Val Kilmer has been waiting to tell his story for decades, 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, being seen as too tempestuous and combative to work with. For awhile, it seemed he would never find a home for his documentary Val. Now we have a first look trailer, with news that the documentary, made up of Val Kilmer’s private home movies, will make its debut at 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 home 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 lived to extremes and a heart-filled, sometimes hilarious look at what it means to be an artist and a complex man.”
Kilmer shares his life in both voiceover narration and years of home video from 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 details in his 2020 memoir ‘I’m Your Huckleberry.’ The operation on his trachea has left him barely able to speak beyond a whisper.
From the very beginnings of his career, he had his camcorder rolling but it took directors Leo Scott and Ting Poo to put the puzzle together. “It was gold, like a treasure trove you’re lucky to come across in your career,” Poo said.
“I was pretty much floored,” Poo continued.
“The more of it you get to see, the more you understand who he is now,” added Scott, who spent over nine months digitizing Kilmer’s footage. (Since the actor’s speaking ability is limited, the narration is supplied by his son, Jack.) Kilmer explains early on that he wanted to make a movie about acting for years, and while he didn’t have a precise project in mind as he gathered material, Val provides a unique window into the awkward and often messy struggles of a creative performer attempting 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 sense from the material that he was knowingly, wisely, gathering some of these things for a bigger story one day.”
Kilmer had amassed hundreds of hours of film and videotape that were stored in boxes stacked up in the garage. The bevy began with movies he made as a kid with his two brothers, Mark and Wesley, while growing up in the Los Angeles suburb of Chatsworth to the present day.
“Val always said he didn’t see it as a documentary,” Scott said. “He saw it as a movie starring Val Kilmer as the main character in the story about his life, and we all aligned on that feeling.” The Cannes premiere for Val completes a cycle for the project. “Before we had made anything,” Poo said, “Val was like, ‘And then we’ll show it at Cannes.'” And scene, Mr. Kilmer.