Follow TV Tropes


Creator / Val Kilmer

Go To

"I'm a character actor, but I look like a leading man."

Val Edward Kilmer (born December 31, 1959) is an American actor of stage and screen. He's known for playing Tom "Iceman" Kazansky in Top Gun, Madmartigan in Willow, Jim Morrison in The Doors, Doc Holliday in Tombstone, Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman Forever, and Moses in The Prince of Egypt. He really likes to prepare himself for his roles, as some of his fellow actors have noted.

A Los Angeles native, Kilmer had the distinction of being, at 17, the youngest actor to be accepted into the Juilliard School's drama program for many years. For a time in the The '90s, it looked as though he was on his way to becoming one of Hollywood's truly elite A-listers, especially following the success of Batman Forever. However, his career began to suffer after he developed a reputation for being difficult on set and appeared in a string of films that performed badly at the box office. Although he enjoyed a brief resurgence in the Turn of the Millennium, with several critically-acclaimed turns in smaller projects, Kilmer's filmography started to be filled up with direct-to-DVD projects – this seems to be due at least in part to his unfortunate reputation of being difficult to work with. Roles in more mainstream films are painfully rare. He also developed projects and curricula about Mark Twain, a personal hero of his, including one-man shows in which he played him.

His career was almost completely sidelined by throat cancer, which he kept hidden for over a decade. Complications have resulted in the continued use of a tracheotomy tube that prevents him from speaking louder than a squeak, which he has managed to circumvent with the use of an AI-generated voice resembling his former voice (you can listen to it here). He's since shifted his focus towards painting and outreach programs to encourage students to pursue the arts and theatre.

Fittingly, like the real Jim Morrison, Kilmer is a musician as well, having released a CD in 2007.

From 1988 to 1996 he was married to British actress Joanne Whalley, whom he met while filming Willow (and would star opposite for a second time in the thriller Kill Me Again). They have two children, daughter Mercedes and son Jack, who is also an actor and occasionally works as his father's soundalike.

Notable Roles:


His works provide examples of:

  • Author Appeal: A lot of his later work revolves around Mark Twain because he's a huge fan of Twain's work.
  • The Cast Showoff: Often plays singers and musicians. His very first role had him singing, while the actual surviving members of The Doors had trouble telling his vocals from the real Jim Morrison's.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: Lost quite some weight for both The Doors and The Salton Sea.
  • Looping Lines: Starting with The Snowman, most of his dialogue has been looped due to his battle with throat cancer. Well, except for Top Gun: Maverick.
  • Method Acting: He's famous for his intense involvement in his roles. Because of the preparation work he does, it was noted that he was the first actor to understand that Batman is the true identity and that Bruce Wayne is the false persona.
  • Money, Dear Boy: Some of his work, particularly in recent years doing direct-to-video fare with friend 50 Cent.
    I've done a lot of jobs that were just for money or were just the best things around at the time.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Back in his heyday. He was nominated for the MTV Movie Award for Most Desirable Male for Tombstone, and won it for Batman Forever.
  • Pretty Boy: In his heyday, he was the epitome of this trope with his blonde hair, full lips and smooth, almost effeminate features.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Built himself a reputation for it. Joel Schumacher declared that "Val did me two great favors. When I wanted him to be Batman, he said yes. Then he created a situation which allowed me not to have him play Batman again". John Frankenheimer was even crueller ("There are two things I will never do in my life, I will never climb Mount Everest, and I will never work with Val Kilmer again. There isn't enough money in the world.") Apparently he's mellowed out, culminating in some Adam Westing playing himself in Harmony Korine's The Fourth Dimension.
  • Those Two Actors: He has done two films with Michael Fassbender whom he is good friends with in real life.
  • Vocal Dissonance: His beautiful appearance in his prime was a notable contrast to his exceptionally deep and smooth voice.
  • Vocal Evolution: He was noted for his deep, smooth voice. This became noticeably strained in The New '10s because of a tumor pressing against his vocal cords. Post-surgery complications have left him reliant on a tracheotomy tube and rendered his voice into a rasp.
  • Written-In Infirmity: He reprised his role as Iceman in Top Gun: Maverick, and his throat cancer and the troubles to speak its treatment left him with (see above) were written in the film, as he's seen typing what he wants to say to Maverick (Tom Cruise) on a screen then briefly talks with his now-raspy voice. Kilmer's subsequent recovery from the cancer did manage to subvert this to some extent, even avoiding becoming a case of The Character Died with Him.


Doc Holliday's Death

Thanks for always being there, Doc.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / TragicBromance

Media sources: