A bomb threat has sealed off the streets surrounding us, but Val Kilmer is calm. His long blond hair tied back into a loose ponytail, the actor is wearing a blue blazer, blue and white checkered shirt, and Levis, and sitting on a couch in his publicist's Hollywood office. He pours himself tea from a thermos and water from a mason jar. As he points to a piece of carrot sticking out of the middle of his "healthy" hamburger patty, he jokes that the meal is nutritious.
This is the infamously difficult Val Kilmer?From legendary performances in films like Top Gun and The Doors to his reputation of being wildly eccentric, it's difficult not to be intrigued by Kilmer. In addition to being an actor, he is a poet, musician and visual artist. Currently, Kilmer, who at 17 years old was the youngest person ever to have been accepted into Juilliard's theater program, is returning to his roots. His latest artistic pursuit is workshopping a one-man play he's developing about orator/writer Mark Twain, a figure with whom Kilmer feels an intense kinship.
In person, Kilmer is gracious, jovial and open. He's very talkative, but he's equally contemplative. One moment, he'll be incredibly serious, choosing his words carefully. In the next moment, he's animated and doubled over in a big belly laugh.
He is all too aware of and disappointed by certain aspects of his reputation, including that pesky rumor that he's "difficult." "It's kind of funny when I hear it," says Kilmer. "But it's cost me millions of dollars from people not hiring me because they've heard something odd. But there's no credible director that's ever said, 'Don't hire him.' There are lots of actors who are awful people, but nobody talks about them being awful because they've made billions."
Kilmer thinks his negative reputation developed when he was shooting The Doors. He says he thought director Oliver Stone was putting Jim Morrison on a "crazy pedestal." In an attempt to "break the spell Oliver was under," Kilmer says he asked Stone to start calling him "Jim." Due to what Kilmer says is some kind of miscommunication, suddenly Kilmer was being ignored by everyone on the film set.