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December 25, 1996
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Val Kilmer -- superhero no more
By the Assocated Press


December 25, 1996

Val Kilmer hasn't always picked film roles to match his leading-man good looks.

He portrayed the hotshot pilot Iceman in the Tom Cruise hit "Top Gun," had the whimsy and daredevil spirit of Errol Flynn in "Willow" and bore a striking resemblance to the decadent Jim Morrison in "The Doors."

And, of course, there was his role as the intensely brooding superhero Batman -- dressed in cape and hood.

But Kilmer professes to rank himself as a character actor most satisfied with parts such as that of the dying, dyspeptic Doc Holliday in "Tombstone," opposite Kurt Russell.

Handed the unflattering star-as-brat mantle in a recent series of stories and gossip columns, Kilmer, who was born on Dec. 31, 1959, says it's an image he doesn't deserve.

"I thought, naively, if you do a good job and they hire you again and people are entertained, then that will be that."

Kilmer ducked out of -- or was booted from -- the sequel to "Batman Forever." The actor said he got unfairly squeezed between roles he wanted and replaying a comic book character.

On the set of "The Island of Dr. Moreau," the actor was alleged to have gotten director Richard Stanley fired, but Kilmer says he unfairly took the fall.

"You know and I know and everyone in the business knows that nobody can get a director fired -- no actor, it doesn't matter what your status. The director gets fired because the studio says, 'We're going to lose money."'

A native of Los Angeles, Kilmer was admitted to the prestigious Juilliard School in New York when he was 17. While there he co-wrote and starred in a play called "How It All Began," based on a German expose about contemporary terrorism. This student production was later picked up by Joseph Papp for his Public Theater, with Kilmer in the leading role.

Kilmer, who is of German and Swedish descent, subsequently appeared in Papp's production of Shakespeare's "Henry IV, Part I," and did the role of Orlando in "As You Like It" at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. He also played the tragic prince in "Hamlet" at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder.

The actor made his Broadway debut in "Slab Boys" in 1983, which also featured Kevin Bacon and Sean Penn.

In 1992, he appeared with Jeanne Tripplehorn in "'Tis Pity She's a Whore" at New York's Public Theater. "In Mr. Kilmer's impressively measured performance," one reviewer wrote, "the hero stealthily grows from a coltish Romeo into a Nietzschean megalomaniac."

Kilmer made his film debut in 1984 in "Top Secret!" in which he played a caricature of a pop star. He followed with another teen comedy, "Real Genius." He starred in "The Ghost and the Darkness" with Michael Douglas, and he was Madmartigan, the mythical warrior who befriends a dwarf, in the George Lucas myth-fantasy "Willow."

He is scheduled to star with Elizabeth Shue in a $60 million movie about The Saint, a fictional adventurer once known as the cavalier of crime.

Kilmer, who split from British actress Joanne Whalley in 1995, has a daughter Mercedes and a son Jack.

Like his cousin, the late Joyce Kilmer, famous for the poem "Trees," Kilmer also writes poetry.

He's had a book of poetry published. "I have a laptop computer and I was compiling it and writing it in my trailer during 'Willow.' I'd write while I was in my muddy armor."


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