The following represents Val Kilmer’s autobiography
In preparation for “The Batman” (you know things are getting serious when a “The” is added to the original title), I decided to look through the autobiography of my personal favorite actor to don the cape and cowl. No it’s not Michael Keaton, nor the punchline to the joke, “What happens when Batman misses church?” (That of course being Christian Bale) but instead the most underknown “Batman” actor in the unfairly reviled “Batman Forever,” Val Kilmer.
“Dear Reader,” the book begins, “I have a crush on you.” Oh, uh, I guess that’s good to know (looks around nervously). “And to bring up this crush …is not to woo you — although that may be a bonus — but…your company brings me hope… Welcome to the pinball machine of my mind.” I will concur that this mind and the stories it tells are not to be taken lightly.
“I was born on the last day of 1959,” Kilmer explains, having mixed nationalities of Irish, Swedish, Mongolian, Scottish and German. “Like my origins, I was hopelessly and happily confused…” Kilmer grew up with a caring family and greatly loved his father, Eugene who was a successful engineer. “(Eugene) was always ahead of his time… Except for with fashion.”
Kilmer started acting through extensive college plays and later went to Juilliard to pursue honing his drama. “…when I got to THE Juilliard, I had a… strong Californian accent, which was… to be replaced by a proper general… transatlantic theater-snob accent.” After much success in theatre, he was met by budding singer and television personality, Cher, with whom he began a relationship. “Being ushered into the Cher world was heady stuff,” he explains. The two found their own successes while together, with her in “Mask” (1985) and him in his first film, “Top Secret” (1984).
Kilmer humorously muses how his success took off greatly conflicting with his Christian-Scientist upbringing, “God wants us to walk but the devil sends a limo.” While his film career was taking off, his father came to him for help since some bad business investments left him $1.2 million in debt. Kilmer paid for this from his own pocket though personally conflicted. Of this, Kilmer expresses, “…I didn’t become an actor… with the idea of making a fortune. I did it because it was my nature to do so.” Of his big-break in “Top Gun,” Kilmer has little flattering to say, insisting he took the role at the behest of his and Tom Cruise’s agent.
Though purposely wearing outlandish clothes and reading the lines indifferently during the audition, director Tony Scott pursued him to the elevator explaining, “‘I know that the script is insufficient, but… Wait till you see these jets.’” Following this success, Kilmer would turn down working on “Blue Velvet” because of the sexual and bizarre script (a bit too Lynchian apparently) and “Dirty Dancing” to make the film “Willow,” where he met his future wife Joanne Whalley. Following this was “Tombstone,” a success which convinced Joel Schumacher to cast Kilmer as Batman.
Personally I consider “Batman Forever” the best 90’s “Batman” film. “Batman” (1989) is great fun but “Batman Returns” for me is disgustingly depression-inducing; say whatever of “Batman and Robin” but it didn’t follow up a scene of attempted mass-infanticide with rocket-launching penguins. It’s funny that many consider Keaton the “best” Batman despite his murderous character coldly trying to strike a defenseless henchwoman with a remote-control batarang only because her poodle snarled at him.
Of the shoot, Kilmer expresses, “…there’s always super pressure with superhero films… they burn about 100.000 calories a day.” He befriended costar Jim Carrey who was suffering the death of his father and the thoughtlessness of a fan who asked for Carrey’s autograph during the funeral. Kilmer channeled his sorrow over his own father’s death for his portrayal of Bruce Wayne’s loss and it shows.
I won’t bore you with why I prefer “Forever,” and will let psychologist Travis Langley explain courtesy of his book, “Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight”; “…of all the Burton/Schumacher films, none other shows Bruce Wayne more often, nor depicts him more thoroughly as a meaningful character… He does not become Batman; he is Batman.” None of this would be possible without Kilmer’s driven and emotion-filled delve into the dark of the Knight. Despite hard times befalling Kilmer and cancer stripping away his voice, Val remains hopeful in concluding, “My voice will come back…Everything is alright.”