Val Edward Kilmer is an American actor. Originally a stage actor, Kilmer became popular in the mid-1980s after a string of appearances in comedy films, starting with Top Secret! (1984), then the cult classic Real Genius (1985), as well as blockbuster action films, including a role in Top Gun and a lead role in Willow.
During the 1990s, Kilmer gained critical respect after a series of films that were also commercially successful, including his roles as Jim Morrison in The Doors, Doc Holliday in 1993's Tombstone, Batman in 1995's Batman Forever, Chris Shiherlis in 1995's Heat and Simon Templar in 1997's The Saint. During the early 2000s, Kilmer appeared in several well-received roles, including The Salton Sea, Spartan, and supporting performances in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Alexander, and as the voice of KITT in Knight Rider.
In 1983, his first off-stage acting role (excluding television commercials) came in the form of a television short titled One Too Many, which was an educational drama on drinking and driving; it also starred a young Michelle Pfeiffer. His big break came when he received top billing in the spoof comedy Top Secret!, where he played an American rock and roll star. Kilmer sang all the songs in the film and actually released an album under the film character's name, "Nick Rivers."
During a brief hiatus, he backpacked throughout Europe, before going on to play the lead character in the 1985 comedy Real Genius. He turned down roles in Dune and Blue Velvet, before being cast as naval aviator "Iceman" in the big budget action film Top Gun, alongside Tom Cruise. Top Gun grossed a total of $344,700,000 worldwide.
Following roles in the television films The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains, Kilmer played "Madmartigan" in the fantasy Willow; he met his future wife, co-star Joanne Whalley, on the film's set.
Kilmer published a book of his poems, My Edens After Burns, in 1987, and starred in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival production of Hamlet in 1988. In 1989, Kilmer played the lead in both Kill Me Again, again opposite Whalley, and in TNT's Billy the Kid.
After several delays, director Oliver Stone finally started production on the film, The Doors, based on the band of the same name. Kilmer memorized the lyrics to all of lead singer Jim Morrison's songs prior to his audition, and sent a video of himself performing some Doors songs to director Stone. Stone was not impressed with the tape, but Paul Rothchild (the original producer of The Doors) said "I was shaken by it" and suggested they record Kilmer in the studio. After Kilmer was cast as Morrison, he prepared for the role by attending Doors tribute concerts and reading Morrison's poetry. He spent close to a year before production dressing in Morrison-like clothes, and spent time at Morrison's old hangouts along the Sunset Strip. His portrayal of Morrison was praised and members of The Doors noted that Kilmer did such a convincing job that they had trouble distinguishing his voice from Morrison's. Paul Rothchild played Val's version of 'The End' for Robby Krieger, and he told him "I'm really glad they got 'The End'. We never got a recording of that live with Jim and now we've got it."
In the early 1990s, Kilmer starred in the mystery thriller Thunderheart, action comedy The Real McCoy and again teamed with Top Gun director Tony Scott to play Elvis in True Romance, which was written by Quentin Tarantino.
In 1993, Kilmer played Doc Holliday in the western Tombstone alongside Kurt Russell. 1995 saw Kilmer star in Wings of Courage, a 3D IMAX film, and that same year, he starred opposite Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in Heat. In 1996, he appeared in a largely unknown film, Dead Girl, and starred alongside Marlon Brando in the poorly received, The Island of Dr Moreau. That year, Kilmer starred alongside Michael Douglas in the thriller The Ghost and the Darkness. The next year he played Simon Templar in the popular action film, The Saint. In 1998, he lent his voice to the animated film The Prince of Egypt, before starring in the independent film Joe the King (1999) and playing a blind man in the drama/romance At First Sight, which he described as of then, the hardest role he had ever had.
In December 1993, Batman Forever director Joel Schumacher had seen Tombstone, and was most impressed with Kilmer's performance as Doc Holliday. Schumacher felt for him to be perfect for the role of the Caped Crusader, though at the time, the role was still Michael Keaton's. Batman co-creator Bob Kane said he felt Kilmer was the best actor to portray Batman.
In July 1994, Michael Keaton decided not to return for a third Batman film after 1992's Batman Returns, due to "creative differences." William Baldwin (who previously worked with Schumacher on Flatliners) was reported to be a top contender, though just days after Keaton dropped out, Kilmer was cast. Kilmer took the role without even knowing who the new director was and without reading the script. Kilmer first learned that he was offered the role of Batman while he was literally in a bat cave in Africa, doing research for The Ghost and the Darkness (1996). Released in June 1995, Batman Forever was a success at the box office, despite receiving mixed reviews from critics.
In February 1996, Kilmer decided not to return for a sequel (1997's Batman & Robin, in which George Clooney replaced Kilmer), feeling that Batman was being marginalized in favor of the villains. Kilmer went on to do The Saint with a salary of $6 million.
Kilmer's first role in 2000 was in the big budget Warner Bros. box office disaster, Red Planet. That same year, he had a supporting role in the film Pollock and hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time. In 2002, he starred in the thriller The Salton Sea, which was generally well-reviewed, but received only a limited release. The same year, he teamed with his True Romance co-star, Christian Slater, and the two starred in the low budget film, Hard Cash, also known as Run for the Money.
In 2003, Kilmer starred alongside Kate Bosworth in the drama/thriller Wonderland, as well as appearing in The Missing, where he again worked with Willow director Ron Howard. The next year, he starred in Spartan, where he played a United States government secret agent who is assigned the task of rescuing the kidnapped daughter of the President. He received Delta Force-like training in preparation for the role. Subsequently, he had a role in the drama, Stateside, and starred (again with Slater) in the thriller Mindhunters, which was filmed in 2003 but not released until 2005. Kilmer next appeared in the big budget Oliver Stone production, Alexander, which received poor reviews. Also in 2004, Kilmer returned to the theatre to play Moses in a Los Angeles musical production of The Ten Commandments: The Musical, produced by BCBG founder Max Azria. The production played at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Kilmer had previously played Moses in the animated film The Prince of Egypt. Finally in 2004, Kilmer appeared in an episode of Entourage where he played a tripped-out Sherpa shaman whose primary source of income was the growing, harvesting and distributing high-quality marijuana all under a guise of hippy-dippy metaphysical insights.
Kilmer performed in The Postman Always Rings Twice on the London stage from June to September 2005. In 2005, he co-starred with Robert Downey, Jr. in the action-comedy film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. His performance was praised and the film was well reviewed, but the film received only a limited release. It later won the award as "Overlooked Film of the Year" from the Phoenix Film Critics Society. In 2006, he reunited with director Tony Scott a third time for a supporting role opposite Denzel Washington in the box-office hit Dj Vu. In 2007, he guest-starred in hit TV series Numb3rs episode "Trust Metric" as torture expert Mason Lancer. In 2008, Kilmer starred alongside Stephen Dorff in the Sony and Stage 6 film Felon. The film was given only a limited theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles in 2008, but it developed into a success secondary to positive word of mouth.
He next starred alongside Nicolas Cage in the Werner Herzog film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, and alongside Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson in Streets of Blood. Both were released in 2009. He appeared as the main antagonist "Mongoose" in a live TV series adaptation of the comic/video game of XIII on NBC in 2009.
As of 2010, Kilmer was working on writing the movie about the life of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science church. He is currently working on a possible sequel to 1985's Real Genius. He stars in a 2010 thriller from Michael Oblowitz called Mr. Nobody, wherein he portrays a Police Officer.