Val: Docu of Actor Val Kilmer (Top Gun), Based on his Home Movies (Cannes 2021)

Cannes Film Fest 2021:

For Val, directors Ting Poo and Leo Scott went through hours of videotape the actor shot throughout his career, including behind-the-scenes footage on the sets of Top Gun and Tombstone.


Val Kilmer had fallen out of favor in Hollywood by the time editor Leo Scott met him around 2011 or 2012. The Batman Forever and Top Gun star was deemed too difficult, and too pugnacious to work with.

Kilmer needed help editing footage of his ambitious one-man Mark Twain stage show, Citizen Twain, and Scott was enlisted to help him.

Kilmer revealed to Scott he’d shot hundreds of hours that were stored in boxes in his garage. There were movies he made as a kid with his two brothers, Mark and Wesley, growing up in the Los Angeles suburb of Chatsworth.

Wesley — the director among the trio — died weeks before Val became the youngest person at the time to be admitted to Juilliard’s acting program at age 17.

Kilmer never put down the camera after Wesley’s passing.

Scott spent more than 9 months converting thousand hours of analog footage to digital, including Kilmer’s time at Juilliard and home videos of his two children, Mercedes and Jack, and former wife, actress Joanne Whalley.

There’s behind-the-scenes footage Kilmer shot on the sets of Top GunBatman ForeverTombstone and The Island of Dr. Moreau, co-starring Brando, which became one of Hollywood’s notorious disasters.

Years later, in 2018, after throat cancer and a tracheotomy left Kilmer’s voice reduced to a rasp, Scott and fellow editor Ting Poo — who worked on the 2017 Oscar-winning docu short Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405 — convinced the actor to use the footage as the basis of a new autobiographical documentary that she and Scott would co-direct. Kilmer agreed and said that he wanted it to premiere at Cannes.

On July 7, the 61-year-old actor will get his wish when Val, from Amazon Studios and A24, makes its world debut on the Croisette.

Kilmer’s health issues could make it impossible for him to attend, but his children are expected to be there.

Kilmer acknowledges in the docu that he could be tough on directors and crew; a clip of him berating Dr. Moreau cinematographer William Fraker is among the footage featured.

He’s equally clear that being a true actor is tough in Hollywood. There’s a clip of him and the late director John Frankenheimer on the set of Dr. Moreau during an unfriendly exchange; Frankenheimer is infuriated when Kilmer won’t turn off his camera.

“Val is a very complex and brilliant man with so many layers. We wanted to try to get that feeling into the film, from his spirituality to great sense of humor,” Scott said. “We never considered doing it any other way with interviews with third parties.”

Jack Kilmer stands in as the narrator, speaking as if he were his dad. “It just made such sense and added such an emotional layer to the whole thing. We’re just happy that Jack agreed to do it,” says Poo. “It’s really a celebration of storytelling, movies and a creative spirit.”

Amazon and A24 plan fall release for Val in theaters and on Prime.

Top Gun: Maverick, in which Kilmer reprises his role as Iceman, also opens in theaters this late fall.