Much like Nicolas Cage and Christian Bale, Val Kilmer has starred in a vast collection of very diverse films, some good and some bad. But Kilmer has never been known for underperforming. The actor earned a reputation in Hollywood for both his character work and difficult collaborations. In a 1996 interview with Entertainment Weekly, director John Frankenheimer vowed never to work with him again. “I don’t like Val Kilmer,” he said. “I don’t like his work ethic.”
For his part, Kilmer has denied these claims as he is simply intensely focused on his craft. In a Reddit Q&A (via The Hollywood Reporter), Kilmer said, “Sometimes when you’re the lead on a project and the lead actor is usually the reason a movie gets made, unless it’s a superstar director , then it’s only fair for him to make people feel good and happy at work. I was often unhappy trying to make pictures better.”
Kilmer’s dedication to his acting also meant the Hollywood star was notoriously picky. He turned down roles in Dirty Dancing, Interview With a Vampire, and even The Matrix. But it also led to Kilmer leaving a successful franchise after one movie.
Val Kilmer thinks about Batman
Batman may be billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, but he’s had many faces over the years. In fact, only Doctor Who and James Bond can say they had so many actors in the role. Val Kilmer donned the brooding superhero’s suit when Michael Keaton quit the role after two successful stints. Kilmer admittedly didn’t choose to star in Batman Forever because he loved the character. He figured the famous franchise could shore up his artistic endeavors.
“With two franchises in progress – Batman and ‘The Saint’ – I could start an artistic community, write poetry and plays, and become the wild author I see as my destiny,” Kilmer wrote in his memoir Val Kilmer: I’m Yours Huckleberry” (via Den of Geek). In fact, scheduling conflicts due to The Saint led to Kilmer declining to appear in a sequel. But Kilmer also admitted the film felt like a “trap” as it clashed with director Joel Schumacher. Schumacher called him “childish and impossible,” according to Entertainment Weekly.
The deciding factor was when Warren Buffett’s grandchildren visited the set and were more interested in seeing the Batmobile than meeting Kilmer. The star’s ego was bruised. He told the New York Times Magazine, “That’s why it’s so easy to have five or six Batmans. It’s not about Batman. There is no Batman.” At the time, Kilmer was a famous icon, thanks in part to Top Gun. But the celebrity’s fickle nature nearly sabotaged that role, too.
Val Kilmer didn’t want to be in Top Gun
It’s hard to imagine a world where Maverick wouldn’t have clashed with Iceman. But Val Kilmer almost didn’t have a starring role in the classic ’80s movie. The Hollywood star felt the film’s script was too over the top for him. In the documentary Val (via the New York Post), Kilmer explained his reasoning. “I thought the script was silly, and I didn’t like warmongering in movies,” he said. “But I was signed to the studio, so I really didn’t have a choice.”
Thankfully, Kilmer’s attitude toward the film has softened in the years since. In fact, it was Kilmer who asked to be a part of Top Gun: Maverick, a rare sequel for the actor. He was the one who approached Tom Cruise and the producers about making an appearance. “The producers made that choice. Cruise made that choice. Cruise couldn’t have been cooler… Tom and I picked up where we left off. The reunion felt great,” Kilmer told USA Today.
While it was great to see Kilmer reprise one of his signature roles, fans shouldn’t get their hopes up for Kilmer donning the Batman hood again. The actor was unable to speak after battling throat cancer and has stopped appearing in many films. But his attitude towards Batman has softened over the years as he realizes the character is taller than him. He wrote in Val Kilmer: I’m Your Huckleberry (via Den of Geek): “You’ve got to give it to Batman. He’s far bigger than any actor trying to play him.”