ALISON BOSHOFF: Redemption of the superhero sinner Val Kilmer in touching new ...

ALISON BOSHOFF: Redemption of the superhero sinner Val Kilmer in touching new ...
ALISON BOSHOFF: Redemption of the superhero sinner Val Kilmer in touching new ...

Mesmerising as Jim Morrison in The Doors, unforgettably macho alongside Tom Cruise in Top Gun, and frequently underrated as a stone-faced Batman — a role he hated — few actors are as intriguing as Val Kilmer.

Reviews of his off-screen behaviour and character are almost universally scathing. Joel Schumacher, who directed Kilmer in Batman Forever, called him 'psychotic' and the most disturbed person he had ever met.

The actor is said to have had 'anger issues' after being served with divorce papers on the set of The Island Of Dr. Moreau. The film version of H.G. Wells's story was already beset by problems with bad weather and a skyrocketing budget and left director John Frankenheimer exhausted: 'I will never climb Mount Everest and I will never work with Val Kilmer again,' he said when the film had wrapped.

Few actors are as intriguing as Val Kilmer, at times both mesmerising and challenging off screen (pictured in 2019)

Few actors are as intriguing as Val Kilmer, at times both mesmerising and challenging off screen (pictured in 2019) 

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The divorce papers came from Joanne Whalley, his British actress wife who twice took him to court. 

Their bitter divorce — conducted while Kilmer was romancing model Cindy Crawford — saw him accused of dallying with a pizza waitress and failing to provide a home for their children.

Yet those same children — Mercedes, 29, and Jack, 26 — were at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday proudly promoting Val, a documentary about Kilmer's life and times which they co-produced for Amazon Prime.

The film features home movies shot by the 61-year-old actor over four decades. Kilmer speaks frankly about his life and career. 

Movingly, he appears speaking through a voice box, the result of throat cancer, which was diagnosed in 2015.

Joel Schumacher, who directed Kilmer in Batman Forever, called him 'psychotic' and the most disturbed person he had ever met

Joel Schumacher, who directed Kilmer in Batman Forever, called him 'psychotic' and the most disturbed person he had ever met

Kilmer initially kept his illness private and more or less disappeared from the Hollywood scene. Looking puffy and speaking in a manner described by the New York Times as 'something between a squeak and a voiceless roar', he tries to confront his demons. Industry bible Variety called it a 'heartfelt portrait, which captures Kilmer's talent, intelligence, and gift for self-sabotage'. Though its reviewer adds that Kilmer now resembles a 'broken-down relic of himself'.

The privately educated son of a wealthy Arizona landowner, it's fair to say that Val Kilmer has always been high maintenance.

A method actor par excellence, legend has it that aged 12 he walked out of the filming of a burger advert, saying that he couldn't find his character's motivation.

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That Val Kilmer seems worlds away from the sometimes humble, spiritual man seen in the new film, who weeps as he talks about his life and illness. Raised a Christian Scientist, Kilmer cleaves to the religion, which is known for its controversial practice of spiritual healing.

Kilmer spent a year living almost wholly as Jim Morrison, the lead singer of The Doors, for the eponymous film

Kilmer spent a year living almost wholly as Jim Morrison, the lead singer of The Doors, for the eponymous film

The cancer has taken a terrible toll. Some of Kilmer's contributions are subtitled as his voice is too hoarse to be easily understood. At other times, his son Jack narrates his father's words. 'I've lived a magical life and I've captured quite a bit of it,' says Kilmer, who made videos both at home and on movie sets.

Many viewers have shared how moved they have been by the film's trailer on social media (the film itself will be released on Amazon on August 6). Kilmer talks frankly about the great tragedy that shaped his life, the death of his brother Wesley — who had an epileptic fit in a Jacuzzi and drowned, aged 15. 'Our family was never the same again,' Kilmer says. He was left 'raw with grief'. The Kilmers lived on a huge ranch in California, once the home of actor Roy Rogers. Wesley would direct his siblings in home movie spoofs of cinema hits, including Jaws.

Director Leo Scott says that Wesley was 'really a budding genius director who probably could have gone on to be one of the greats'. Instead, aged 17, it was Val who set off to New York to study drama at the famous Juilliard School.

The actor is said to have had 'anger issues' after being served with divorce papers on the set of The Island Of Dr. Moreau

The actor is said to have had 'anger issues' after being served with divorce papers on the set of The Island Of Dr. Moreau

The new documentary shows him joking around backstage with contemporaries Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon during a 1983 Broadway production of The Slab Boys. He also appeared in As You Like It in Minneapolis with Patti LuPone. After that, it wasn't long before Hollywood came calling and launched Kilmer's career as an A-lister.

His first success came with the 1984 film Top Secret! — a spoof spy comedy, which led to a role in the hit action film Top Gun in 1986, alongside Tom Cruise. Director Tony Scott was 'obsessed' by Kilmer's chiselled intensity as Iceman, the fighter pilot vying with Cruise's Maverick to be called the best of the best.

The role made Kilmer an instant heart-throb: 'For the rest of my life I will be called Iceman by every pilot at every airport I ever go to,' he says in the new film.

Behind the scenes, there was talk that the cast was split into Team Maverick and Team Iceman factions, and he

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