Val Kilmer has been waiting for decades to tell his story, to share the intimate first-person account of the actor’s ambitious rise to Hollywood A-lister and the rocky years that followed. Kilmer had fallen out of favor with the Hollywood scene and was seen as too rambunctious and combative to work with. For a while it looked like he would never find a home for his documentary val. Now we have a first trailer, with news that the documentary, made up of Val Kilmer’s private home movies, will make its debut in Cannes.
The official synopsis reads: “For over 40 years, Val Kilmer, one of Hollywood’s most mercurial and/or misunderstood actors, has been documenting his own life and craft through film and video. He has amassed thousands of hours of footage, from 16mm movies made with his brothers, to time spent in iconic roles for blockbuster movies like Top Gun, The doors, Tombstone, and Batman forever. This raw, wildly original and unflinching documentary reveals a life to the extreme and a heartwarming, sometimes hilarious look at what it means to be an artist and a complex man.”
Kilmer shares his life in both voiceovers and years of home video of virtually every chapter of his life. He leaves it all on the table, from his promising early days to the clashes over creative vision that came later, and the tragic battle with throat cancer that limited his ability to speak, which he describes in his 2020 memoir “I’m Your Huckleberry.” The surgery on his trachea means he can barely speak more than a whisper.
He had his camcorder rolling from the very beginning of his career, but it took directors Leo Scott and Ting Poo to put the puzzle together. “It was gold, like a treasure trove that you luckily come across in your career,” Poo said.
“I was pretty knocked out,” Po continued.
“The more you get to see it, the more you understand who he is now,” added Scott, who spent more than nine months digitizing Kilmer’s footage. (Since the actor’s speaking ability is limited, the narration is provided by his son, Jack.) Kilmer explains early on that he’d wanted to make a film about acting for years, and though he didn’t have a precise project in mind when he collected material , val offers a unique window into the awkward and often messy struggle of a creative artist trying to find a vessel for his interests. “There was always a sense that he was interested in his own craft,” Scott said. “You got the feeling from the material that one day he knowingly collected some of these things for a bigger story.”
Kilmer had collected hundreds of hours of film and video tapes stored in boxes piled up in the garage. The bevy began with films he made as a child with his two brothers, Mark and Wesley, while growing up to this day in the Los Angeles suburb of Chatsworth.
“Val always said he didn’t see it as a documentary,” Scott said. “He saw it as a movie starring Val Kilmer in the story of his life, and we all agreed with that sentiment.” Cannes premiere for val completes a cycle for the project. “Before we made anything,” Poo said, “Val was like, ‘And then we’ll show it in Cannes.’” And scene, Mr. Kilmer.