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Thursday, 10 May 2012

Val Kilmer Esquire Interview 2005

Crazy Things Seem Normal . . . Normal Things Seem Crazy

Val Kilmer is an L. A. kid who now owns bison. He's a Christian Scientist and a collector of reference books. He's Cindy Crawford's ex and Bob Dylan's pal. He has portrayed Jim Morrison, Willem de Kooning, John Holmes, and Batman. Is he the most advanced actor of our time?
By Chuck Klosterman

"I just like looking at them," Val Kilmer tells me as we stare at his two bison. "I liked looking at them when I was a kid, and I like looking at them now." The buffalo are behind a fence, twenty-five feet away. A fifteen-hundred-pound bull stares back at us, bored and tired. He stomps his right hoof, turns 180 degrees, and defecates in our general direction. "Obviously, we are not seeing these particular buffalo at their most noble of moments," Kil-mer says, "but I still like looking at them. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I'm part Cherokee. There was such a relationship between the buffalo and the American Indian--the Indians would eat them, live inside their pelts, use every part of the body. There was almost no separation between the people and the animals."

Val Kilmer tells me he used to own a dozen buffalo, but now he's down to a pair. He says he named one of these remaining ungulates James Brown because it likes to spin around in circles and looks like the kind of beast who might beat up his wife. I have been talking to Kilmer for approximately three minutes; it's 5:20 P.M. on April Fool's Day.

Twenty-four hours ago, I was preparing to fly to Los Angeles to conduct this interview; this was because Val was supposedly leaving for Switzerland (for four months) on April 3. Late last night, these plans changed entirely. Suddenly, Val was not going to be in L. A. Instead I was instructed to fly to New Mexico, where someone would pick me up at the Albuquerque airport and drive me to Kilmer's six-thousand-acre ranch. However, when I arrived in Albuquerque this afternoon, the plans changed again. I was now told to rent a car and drive to the ranch myself. Curiously, the ranch is not outside Albuquerque (which I assumed would be the case, particularly since Val himself suggested I fly into the Albuquerque airport). It is actually outside Santa Fe, which is seventy-three miles away.

The drive to Santa Fe on I-25 is mildly Zen; there are road signs that say, GUSTY WINDS MAY EXIST. This seems more like lazy philosophy than travel advice. When I arrive in New Mexico's capital city, I discover that Kilmer's ranch is still another thirty minutes away, and the directions on how to get there are a little confusing; it takes me forty-five minutes before I find the gate to his property. The gate is closed. There is no one around for miles, the sky is huge, and my cell phone no longer works. This, I suppose, is where the buffalo roam (and where roaming rates apply). I locate an intercom phone outside the gate, but most of the numbers don't work. When an anonymous male voice finally responds to my desperate pleas for service, it is mechanical and terse: "Who are you meeting? What is this regarding?" I tell him I am a reporter, and that I am here to see Val Kilmer, and that Mr. Kilmer knows I am coming. There is a pause, and then he says, "Someone will meet you at the bridge!" The gate swings open and I drive through. I expect the residence to be near the entrance, but it is not; I drive at least two miles on a gravel road. Eventually, I cross a wooden bridge and park the vehicle. I see a man driving toward me on a camouflaged ATV four-wheeler, and the man looks like a cross between Jeff Bridges and Thomas Haden Church, which means that this is the man I am looking for. He parks next to my rental car; I roll down the window. He is smiling, and his teeth are huge. I find myself staring at them.

"Welcome to the West," the teeth say. "I'm Val Kilmer. Would you like to see the buffalo?"

"I've never been that comfortable talking about myself, or about acting," the forty-five-year-old Kilmer says. It's 7:00 P.M. We are now sitting in his lodge, which is more rustic than I anticipated. We are surrounded by unfinished wood and books about trout fishing, and an African kudu head hangs on the wall. There seem to be a lot of hoofed animals on this ranch, and many of them are dead. Kilmer's friendly ranch hand (a fortyish woman named Pam Sawyer) has just given me a plateful of Mexican food I don't really want, so Val is eating it for me. He is explaining why he almost never gives interviews.

"For quite a while, I thought that it didn't really matter if I defended myself [to journalists]. A lot of things kind of snowballed when I didn't refute them. And I mainly didn't do interviews because they're hard. When you're young, you're always concerned about how you're being seen and how you're being criticized."

I have not come to New Mexico to criticize Val Kilmer. However, he seems almost disturbingly certain of this fact. Last year, I wrote a column in which I described Kilmer as being "advanced." What this means is that I find Kilmer's persona interesting, and that I think he makes choices other actors would never consider, and that he is probably my favorite working actor. This is all true. However, Kilmer took this column to mean that I am his biggest fan on the planet and that he can trust me entirely. From the moment we look at his buffalo, he is completely relaxed and cooperative; he immediately introduces me to his children, Mercedes (age thirteen) and Jack (age ten). Val shares custody with their British mother (Joanne Whalley, Kilmer's costar from Willow) in Los Angeles, but the kids spend a great chunk of time on this ranch. They love it here, despite the fact that it doesn't have a decent television. Along with the bison, the farmstead includes horses, a dog, two cats, and (as of this afternoon) five baby chickens, one of which will disappear before the night is over. (Both cats are suspects.) The Kilmer clan is animal crazy; the house smells like a veterinarian's office. Jack is predominantly consumed with the chicks in the kitchen and the trampoline in the backyard. Mercedes is an artist and a John Lennon fan; she seems a little too smart to be thirteen. When I ask her what her favorite Val Kilmer movie is, she says, "Oh, probably Batman Forever, but only because it seems like it was secretly made by Andrew Lloyd Webber."

For the first forty-five minutes of my visit, the five of us--Kilmer, his two kids, Pam the ranch hand, and me--occupy the main room of the house and try to make casual conversation, which is kind of like making small talk with friendly strangers in a wooden airport. Mercedes has a lot of questions about why Kilmer is "advanced," and Val mentions how much he enjoys repeating the word advanced over and over and over again. He tells me about an Afterschool Special he made in 1983 called One Too Many, in which he played a teenage alcoholic alongside Mare Winningham (his first girlfriend) and Michelle Pfeiffer (a woman he would later write poetry for). I mention that he seems to play a lot of drug-addled drunks, and he agrees that this is true. In fact, before I got here, I unconsciously assumed Val would be a drug-addled drunk during this interview, since every story I've ever heard about him implies that he's completely crazy; he supposedly burned a cameraman with a cigarette on the set of The Island of Dr. Moreau. There are a few directors (most notably Joel Schumacher) who continue to paint him as the most egocentric, unreasonable human in Hollywood. As far as I can tell, this cannot possibly be accurate. If I had to describe Kilmer's personality in one word (and if I couldn't use the word advanced), I would have to employ the least incendiary of all modifiers: Val Kilmer is nice. The worst thing I could say about him is that he's kind of a name-dropper. Beyond that, he seems like an affable fellow with a good sense of humor, and he is totally not fucked up.

But he is weird.

He's weird in ways that are expected, and he's weird in ways that are not. I anticipated that he might seem a little odd when we talked about acting, mostly because a) Kilmer is a Method actor, and b) all Method actors are insane. However, I did not realize how much insanity this process truly required. That started to become clear when I asked him about The Doors and Wonderland, two movies in which Kilmer portrays acutely self-destructive drug addicts. Late in Wonderland, he wordlessly (and desperately) waits for someone to offer him cocaine in a manner that seems excruciatingly authentic. I ask if he ever went through a drug phase for real. He says no. He says he's never freebased cocaine in his life but that he understands the mind-set of addiction. The conversation evolves into a meditation on the emotional toll that acting takes on the artist. I ask him about the "toll" that he felt while making the 1993 western Tombstone. He starts talking about things that happened to Doc Holliday. I say, "No, no, you must have misunderstood me. I want to know about the toll it took on you." He says, "I know, I'm talking about those feelings." And this is the conversation that follows:

Me: You mean you think you literally had the same experience as Doc Holliday?

Kilmer: Oh, sure. It's not like I believed that I shot somebody, but I absolutely know what it feels like to pull the trigger and take someone's life.

You understand how it feels to shoot someone as much as a person who has actually committed a murder?

I understand it more. It's an actor's job. A guy who's lived through the horror of Vietnam has not spent his life preparing his mind for it. He's some punk. Most guys were borderline criminal or poor, and that's why they got sent to Vietnam. It was all the poor, wretched kids who got beat up by their dads, guys who didn't get on the football team, couldn't finagle a scholarship. They didn't have the emotional equipment to handle that experience. But this is what an actor trains to do. I can more effectively represent that kid in Vietnam than a guy who was there.

I don't question that you can more effectively represent it, but that's not the same thing. If you were talking to someone who's in prison for murder and the guy said, "Man, it really fucks you up to kill another person," do you think you could reasonably say, "I completely know what you're talking about"?

Oh yeah. I'd know what he's talking about.

Let's say someone made a movie about you--Val Kilmer--and they cast Jude Law in the lead role. By your logic, wouldn't this mean that Jude Law--if he succeeded in the role--would therefore understand what it means to be Val Kilmer more than you do?

No, because I'm an actor. The people in those other circumstances don't have the self-knowledge.

Well, what if it were a movie about your young life, before you became an actor?

I guess I'd have to say yes.

Okay, so let's assume you had been given the lead role in The Passion of the Christ. Would you understand the feeling of being crucified as much as Jesus?

Well, I just played Moses [in a theatrical version of TheTen Commandments]. Of course.

So you understand the experience of being Moses? Maybe I'm just taking your words too literally.

No, I don't think so. That's what acting is.

I keep asking Kilmer if he is joking, and he swears he is not. However, claiming that he's not joking might be part of the joke. A few weeks later, I paraphrased the preceding conversation to Academy Award--winning conspiracy theorist Oliver Stone, the man who directed Kilmer in 1991's The Doors and 2004's Alexander. He did not find our exchange surprising. "This has always been the issue with Val," Stone said via cell phone as his son drove him around Los Angeles. "He speaks in a way that is propelled from deep inside, and he doesn't always realize how the things he says will sound to other people. But there is a carryover effect from acting. You can never really separate yourself from what you do, and Val is ultrasensitive to that process."

Stone says Kilmer has substantially matured over the years, noting that the death of Kilmer's father in 1993 had an immediate impact on his emotional flexibility. "We didn't have the greatest relationship when we made The Doors," he says. "I always thought he was a technically brilliant actor, but he was difficult. He can be moody. But when we did Alexander, Val was an absolute pleasure to work with. I think part of his problem with The Doors was that he just got sick of wearing leather pants every day."

Kilmer and his kids are playing with the cats. Because there are two of them (Ernest and Refrigerator), the living room takes on a Ghost and the Darkness motif. While they play with the felines, Val casually mentions he awoke that morning at 4:00 A.M. to work on a screenplay, then went back to bed at 6:00 A.M. I ask him about the movie he's writing.

"Well, it's a woman's story," he says cautiously. "It's about this woman who was just fighting to survive, and everything that happened to her."

I ask him if this is a real person; he says she is. "Her first husband died. Her own family took her son away from her. She marries a guy because he promises to get the son back, and then he doesn't. He's a dentist, and he won't even fix her teeth. She ends up divorcing him because he gets captured in the Civil War. She meets a homeopathic guy who's probably more of a mesmerist hypnotist. For the first time in her life, at forty-two years old, she's feeling good. But then she slips on the ice and breaks every bone in her body, and the doctor and the priest say she should be dead. But she has this experience while she's praying and she gets up. People literally thought they were seeing a ghost. And then she spent all this time trying to articulate what had happened to her. How was she healed? That's what the story is about: the rest of her life. Because she lived until she was ninety and became the most famous lady in the United States."

His vision for this film is amazingly clear, and he tells me the story with a controlled, measured intensity. I ask him the woman's name. He says, "Mary Baker Eddy. She died in 1910."

It is not until the next morning that I realize Mary Baker Eddy was the founder of Christian Science, and that Val Kilmer is a Christian Scientist.

"Well, I am trying to be," he says while we sit on his back porch and look at the bubbling blueness of the Pecos River. "It is quite a challenging faith."

There are many facets to Christian Science, but most people concern themselves with only one: Christian Scientists do not take medicine. They believe that healing does not come from internal processes or from the power of the human mind; they believe it comes from the Divine Mind. This belief becomes more complex when you consider the circumstances of the Kilmer family. The son of an engineer and a housewife, Val had two brothers. Over time, the family splintered. Val's parents divorced, and he remains estranged from his older brother over a business dispute that happened more than ten years ago. ("We have a much better relationship not speaking," Val says.) His younger brother, Wesley, died as a teenager; Wesley had an epileptic seizure in a swimming pool. (Val was seventeen at the time, about to go to school at Juilliard.) I ask him if his brother's epilepsy was untreated at the time of his death.

"Well, this is a complicated answer," he says. "He was treated periodically. There is a big misnomer with Christian Science. People used to say, 'Christian Science. Oh, you're the ones that don't believe in doctors,' which is not a true thing. It's just a different way of treating a malady. It could be mental, social, or physical. When Wesley was diagnosed, he was given medical treatment. When he was in school, they would stop the treatment. Then periodically, he would go back and forth between Christian Science and the medical treatment."

I ask him what seems like an obvious question: Isn't it possible that his brother's death happened when he wasn't being treated, and that this incident could have been avoided?

"Christian Science isn't responsible for my little brother's death," he says, and I am in no position to disagree.

His daughter walks past us. I ask Val if he would not allow her to take amoxicillin if she had a sore throat; he tells me that because he's divorced, he doesn't have complete control over that type of decision. But he says his first move in such a scenario would be to pray, because most illness comes from fear. We start talking about Scientology, which he has heard is "basically Christian Science without God." We begin discussing the definition of religion; Kilmer thinks an institution cannot be classified as a religion unless God is involved. When I argue that this is not necessarily the case, Val walks into the house and brings out the Oxford English Dictionary. The print in the OED is minuscule, so he begins scouring the pages like Sherlock Holmes. He pores over the tiny words with a magnifying glass that has an African boar's tusk as a handle. He finds the definition of religion, but the OED's answer is unsatisfactory. He decides to check Webster's Second Unabridged Dictionary, which he insists was the last dictionary created without an agenda. We spend the next fifteen minutes looking up various words, including monastic.

So this, I suppose, is an example of how Val Kilmer is weird in unexpected ways: He's a Christian Scientist, and he owns an inordinate number of reference books.

I ask Kilmer if he agrees that his life is weird. First he says no, but then he (kind of) says yes.

"I've probably made as much money as six hundred thousand or eight hundred thousand people in this state," he says. "It's a crazy thing to say, you know? I live on a ranch that's larger than Manhattan. That's a weird circumstance." Now, this is something of an exaggeration. Manhattan is 14,563 acres, which is more than twice as large as Val's semiarid homestead. But his point is still valid: He's got a big fucking backyard.

Kilmer's self-awareness with respect to his fame seems to partially derive from his familiarity with other famous people. During the two days we spend together, he mentions myriad celebrities he considers to be friends--Robert De Niro, Nelson Mandela, Steve-O. He tells me he dreams of making a comedy with Will Ferrell, whom he considers a genius. At one point, Kilmer does a flawless Marlon Brando impression, even adjusting the timbre of his voice to illustrate the subtle difference between the seventies Brando from Last Tango in Paris and the nineties Brando from Don Juan DeMarco. We talk about Kevin Spacey, and he says that Spacey is "proof that you can learn how to act. Because he was horrible when he first started, and now he's so good." We talk about the famous women he's dated. The last serious relationship he had was with Daryl Hannah, which ended a year ago. During the 1990s, he was involved with Cindy Crawford, so I ask him what it's like to sleep with one of the most famous women in the world. His short answer is that it's awesome. His long answer is that it's complicated.

"Cindy is phenomenally comfortable in the public scene," Kilmer says. "With a great deal of humor, she describes herself as being in advertising. She's an icon in it; we actually talked about her image in relation to the product. And I was uncomfortable with that. We got in a huge fight one night because of a hat she was wearing. The hat advertised a bar, and I had a certain point of view about the guy who owned the bar, and I was just being unreasonable. But I knew we were going to go to dinner and that we'd get photographed with this hat, and I was just hard to deal with. It was a really big deal."

This is the kind of exchange that makes talking to an established movie star so unorthodox. Kilmer remembers that his girlfriend wearing a certain hat was a big deal, but he doesn't think it was a big deal that the girlfriend was Cindy Crawford. Crazy things seem normal, normal things seem crazy. He mentions that he is almost embarrassed by how clichéd his life has become, despite the fact that the manifestation of cliché includes buffalo ownership. However, there are certain parts of his life that even he knows are strange. This is most evident when--apropos of nothing--he starts talking about Bob Dylan.

"I am a friend of Bob's, as much as Bob has friends," Kilmer says. "Bob is a funny guy. He is the funniest man I know." Apparently, Dylan loved Tombstone so much that he decided to spend an afternoon hanging out in Val's hotel room, later inviting Kilmer into the recording studio with Eric Clapton and casting him in the film Masked and Anonymous. What he seems to admire most about Dylan is that--more than anything else--Bob Dylan never appears to care what anyone thinks of him. And that is something Val Kilmer still cares about (even though he'd argue otherwise).

"I never cultivated a personality," he says, which is something I am skeptical of, but something I cannot disprove. "Almost everyone who is really famous has cultivated a personality. I can safely say that no one who has ever won an Oscar didn't want to win an Oscar. I think that Bob Dylan would have loved to win a Grammy during all those years when he knew he was doing his best work. Advanced or not, he was certainly ahead of his time, and he was more worthy than whoever won. . . . Dylan was doing stuff that was so new that everyone hated it. Like when he started playing the electric guitar, for example. He toured for a year, and he was booed every night. Onstage, I could never take three performances in a row and be booed. I just don't think I'm that strong. But Dylan spent a year being booed. They were throwing bottles at him. And he still can't play it! Forty years later, he is still trying to play the electric guitar. I mean, he has a dedication to an ideal that I can't comprehend."

On the banks of the Pecos River, nothing is as it seems: Kevin Spacey was once a terrible actor, Bob Dylan remains a terrible guitar player, and Val Kilmer is affable and insecure. Crazy things seem normal, normal things seem crazy. Gusty winds may exist.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Psycho Kilmer,,292752,00.html

Psycho Kilmer

George Clooney replaces him as lead in upcoming ''Batman and Robin''

The arrest was already five-day-old news when the fax arrived in the mail rooms of entertainment executives across L.A. The headline — FBI DETAINS SUSPECT IN UNABOMBER HUNT — offered no forward spin. But those who received the transmission, sent by a high-powered friend, were in on the joke: In place of the photograph of a glowering Theodore Kaczynski was the smiling, suntanned, sunglasses-wearing Val Kilmer.

When it was announced last February that Kilmer, 36, would not return as the Caped Crusader in Batman and Robin, the forthcoming fourth installment of Hollywood's billion-dollar-plus movie franchise, the utter lack of public distress on the part of Warner Bros. was a sure sign that something had gone amiss for Kilmer. Since first coming to attention in the comedy Top Secret! (1984), the actor had solidified his reputation as a versatile leading man playing parts like Jim Morrison in The Doors (1991) and Doc Holliday in Tombstone (1993). Then, last summer, he had proved his commercial viability in the $184 million-grossing Batman Forever, spinning that success into four other projects: the cop thriller Heat, this August's The Island of Dr. Moreau, this fall's turn-of-the-century African adventure The Ghost and the Darkness with Michael Douglas, and a now-filming remake of the 1960s television series The Saint with Elisabeth Shue.

But just as Kilmer's $6 million-per-picture paycheck has come to reflect his clout, his reputation for being difficult has soared. His prolific schedule notwithstanding, many in Hollywood are loath to work with him, no matter how big the box office payback.

It's no special feat to be voted Mr. Unpopularity in an industry that seems to create a new contender every month, but it's virtually unheard-of for the griping to become public. Nonetheless, here are the testimonials from some of Kilmer's recent colleagues: As Richard Stanley, who directed Kilmer for three days in The Island of Dr. Moreau before being fired, recalls, ''Val would arrive, and an argument would happen.'' Says John Frankenheimer, who replaced Stanley: ''I don't like Val Kilmer, I don't like his work ethic, and I don't want to be associated with him ever again.'' And Batman Forever director Joel Schumacher calls his onetime star ''childish and impossible.''

Kilmer, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has had a tumultuous year: Last July, he separated from his wife of seven years, actress Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, with whom he has two children, Mercedes, 4, and Jack, 1 (he's since taken up with Cindy Crawford), and has been working nonstop in locations as varied as Australia, South Africa, and Russia. But even that stress, say those who know him, cannot excuse incidents like the time he burned a cameraman with a cigarette while filming Moreau. Some suggest that Kilmer's behavior hasn't gotten worse; it's just that more people are paying attention.

Kilmer's brother, Mark, 37, thinks Kilmer's troubles are unsurprising. ''We all have grandiose, narcissistic tendencies,'' says Mark, a doctoral student of psychology who has not spoken to his brother since their father's funeral in 1993. ''If there are people helping those tendencies along, it's hard to resist.''

Kilmer, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley and attended Juilliard, has always come with a ''Handle with care'' sign. Although Tombstone producer James Jacks says, ''He behaved well on my movie, and I'd be happy to work with him again,'' Kilmer's reputation for volatility preceded him, and at times, the star seemed to play up to it. Tombstone's first director, Kevin Jarre, who was fired after a month of shooting, says, ''There's a dark side to Val that I don't feel comfortable talking about,'' but offers this anecdote. One day on the set, he and Kilmer ''were deep in conversation about Doc Holliday, and this stand-in brought over a very colorful sort of locust and said, 'Look what I found!' I looked up and said, 'Hey, that's pretty good,' and Val, without saying a word, grabbed the locust from the guy and ate it. And it was big. He said to me, 'As you know, I have a reputation for being difficult. But only with stupid people.'''

Or with people who don't share his opinion. Oliver Stone, who had no complaints about Kilmer's behavior on the Doors set, acknowledges that the actor ''is passionate about his work — with the wrong approach, you may see a side of him you don't like.'' That side can be violent: An executive on The Real McCoy (1993), a bank-heist flop in which Kilmer starred with Kim Basinger, says Kilmer became so enraged when director Russell Mulcahy declined to alter a scene to his specifications that he fired his prop gun at a prop car.

When Kilmer signed to do Batman Forever two years ago, Schumacher braced himself. ''I had heard horror stories about Val and was warned not to hire him,'' he says. ''But I have heard that about many talented people, hired them anyway, and had no problems whatsoever.''

This time, Schumacher was less fortunate. After a couple of weeks of shooting, Kilmer's behavior had eroded to the point where Schumacher says he and Kilmer ''had a physical pushing match. He was being irrational and ballistic with the first AD, the cameraman, the costume people. He was badly behaved, he was rude and inappropriate. I was forced to tell him that this would not be tolerated for one more second. Then we had two weeks where he did not speak to me, but it was bliss.'' As for Kilmer's absence from Batman and Robin, which starts shooting this August, ''he sort of quit, we sort of fired him,'' says Schumacher. ''It probably depends on who's telling the story.''

In fact, says a Warner Bros. insider, Kilmer's contract required him to make a second Bat-film; when Kilmer announced that he would be making The Saint for Paramount until mid-July, leaving only days to prepare for Batman and Robin, Warner Bros. reminded Paramount that Kilmer was due on Batman Aug. 1. ''They went insane,'' says the source, ''and said they'd make The Saintwithout Val. Suddenly Val says, 'Then I won't do Batman,' thinking we'd say, 'Oh, come a month later.'" Instead, Warner Bros. kept its start date, released Kilmer from his contract, and handed the Batsuit to George Clooney.

Val Kilmer likes to make trouble. With a strong director, he performs. In the absence of one, he can become a liability, as he proved last fall on the set of The Island of Dr. Moreau, the New Line sci-fi jungle adventure whose tormented production became an apotheosis of all that is absurd about Hollywood.

Director Richard Stanley spent four years developing what would become the story of a marooned lawyer who discovers an island inhabited by a mad scientist (played by Marlon Brando), his assistant, Montgomery, and their terrifying ''humanimal'' creations. New Line agreed to fund the project with Kilmer on board in the starring role, but then the actor began to waffle about spending so much time on camera. ''Val's opening gambit was to reduce the lead by 40 percent,'' says Stanley. ''My initial note to him, which started the relationship off badly was, 'No, we can't reduce the role — you're crazy.' So I came up with a way to save my own ass. I was the stupid idiot who suggested he play Montgomery.'' Eager to mollify a star who, post-Batman, could sell tickets, New Line agreed and gave the leading role to Rob Morrow. ''New Line's point of view was, Val was the money,'' says Stanley, ''and if it came down to being between me and Val...''

It took only three days. Last summer, Morrow, Kilmer, and the Moreau crew headed down to Queensland, Australia, with Brando planning to follow them. The first day, with the script still being rewritten, Kilmer and the humanimals, played by actors in costumes, set out to the sea on a storm-swept morning. ''He'd do [the lines] but he'd throw it all away,'' says Stanley. ''And he kept insisting on odd bits and pieces of his wardrobe that didn't make sense, like a piece of blue material wrapped around his arm. It was like, 'Why is that around his arm, and will he take it off?''' According to an actor on the set, the lines Kilmer recited were ''lines written for other characters, in other scenes.''

On the second day, when Kilmer didn't show up until 3 p.m., Stanley still wasn't worried. ''An agent at CAA,'' which represents both the director and Kilmer, ''told me not to worry, that every Val movie loses the first two days.'' But on the fourth day, after seeing the dailies that Stanley had shipped to L.A., New Line fired the director. Stanley believes that Kilmer influenced New Line's decision: ''He would refuse to rehearse. He's clever, because then we'd just shoot it, and the moment you shoot it, it's rushes, and it goes back to the company.'' Michael DeLuca, New Line's president of production and development, says, ''I didn't give [Kilmer] a strong director. And that was my fault.''

New Line stopped production, and brought in director John Frankenheimer; Morrow, who wouldn't comment, fled the set and was replaced by David Thewlis (whose character was completely rewritten). ''By the time Brando arrived, the script had collapsed,'' says Stanley. ''No one was willing to say no to anything, which is why Brando wears an ice bucket on his head in one scene.'' (Brando did not respond to a request for an interview.)

Frankenheimer and Kilmer were a combustible match as well. One evening, Kilmer turned to the director and asked, ''You know what I think?'' To which Frankenheimer responded, ''I don't give a f---. Get off my set.'' Brando made Kilmer feel equally unwelcome, moving his trailer away from the young actor's and one-upping him in delays. ''Between Kilmer and Brando, we didn't shoot for 12 days, with all the crew just standing around,'' says a member of the production team, who adds that one day, when Kilmer was in Brando's trailer, Brando told him, ''Your problem is, you confuse your talent with the size of your paycheck.''

Nor did Kilmer earn any fans when the lit end of his cigarette met the face of a camera operator. ''Val was sort of teasing him with the end of his cigarette and burned this guy's sideburn,'' says Moreau executive producer Tim Zinnemann. ''The guy was upset, naturally.'' But one who witnessed the incident has a different opinion: ''He burned that cameraman right on his face, and no, he wasn't fooling around. It was intentional. He did apologize to the crew.''

Frankenheimer and Kilmer were united on one point: the fear that Stanley would return to the set and burn it down. (Stanley says this was based simply on a joking comment he made to the production designer.) What they didn't realize is that Stanley had been there all along — with the help of the makeup and costume people, he'd returned as a humanimal extra. ''I decided to come back as a melting bulldog,'' says Stanley. ''I didn't know Frankenheimer or the assistant directors, so they didn't recognize me. I couldn't have come that far and not seen Brando.'' At Brando's wrap party, ''I took the dog mask off and showed who I was. Kilmer came up and hugged and kissed me and said how sorry he was.''

Frankenheimer says simply, ''Will Rogers never met Val Kilmer.''

Some of Kilmer's colleagues offer measured praise for the actor. ''He was very generous,'' says Tombstone's Jarre. ''I asked Val to build up this actor's confidence before a scene. The actor was sweating, he needed it, and Val came through.'' Heat's Michael Mann says he ''had an absolutely terrific time dealing with him'' when Kilmer played a psychotic killer. ''He worked his ass off.''

Kilmer may be minding his manners now that he's lost the Batmangig. As Stanley points out, ''He doesn't have the power he once had, or thought he had. He's had to fold his tent and play it a bit more carefully.''

''Relations with Val on The Saint I can only describe as peachy,'' says director Phillip Noyce. ''Sweet and ripe and all that.'' Echoes producer David Brown, ''Val has been a complete gentleman. He's given us extra days he's not required to do by contract. He's been very adaptable.'' But, Brown acknowledges, ''most artists require someone who will listen to them — you'd better listen to a serious actor, and Val is a serious actor.''

As for whether Kilmer is serious trouble, not everyone agrees. With ''too much money and too many people blowing smoke up his ass,'' says Zinnemann, ''it's like giving an 8-year-old a machine gun and saying 'Don't fire it.''' Jarre agrees. ''Maybe there's a Jekyll-and-Hyde thing going on with him inside. Maybe he's like those children who test the limits and if parents don't stand up to them, they just become monsters.'' Or movie stars.