Val Kilmer Biography: In His Own Words – Video Exclusive, News, Photos
Val Edward Kilmer is an American actor and producer. He is best known for his role in the 1986 cult classic Top Gun, whose sequel is set to release in June 2020. In this biography, Kilmer tells his story in his own words.
Val Kilmer Bio: Early Life, Family, Education
Kilmer was born on December 31, 1959 (Val Kilmer age: 59) to Gladys Swanette and Eugene Dorris Kilmer. They raised Kilmer and his younger brother Wesley in Los Angeles until divorcing in 1968. Tragedy struck again when Wesley drowned in a swimming pool at the age of 15, leaving Kilmer as an only child.
Kilmer attended an L.A. Christian Science school called Berkeley Hall. In the ninth grade, he transferred to Chatsworth High School, the alma mater of Kevin Spacey and Mare Winningham. Kilmer later studied at the Hollywood Professional School and became the youngest admission to Juilliard’s exclusive Drama Division. He began acting in small theatrical productions before making his onscreen debut in 1984.
Val Kilmer Bio: Career, Top Secret, Top Gun (1984-1989)
Kilmer’s first professional role was Top Secret! (1984), a spoof film about a rock idol moonlighting as a spy. Not only did Kilmer play the lead role in this film; he also showcased his vocal abilities by performing six songs. The next year, he appeared on one episode of the TV series ABC Afterschool Specials and starred in his next film, Real Genius, as Chris Knight.
However, Kilmer’s big break didn’t come until 1986 with the cult classic Top Gun. He garnered much critical acclaim for his performance as Iceman alongside Tom Cruise and Meg Ryan. Top Gun earned an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Grammy, forever securing its place in cinematic history.
But Kilmer’s career didn’t end with Top Gun. He appeared in the TV movies The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1986) and The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains (1987). In 1988, Kilmer embraced his theatrical roots by playing Hamlet in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. He appeared in the movie Willow later that year. In 1989, Kilmer acted in the film Kill Me Again as well as the TV movie Billy the Kid.
Val Kilmer Bio: Career, Jim Morrison, The Doors (1990-1999)
Kilmer made his second musical appearance in The Doors. He played lead vocalist Jim Morrison and performed 14 songs in the style of the 60s rock group. Kilmer was nominated by the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards for Best Actor, as well as the MTV Movie and TV Awards for Best Male Performance.
In 1992, Kilmer played Rey Levoi in Thunderheat. The following year was busy for the actor, who acted in Tombstone and The Real McCoy. He also appeared in True Romance and performed “Heartbreak Hotel” for the film’s soundtrack. 1995 was a similarly busy year for Kilmer, who acted in Heat and Wings of Courage. He also took the lead in Batman Forever alongside Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman and Tommy Lee Jones.
The late 1990s brought Kilmer more success. He appeared in The Island of Dr. Moreau, Dead Girl and The Ghost and the Darkness in 1996 alone. Kilmer acted in Simon Templar (also called The Saint) in 1997 and voiced God and Moses in The Prince of Egypt in 1998. A year later, he played Virgil Adamson in At First Sight and Bob Henry in Joe the King.
Val Kilmer Bio: Career (2000-2009)
Kilmer rang in the new millennium with Pollock, an Oscar-winning biography about renowned painter Jackson Pollock. Kilmer played Willem De Kooning, a Dutch-American artist who influenced Pollock’s work throughout their time in the New York Group. He also starred as Gallagher in the 2000 movie Red Planet.
Kilmer spent 2001 filming two projects released the following year. One was The Salton Sea, in which he appeared as Danny Parker/Ton Van Allen. The other was Hard Cash, a crime thriller starring Christian Slater. Neither film was a rousing success, but Kilmer continued to land multiple roles per year. He appeared in four movies in 2003: Masked and Anonymous, Wonderland, The Missing and Blind Horizon.
2004 was a particularly busy year for Kilmer. He appeared in four more movies, including Spartan, Stateside, Mindhunters and George and the Dragon. Additionally, Kilmer guest-starred on one episode of the TV series Entourage. After such a whirlwind year, Kilmer only appeared in one 2005 production: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. This comedy boasts a star-studded cast – including Robert Downey, Jr. and Ariel Winter – and holds an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Kilmer came back with a vengeance in 2006. He appeared alongside James Marsden in the film 10th & Wolf and held a minor role in Played. He co-starred with Vincent Gallo in Moscow Zero and played “The Wanted Man” in the neo-Western Summer Love. Kilmer played Agent Pryzwarra in Deja Vu, a sci-fi/crime film, with Denzel Washington and Elle Fanning. Kilmer’s most creative endeavor of 2006 was The Ten Commandments: The Musical, in which he played the religious figure Moses. He performed 12 songs in character and received high praise for his musical and thespian performances.
Kilmer returned to the screen following The Ten Commandments. In 2007, he played Mason Lancer in the TV show Numb3rs and Henderson in A West Texas Children’s Story. The next year, he appeared in three episodes of the Western drama series Comanche Moon, which was nominated for five Primetime Emmys. Kilmer also acted in Conspiracy, Columbus Day, The Love Guru, Felon, 2:22, and XIII: The Conspiracy in 2007.
Kilmer branched out from conventional acting in 2007. In addition to voicing Bogardus in the movie Delgo, he served as an associate producer for three episodes of Comanche Moon and a producer for Columbus Day. Over the next two years, Kilmer garnered fame for the series Knight Rider. He voiced the artificially intelligent K.I.T.T. in all 18 episodes as head of the award-nominated cast.
Kilmer ended the decade with his hands full. In 2009, he played Todd Inglebrink in American Cowslip and Jimmy in The Steam Experiment. He also played Detective Andy Deveraux in the Streets of Blood video alongside rapper and entrepreneur 50 Cent. Later in 2009, Kilmer appeared in The Thaw, Virgil, Double Identity and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.
Val Kilmer Bio: Career (2010-2019)
In 2010, Kilmer played small parts in Gun and The Traveler as well as the lead role in Bloodworth. What made the biggest splash that year, however, was MacGruber. Kilmer played Dieter Von Cunth in this comedy classic featuring Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph.
2011 was an exceptionally busy year for Kilmer. He acted in the feature films Twixt, Kill the Irishman and 5 Days of War. He also voiced acted for the Blood Out video and the video game Spider-Man: The Edge of Time. Later in 2011, Kilmer guest-starred on Katy Perry’s episode of Saturday Night Live, acting as the Brilliant Lunatic and performing the song “Best Friends.”
2012 was no less hectic. Kilmer played the Bearded Man in Deep in the Heart, Bill McCormick in 7 Below and Dale in Breathless. He also portrayed famed frontiersman Wyatt Earp in the Wyatt Earp’s Revenge video. Most notably, Kilmer acted in The Fourth Dimension, also writing and performing a song by the same title for the soundtrack.
2013 saw Kilmer’s transition from mainly film roles to television. He played Sheriff Richards in the series Riddle, Sweetriver Jackson in Ghost Girls, Hofstadder in Standing Up and himself in the Life’s Too Short Easter Special. Kilmer also appeared in the movie Palo Alto and voiced a character in the video Planes.
Kilmer continued appearing on TV throughout 2014. He played General Cauliffe in four episodes of The Spoils of Babylon, guest-starred on Psych as Detective Dobson and played multiple characters on Robot Chicken. Kilmer’s only film of the year was Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn, in which he played Mark Twain.
The next few years were more relaxed for Kilmer. He didn’t appear in any major productions until 2017, when he acted in Song to Song, The Snowman and The Super. He played Biden in the 2018 comedy 1st Born, starring Denise Richards and Taylor Cole. Kilmer will soon return as Mark Twain in Cinema Twain (2019). He based this film off of his play by the same name and produced it to fit his image. Kilmer also wrote and produced Mark Twain and Mary Baker Eddy, in which he will once again play the famous author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Good news for Top Gun fans – Kilmer is set to return in the cult classic’s sequel. He will again star as Iceman in the 2020 film Top Gun: Maverick. Kilmer’s additional announced projects include Future: Soldier’s Heart, CJ, Riptide and Mark Twain and Mary Baker Eddy.
Val Kilmer Bio: Health Scares, Cancer, Exclusive Video of NOVUS Summit Speech
However prosperous Kilmer’s acting career, his life is far from easy. He has struggled with throat cancer for years but did not discuss the matter until recently. According to People, Kilmer’s health first came into question when he was rushed to the hospital “for a possible tumor” in January 2015. The actor later posted on Facebook that he had merely “had a complication” and was feeling fine.
Kilmer was reported to have returned to the hospital in October 2015. He again assured his Facebook following that all was well but was discredited after the paparazzi caught him with a tracheostomy tube. Each time he was photographed or took a selfie in the following months, he wrapped scarves and buttoned his shirts tightly around his neck.
The rumors died down for nearly a year before resurfacing in a very public way. Actor Michael Douglas, a survivor of oral cancer, commented that Kilmer was “dealing with exactly what [he] had” and that things didn’t “look too good for him.” Kilmer again denied having cancer but was notably thinner and struggling to speak at his Citizen Twain screening the following month.
Kilmer denied the cancer rumors for a third time in February 2017, tis time on Twitter, writing, “Sorry to bore you who know I’m healthy but there’s more lies again that I’m ‘ill.’ I mentioned the other night I was doing speech therapy!”
The actor finally came clean about his two-year battle with cancer in December 2017. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he revealed that he had undergone tracheal surgery and chemotherapy, rendered nearly voiceless by the end of treatment.
Kilmer addressed his condition again at the 2019 United Nations’ NOVUS Summit on sustainable development. “I won’t speak long because I can’t speak long,” he began in a nearly incomprehensible voice. He was awarded a symbolic hammer for his work with the TwainMania Foundation, an organization designed to spread literacy to those less fortunate around the world.
Check out the full biographical video at the top of this page.
Val Kilmer Bio: Personal Life, Health, Throat Cancer, Christian Science, Spouse, Children
Kilmer married actress Joanne Whalley in 1988. They had two children, Jack and Mercedes, before divorcing in 1996. Kilmer currently resides as a bachelor in southern California and practices various instruments as well as the Christian Scientist faith.
Val Kilmer Bio: Quotes
“The trick to being a good actor is getting so involved in your character that the camera disappears, the 50 bored guys eating doughnuts disappear, friends disappear. To get to that point when you don’t have to think about it, you’re just acting and reacting in those circumstances.”
“My only challenge is to entertain. And I accomplish my task better when I, myself, am entertained by what I am doing. I am very critical of myself, I constantly set the bar higher and higher. I try to surpass myself. That’s all. But I also know how to preserve myself, to not let myself get bedazzled by the smoke and mirrors.”
“Big movies are fun and it’s great to fly on private jets and make a lot of money and all the things that are connected with Hollywood, but they take a lot of your own life.”
“It’s probably fair to say I have taken myself too seriously on some jobs. I’m sure I’m more guilty of being more difficult than I’d like to remember. I don’t regret my desires; I’ve regretted the way I would communicate my desires. Maybe I’ve lost a job because of some rumor, I doubt it. But nobody good that I’ve worked with has ever said anything negative about me, because we’ve never had a negative experience. By good, I mean directors who do their homework, people that are passionate, crazy, never sleep, and do like I do and just go after it.”