Thursday, August 26, 2010

An interview with Val Kilmer on Method Acting

From Esquire:

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 The Ten 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."


Ian Thal said...

I have never once worked with an actor who talks like that. He's competent enough that I'll forgive him his delusions.

RVCBard said...

Dear Well-off Straight White Guys,

We're going to have to talk about the security protocols you have in place. These little incidents keep happening, and I'm starting to get worried about what you'll let out next. Kramer. Mel Gibson. Scientology. Now you have Val Kilmer saying shit. Next thing you know, somebody's gonna find a half-eaten body in a fridge, and it's not going to be good for the image of mastery you're trying to cultivate.

Is this some kind of PR stunt? Are you planning to write a book or something?

Yours in worry,

Blacks, Queers, Women and Jews c/o RVCBard

CultureFuture said...

RVCBard: The Nebbish Israeli-American Jewish Association (NIAJA) has no formal comment on this, although their spokesperson rolled their eyes and sighed.

Ian: I have to say, although I've never seen someone go that far, I've heard method actors talking about what it's like to experience the things that their characters experience onstage. They don't go so far as to say that they know what it's like to be Jesus, but I wonder if the hard-core method actors out there might feel this more commonly.

RVCBard said...


We have been informed that the security staff responsible for Kilmer's comments have been sacked. Please advise.


Queer Black Jewish Womanist Association (QBJWA)

Ian Thal said...

Of course, Oliver Stone saying "he doesn't always realize how the things he says will sound to other people" is the whipped cream with the cherry on top.

Nonetheless, I am impressed that the method can give actors like Kilmer perfect knowledge of what was revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai. Anyone know his Shavuot plans?

RVCBard said...

Ian Thal:

I think there's a Conservative shul that's booking him.

Ian Thal said...

Well, I am looking forward to Val Kilmer resolving thousands of years of rabbinical debate on many key issues.

RVCBard said...

Ian Thal:

Exactly. I'm really gearing up for that seethe a kid in its mother's milk thing. That's been a head-scratcher for eons.

Ian Thal said...


But really, I was hoping Val Kilmer could explain if only Torah was revealed at Mount Sinai, or if Torah and every possible interpretation was revealed at Mount Sinai.

I think this is the point where 99Seats and the Parabasis crowd is supposed to rush in and tell me that the things I say confuse your Queer Black Jewish Female brain. They're only acting in your best interests, you know.

RVCBard said...


Want me to go get them?

Kim said...

This article is several years old...must be slow on the news front to print such outdated material.