Val Kilmer


  1. C Thomas Howell, The Outsiders, 1982.    Part of Francis Coppola’s intensive ensemble casting sessions at Stage Five of his Zoetrope Studios – “go right on Marlon Brando Way. Follow it to Budd Schulberg Avenue and it’s just next to the commissary.” During the auditons, Coppola would switch 30 young actors around from this role to that role, back to this and then into a whole other one… Young actors seen as Ponyboy Curtis included Tom Cruise, Anthony Michel Hall, Glenn Scarpelli – only Kilmer was offered the important gig. And he passed in favour of the stage play, The Slab Boys, with Kevin Bacon and Sean Penn.
  2. Sam Elliott, Mask, 1984.  For Rusty, mother of the disfigured Eric Stojtz, director Peter Bogdanovich decided on Cher. They did not get on… “She he had such a negative attitude.” She was also annoyed that he didn’t choose her lover, Kilmer, for Gar. Too young, said Bogdanovich. Indeed, Val was almost too young for Cher – 25 to her 38.    Sam was 40.  Bogdanovich’s lover, Cybill Shepherd, was shooting The Yellow Rose with Sam Elliott.  Perfect, she said, for what you want. Which was… how did he put it? “Gary Cooper on a motor-cycle.”
  3. Willem Dafoe, Platoon, 1985.   Jeff Bridges, Johnny Depp, Kris Kristofferson, Nick Nolte, Denzel Washington were on parade for Sergeant Grodin, Elias K. 3365664125 USKC-987654 in the only Vietnam war movie made by a Vietnam war veteran.  Auteur Oliver Stone grunted through eight months of ’Nam combat (twice wounded) during 1967-1968  This then, was as  viscerallyclose to the real thing as possible, feasible or desirable – ie, not John Wayne’s spurious propaganda, Green Berets, 1967.  And Val Kilmer sent writer- Stone a video of himself as Elias. Undressed as an Indian shaman. (He’d mis-heard about Stone seeking a Native American Elias?). “He was pretty eccentric in those days. His reading… was insane. He sat on a table, took his shirt off, did all kinds of weird stuff.” And that is how Kilmer became… Jim Morrison in  Stone’s The Doors, 1991.   Morrison had been Stone’s first choice for Charlie Sheen’s role of Chris Taylor..
  4. Kyle MacLachan, Blue Velvet, 1986.       Director David Lynch had one idea only  for  Jeffrey Beaumont: Kilmer. : And he just fled  the “pornographic”   scenario. .Years later, he said he would have agreed to the final version.
  5. Patrick Swayze, Dirty Dancing, 1986.    Passed and so we can blame Kilmer (and next choice, Billy Zane) for  the birth  of Swayze.
  6. Kiefer Sutherland, Flatliners, 1989.    Kilmer passed on joining five medical students playing with near-death experiences in what Sutherland calledThe Breakfast Club Dies. Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers was tougher: “A movie about daring that dares nothing.”

  7. Matt Salinger, Captain America, 1990.    
    First screen version of the WWII propaganda comicbook hero – Defender of the Defenceless – since Republic’s 1944 serial (with Dick Purcell), and two  1979 tele-quickies (Rep Brown).  A 1981 Universal plan, sub-headed Sentinel of Liberty, with Jeff Bridges as Cap Am never flew. Nor did Cannon’s 1984 take which UK director Michael Winner never got around to casting (well, not out loud).  Producer Menahem Golan, quit Cannon, started (but not for long) 21st Century Films and brought Cap and Cannon regulars with him: director Albert Pyun, actor Michael Dudikoff, aka American Ninja.But Pyun wanted ex-footballer Howie Long! (“manliest man on the planet,” said Hunter S Thompson). He also saw Brian Bosworth, VaL Kilmer (he quit for The Doors), Dolph Lundgren (did his own frozen hero bit with Universal Soldier).  Arnold Schwarzenegger (mitt dat accent), even Richard Thomas from The Waltons(Cannon’s earlier choice for Red Skull). And the winner was…the son of JD Salinger, no less!   Director and star were Cap Am fans as kids. Not evident from this mess. “Pretty difficult to make a film when… we actually had no money in the bank,” said Pyun. (Told you Golan was producing). Designed to coincide with Cap ‘s 50th birthday in 1990 (when Chris Evans was nine),  the film never got a US release until 21 years later to cash in on Marvel showing how it  should be done.

  8. Keanu Reeves, Point Break, 1990.   The search for young FBI agent Johnny Utah, infiltrating a gonzo surfer gang of bank robbers in ex-President masks – and falling under the spell of their guru-ish leader – covered  Matthew Broderick, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp, Val Kilmer,  Charlie Sheen and even Patrick Swayze (who played the guru),  But director Kathryn Bigelow  said Reeves had to be Utah or she wouldn’t  make the movie.
  9. John Stamos, Born To Ride, 1990.      “We were very close to Val,”    producer Fred Weintraub told me in Yugoslavia, “then Oliver Stone’s Doors opened…” ie  his price soared!
  10. Robby Benson, Beauty and the Beast, 1990.      Kilmer, Tim Curry, Laurence Fishburne and Mandy Patinkin made sense as potential voices for The Beest – but morning TV and game show host Regis Philbin, c’mon!  The US audience would have laughed its collective socks off.

  11. Andy Garcia, The Godfather: Part III, 1991.
  12. Clint Eastwood, In the Line of Fire, 1992.         Jeff Maguire’s impeccable script hung around Hollywood for a decade as they all – Warren Beatty, Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Redford – backed away from the ageing POTUS bodyguard Frank Horrigan – who had lost JFK at Dallas. When Tom Cruise was a no-go (no, really!), so was Kilmer. Obviously. Both guys were far too young to have been a Secret Service man on JFK’s detail in Dallas, November 22, 1963… when Kilmer was four and Cruise just 16 months. At 62, Eastwood even felt he was too old for the fiftysomething hero. He relented and made it one of his finest movies.
  13. Michael Biehn, Deadfall, 1992.    Kilmer and his wife Joanne Whalley changed minds about the project – and within four years, about each other. Biehn had made Navy Seals with Whalley in 1989.
  14. Christian Slater, True Romance, 1992.    Val lost Clarence Worley but stayed aboard as Worley’s mentor: Elvis.
  15. Woody Harrelson, Indecent Proposal, 1992.    Kilmer, William Baldwin, John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen…  None of them had Harrelson’s guts  in accepting the husband  selling  his wife for $1m to a zillionaire for one night. (He even walked out of Benny & Joon to play David – costing Paramount $400,000). Didn’t matter which lady played the missus – Irene Jacob, Andi MacDowell, Sophie Marceau, Demi Moore, Julia Roberts  – the film had a fatal flaw. Mr Money Bags was Robert Redford. ’Nuff said?
  16. Keanu Reeves, Johnny Mnemonic, 1994.     Everything was set for a 1993 fall shooting in Toronto when Val “couldn’t be bothered with it anymore,” said producer Peter Hoffman. “He comes in, loves the project, then he reads the script again, decides he hates it, wants dramatic surgery before he’ll do the movie.  You know something? It was the luckiest thing that ever happened… because we got Keanu.” It still tanked… So, Kilmer replaced Reeves in Michael Mann’s Heat
  17. Kevin Bacon, Apollo 13, 1995.     Bowed out, went to Africa researching a fond project and was (purportedly) in a real batcave when phoned with offer to be Batman Forever.  Or once, as it turned out. 
  18. Denzel Washington, Crimson Tide, 1995.      Refused being a junior officer to Hackman or Pacino.
  19. William Baldwin, Fair Game, 1995.     To be opposite Cindy Crawford’s debut as a leggy lawyer in the re-make of Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra  churned into a total  farce.

  20. David Thewlis, The Island of Dr Moreau, 1995.  
    Cast as the hero, Kilmer wanted out of the project on hearing (on TV) that his wife, Joanne Whalley, was divorcing him. Needing him after his Batman Forever hit, the studio forced him to stay put… in the lesser role of the assistant to the Doctor now played by Thewlis… and Rob Morrow quit when director Richard Stanley was fired after a few days. (Numbers differ). After Kilmer’s final scene, director John Frankenheimer said: “Cut! Now get that bastard off my set.” Bruce Willis left due to his divorce battle. Marlon Brando’s daughter, Cheynne, committed suicide. And without new helmer John Frankenheimer knowing, Stanley had joined the extras… Brando (the reason most people wanted to make the film) welcomed Thewlis by saying: “Go home, David. This is not a good film to work on. It is cursed.” Thewlis could say much more about the making of the farce – but feared such honesty would kill his career.

  21. Matthew McConaughey, A Time  To Kill, 1996.      Director Joel Schumacher agreed that Batman Forever was the best  behaved Kilmer had ever been  on a film.  Whether he cared to work with him again was a different  story. He still suggested  him  to author  and co-producer John Grisham. “Well, I was desperate,” he told me in Deauville. “John and I couldn’t agree on anyone. I made a list of ten people. Val was one. John didn’t like any of them.” Because the role was basically Grisham, himself.
  22. Chris O’Donnell, The Chamber, 1996.    Ron Howard planned to film the John Grisham book with Brad Pitt as the usual earnest young lawyer hero – outj to save a racist killer here from death row. Who just happens to be Grandad! Howard split to the safe Ransom. (All Howard films are… safe). Pitt fled, Kilmer arrived, but not for long. Chicago critic Rogert Ebert slapped down the entire enterprise. “What I get from the screen is not simply dialogue but the broadcasting of dangerous language.”
  23. George Clooney, Batman & Robin, 1996.
  24. Keanu Reeves, The Matrix, 1998.     The score’s composer Don Davis said Johnny Depp was first choice of the Wachowski siblings (then brothers Larry and Andy, now sisters Lana and Lilly). Warners voted:  Kilmer or Brad Pitt.. They passed. OK, said Warners: Depp or Keanu Reeves.   (As if that was a choice). Also seen for the neo-noir Neo: Nicolas Cage (family commitments), Leonardo DiCaprio (“too many special effects”), David Duchovny (preferred TV’s X-Files), Ewan McGregor (shooting Star Wars: Episode 1), Lou Diamond Phillips (his agent said: instant flop) and a surprisingly honest Will Smith. “I would have messed it up!”
  25. Russell Crowe, The Insider, 1999. He was director Michael Mann’s man until Dutch producer Pieter Van Brugge voted Crowe… who won an  Oscar nod. 
  26. Bruce Willis, Bandits, 2001.     Willis owned rights to Elmore Leonard’s book (nothing to do with the script!)  and took second lead, until Kilmer left and then, surprise, surprise, Willis took top spot.
  27. Vincent Cassel,  Blueberry, France, 2002.    Well out of it… Apart from  the hero’s name, Jan Kounen’s pretentious Western had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the French comicbook it was based on. Indeed, the estate of the co-creator and original writer of the Blueberry comic books, Jean-Michel Charlier, aka Gif, aka Moebius, found the changes (especially the shamanism) so appalling that it requested Charlier’s name to be removed from the credits. Kounen has since made docus and TV episodes than features (just three more) among his 2020 total  of 25 screen credits.
  28. Mark Ruffalo, Collateral, 2004.    They turned up the Heatpretty well in  1995, so director Michael Mann  called on Kilmer to change sides –  this time as Detective Fanning.  But he was in Morocco, shooting Alexanderwith Colin Farrell…  once up for this thriller’s hitman
  29. Colin Farrell, Alexander, 2004.     Director and co-scenarist Oliver Stone and Kilmer originally discussed it during The Doors  1991. 
Instead of Alex, he eventually played the hero’s royal father as a plump Philip of Macedonia – after a daily hour of old age and the scar tissue make-up. Having become a bad boy (drugs and a sex-tape) Farrell had to audition for auteur Oliver Stone – “150 pages of gut wrenching stuff, most of which he cut. Oliver is still working on it. On a fifth version. It’s a period that fascinates him.” “Colin’s like an Irish puppy dog, so free and fun, so handsome,” Kilmer told Miker Fleming Jr at Hollywood Deadline, November 2017. “I do wish he’d listened to me about the wigs, and some insights I thought I had from studying Alexander… Colin never took me up on it. I understand why… but think he’d have been happier with his performance had he taken an hour and listened.”

  30. Denzel Washington, Man on Fire, 2004. 
    Tony Scott backed out of directing the first version in 1986, but helped  Denzel Washington retrieve his lost taste for acting in this re-make.  Sergio Leone chose  Robert De Niro  and Marlon Brando nearly played A J Quinnell’s ex-CIA hero turned mercenary (certainly helped re-write  him) but Scott Glenn won the  role. Tony Scott  had wanted Robert Duvall. The new scriptwriter, Brian Helgeland, recalled going  into the LA Video Archives store  in the 80s and asking the clerk: “What’s good?” The clerk said:  Man on Fire. The clerk was Quentin Tarantino.  In both films Creasy  is trying to rescue a kidnapped girl, almost a daughter to him, that  he’s bodyguarding.  Yeah, rather like a matrix for Liam Neeson’s Takens. So no surprise to find Liam among some 25 actors up for Creasy. Alec Baldwin, Sean Bean (a nearly 007),  Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Andy Garcia, Mel Gibson, Ed Harris, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, Viggo Mortensen,  Gary Oldman, Dennis Quaid, Keanu Reeves, Alan Rickman, Kurt Russell,  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis… even our dear old  Bob Hoskins.  Creasy was later  Bollywooded by the inimitable  Amitabh Bachchan (at age  63!). There were three songs, of course!

  31. Colin Farrell,  Ask The Dust, 2006.    Originally involved (like Johnny Depp) in Robert Towne’s version of  John Fante’s Depression Era novel.
  32. Aidan Quinn, Dark Matter, 2006.     Schedules prevented Kilmer sharing… the only Meryl Streep film that no one has ever seen. 
  33. Sean Astin, What Love Is, 2007.  Kilmer’s combine was due to (re)produce  Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr after  their deft camaraderie in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, 2005.
  34. Benicio Del Toro, Che: Part One & Part Two, 2007.    Kilmer was Steven Soderbergh’s  rather surprising first reserve if Del Toro proved unavailable for Ernesto Che  Guevara.
  35. Til Schweiger, De rote Baron/The Red Baron, Germany-UK, 2008.    Kilmer turned  down another  Euro hero. After the French cowboy, Blueberry, 2004, the WW1 hero of the German air force, Baron Manfred von Richthofen.
  36. Ray Winstone, Noah, 2013.      Kilmer, Liam Neeson, Liev Schreiber – Darren Aronofsky searched far and wide  for “an actor with the grit and size to be convincing as he goes head-to-head against Crowe’s Noah.” They could  have all played  Noah, himself. But the role was Tubalcain, nemesis of the auteur’s life-long fascination with “a dark, complicated character who experiences real survivor’s guilt.”  And a lot of water.
  37. Will Arnett, The Lego Movie, 2013.    Auteurs Phil Lord and Christopher Miller toyed with the idea of having their lego-Batman voiced by The Real Thing: Kilmer, Christian Bale, George Clooney, Michael Keaton or  Kilmer. (In his voicing debut, Channing Tatum was Superman). 
  38. Sean Patrick Flanery, Broken Horses, 2014 Change of siblings – again. The violinist and a mentally challenged hitman had also once been Nicolas Cage and Mickey Rourke…  in the first Hollywood feature from a Bollywoodian.  Vidhu Vinod Chopra had LA fans. For James Cameron, this was an artistic triumph while Alfonso Cuaron was overwhelmed. So were critics. Just not in the same direction. “A cheap, unpleasant movie,” said Jeff Rollins @, “with a hair-brained plot, abysmal dialog, hollow characters and truly bizarre performances. It’s best to put this horse down.”








 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  38