can leave their mark across multiple generations.
One such celebrity is Val Kilmer, who shot to fame after participating in a string of commercial successes and did enough to cement his place in pop culture lore.
Despite the fact that the ’80s and ’90s were not his most productive years, his reputation has ensured that he will always be a fan favorite.
Still, there’s probably a lot you don’t know about the 62-year-old. Even though I like to think of myself as a die-hard fan, there was a lot about Val that I didn’t know, such as his tumultuous romantic history and somewhat drastic physical alteration…
Actor Val Kilmer was born in Los Angeles on 12/31/59. Despite the fact that he seemed destined for a career in performing, no one in his family had a previous background in show business.
Actually, his dad, Eugene Kilmer, dealt in real estate and distributed aircraft equipment.
So the fact that Val was such a natural performer probably came as a shock to his parents.
After becoming the youngest person ever to be accepted into the Juilliard School’s Drama Division in New York, he attended Chatsworth High School (where Kevin Spacey and Mare Winningham also attended) and the Hollywood Professional School (where students were given the afternoons off to focus on auditions). Considering how prestigious it is, this is no mean feat.
It was becoming increasingly apparent that Val possessed genuine skill at this moment.
Along with his personality, that would propel him to success. Of course, very few people could have predicted just how far.
However, Val struggled during his stay at Juilliard. When he attempted to do things independently, he ran into trouble with the establishment’s authoritarian approach to management.
However, he did indeed develop his art there, and despite the setbacks, he emerged from his time there with a wealth of knowledge and experience that would serve him well in the future.
After graduating from Juilliard, the young Val immediately delved into the New York City theater scene, where he played several roles and quickly became a household name because to his impressive performance resume.
His reputation as a ladies’ man began to take shape about this period, too.
The sparks that would later ignite relationships with stars like Cher and Ellen Barkin were ignited during his time in the theater.
Val’s career in the entertainment industry quickly got off the ground. Top Secret! (1984) was his first film, and he went on to play a supporting role in Real Genius (1985).
His breakout role as Iceman alongside Tom Cruise in Top Gun was his next major film.
Top Gun was a huge commercial success all over the world, and it helped launch Val Kilmer’s career in the world of blockbuster films.
He seemingly appeared overnight and became a permanent part of the Hollywood landscape, which sparked fresh rumors about the mysterious man behind the charming grin.
After his success with Top Gun, Kilmer continued to act in major films throughout the ’80s, including the ABC after-school special One Too Many, in which he co-starred with Michelle Pfeiffer.
That led others to speculate that the two were dating, but neither party ever officially acknowledged the speculation.
Instead, Val published a poem about her called “The Pfeiffer Howls at the Moon” two years later. An elegy for an unbreakable bond, or an introspective look at a love affair that never made headlines? No one will ever know.
It’s safe to say that Val hadn’t found his true love just yet. However, he wouldn’t have to wait around for too long.
Willow, directed by George Lucas and starring Val as Madmartigan, was released in 1988.
Kilmer not only became even more famous, but he also hooked up with actress Joanne Whalley.
After spending a lot of time together on set, the two discovered they had more in common than either of them had originally thought.
They were so attracted to one another that they decided to get married the same year they met.
After that, Val continued to surprise with roles like his unforgettable turn as Jim Morrison in The Doors (1991). Val showed that he was more than just a one-trick pony by singing on the film’s soundtrack.
Having reached this position, Val’s career was at its pinnacle. He was an international icon, and his name was known by everyone in Hollywood.
Adding to the perfection of his life, in 1991 he became a father to a little girl he named Mercedes.
In spite of this, Val’s life would reach a pivotal point sometime in the 1990s.
A different path
His status as a Hollywood leading man was cemented by his continued participation in films like Tombstone and True Romance.
However, Val had a different professional goal in mind. His classical training made him want to play more serious roles. Instead, he was pigeonholed as a standard-issue action hero.
As a result, he turned down several high-profile roles, fueling speculation that he was a pain to work with on set.
In 1995, when Val played one of his most iconic roles, everything came to a head.
Tim Burton’s Batman Forever took in an astounding $336.6 million worldwide, making it the year’s highest-grossing film.
Still, as the Caped Crusader, Val was forced to play the part of an action hero. Actor dissatisfaction was said to have resulted from repeated conflicts between him and director Joel Schumacher.
One story from that time period has Val meeting director Warren Beauty’s kids.
He hoped that by donning Batman garb, he might keep them amused.
It did, but instead of questioning him, the kids couldn’t stop thinking about what it would be like to try on the costume for themselves, and Val recognized that it was the suit, not his acting, that made the movie.
In 1996, Val’s life had undergone profound transformation. After eight happy years of marriage and the birth of their son Jack in 1995, he and wife Joanne Whalley shocked their fans by announcing their separation the following year.
“You just don’t understand humility until you have children and get divorced,” Val told Elle magazine.
“I was very hurt and very angry and so was she. But when kids are involved, you either become friends with respect or you become mortal enemies.”
Even after he had moved on, Val’s need to portray weighty, complex individuals had not abated. Refusing to feature in the two Batman sequels he was signed up for, he instead chose to work with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in Heat.
The refusal was the final straw for many Hollywood heavy hitters, and Kilmer’s career as a result suffered.
His reputation as a difficult actor to work with only grew following Heat.
Once one of the brightest lights of the ’80s and ’90s, he ended up on the wrong side of the glass doors rather quickly.
But for Val, personally, it was a welcome respite. Instead of being forced into roles consistent with his action-hero image, he could now explore projects he actually cared about.
Of course, he has had his share of problems, and in 2015 he was in the news for far more troubling reasons.
Reports of Kilmer’s hospitalization and subsequent emergency throat surgery emerged around this time.
Two years later, he admitted to the world that he had been diagnosed with throat cancer and that he had undergone a tracheotomy as part of his treatment for the devastating disease.
However, Val has showed incredible resilience and fortitude in the face of adversity. He even found humor in his predicament. He said, “That I had a voice!” when asked what he missed most about his previous speaking voice. To not have a swashbuckling pirate’s grin.”
Top Gun comeback
Val is currently enjoying fame because of his appearance as Iceman in Top Gun: Maverick.
Kilmer was allegedly quite pleased to play the “Iceman” again despite his recent, difficult fight with throat cancer. Saying in an interview, “being reunited with a long-lost friend. The characters never really go away. They live on in deep freeze. If you’ll pardon the pun.”
One of the most talked-about scenes from a film this year was the emotional on-screen reunion between Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise in Top Gun 2.
When Val reunited with Tom Cruise on set, it was “like nothing had changed,” he said.
”We blew a lot of takes laughing so much,” the 62-year-old said and continued: ”It was really fun and special.”
Due to his throat cancer, Val Kilmer is unable to talk, so an artificial intelligence voice was created for him to utilize in the film.
“I can’t speak without plugging this hole [in his throat]. You have to make the choice to breathe or to eat,” he explained to People magazine in 2021. “It’s an obstacle that is very present with whoever sees me.”
Val Kilmer health update
To capitalize on Val Kilmer’s success with his comeback in Top Gun: Maverick, the idea was hatched to have him play “Madmartigan” again in the 1988 film, “Willow.”
Unfortunately, Val wasn’t included in the premiere episode of the revival on November 30. Showrunner Jonathan Kasdan has stated that Val’s withdrawal was due to health reasons.
”As COVID overtook the world, it became insurmountable,” Kasdan told Entertainment Weekly and added:
”We were prepping in the spring of the year that it was most happening. And Val reluctantly didn’t feel he could come out.”
“I remember going to see Val right after this thing started to get some momentum, and I said, ‘Listen, we’re doing this and the whole world wants Madmartigan back,’” the showrunner recalled to the outlet. “And he was like, ‘Not as much as I do.’”
“He embraced me when I left. He picked me up, and he said, ‘See? I’m still super strong.’ And I was like, ‘Great,’” Kasdan added. “We started building out the first season with the intent of having him appear. [It wasn’t clear we couldn’t get him] until pretty late in the process, frankly.”
It’s still feasible, though, that we’ll see Val Kilmer again in the near future.
”We wanted to leave open the door to any possibility in the future and also honor the spirit of him,” Jonathan Kasdan told EW. ”We’ve tried to do that and work with him in a way so that he is felt and heard, if not seen.”
Val has established his durability with a successful career spanning half a century. The 63-year-old’s future holds some kind of challenge that he will undoubtedly accept with enthusiasm.
Man I long for the days when Val Kilmer was a box office draw, but I had no idea he resented his most iconic roles.
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Let us raise a glass to this renowned actor and toast to his continued success and good health for the years to come!
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