Obsessing Over Val | A MusT Watch


Val Kilmer has cemented his place in Hollywood. His legacy will live on with his countless credits playing cultural phenoms like Iceman in Top Gun and Rock & Roll phenoms like Jim Morrison to his roles in mega hits like Heat and Tombstone.

However Val is not just another Hollywood heavyweight. He’s bigger than Hollywood. His legend will transcend the nostalgic so-cal vortex full of famous names, wannabe celebrities and reality tv stars straddling overpriced glitz and glam for a taste of fame. Overly produced movies for a cheap thrill at the box office are what the silver screen promises and Val is legend among them.

His imagination stretches far beyond what directors and movie set producers can conjure up on a back set in Studio City.

He is bigger than acting. He’s bigger than cinema and theatre. His greatest legacy may not be any of his movies at all.

His legacy will be far bigger off screen than any of what he’s done onscreen.

Sure he’ll be remembered for some of his iconic roles, but it will be how he lived after Hollywood. It will be how he lived publicly with an ailment that changes his voice giving him an eerie robotic sound that spawns judgements, quizzical stares and moments of frustration for Val as documented in his self-titled documentary.

Glimpsing an insider look at some of his most precious moments is what Val ensures. The movie shows us intimate clips from a colorful life of a Hollywood Top Gun. He shares home videos of his parents, his brother who loved producing homemade productions with Val. He’s candid about the loss of his older brother who was only 15 years old when he died and the traumatic grief it caused him. A prolific dream before he passed lead him to believe in things far greater than the ethereal physical realms and it’s this deeper understanding that sets Val apart not only on the stage, but in life.

The movie follows his trip back to Julliard with his son where he began his formal training as the youngest student the famed arts college had ever had.


It’s a hard act follow. Jim Morrison seemed to be prized for fame and stardom. The way he moved and shuffled. His rocker good looks and his original swagger made him iconic. That legendary black and white image of a bare chested Morrison is iconic the world over. While many may not even know who he is they know the image. And let’s says many did know exactly who he was. Val also came to know him intimately taking on his every move and embodying Morrison’s mannerisms to a tee. Studying him incessantly and walking and talking like him for a year leading up to the filming.

He wanted to get into character, “really embody,” it he says. So much so that he became him. Even to friends and family he spoke like him.

His impression was so canny from the back and short distance it was hard to tell the two apart. One might have thought he had travelled back in time to a real life encounter with the real life Morrison. Morrison was so out of this world with how he carried himself, a near impossible subject to replicate, but Val was able to master even Jim Morrison. That is a feat in and of itself.

The artist in him is profound. He is prolific and sees things in this far deeper way than what is limited simply to fantastical scenes that will go down in history on a backset in Studio City.

He’s bigger than all of that. He was a true artist who studied his subjects and embraced every part of them to give the characters its weight in gold.

Few actors of his stature work like this. Everything about Val is different. He is bigger than the rest. He is on a different level it seems not only on the screen, but in life.


Now if every famous person or every not so famous person can take away one lesson from the life of Val it is this. There are graceful ways of going through life where the ego falls away. None of the superficial stuff matters. You can age with ailments in powerful ways and show up with your head held up high and teach by your example. Aging should never be shameful. It should be a beautiful process that allows you to be you in all authenticity without fear of how you look or how you sound. You can be the biggest Hollywood celebrity with millions of fans the world over, but you too will age and may have to battle disease. How will you show up?

Muhammad Ali was beautiful not only in his younger years, but as he aged with Parkinson’s he kept up his appearances and philanthropic work and showed us what graceful aging irrespective of your internal circumstances might look like externally. Check out our tribute to Ali here.

Val’s children spoke candidly about how he has changed in beautiful ways after his throat cancer diagnosis and how it is remarkable to watch his enormous display of courage in the face adversity. Also the overwhelming amount of love he is being shown by all who know him and love him. They say this speaks volumes to the beauty of their father.

And this precisely is why the movie is so worth watching. You see life for what it is. You see the beauty and magic of a Hollywood legend minus the glitz and glam and you see how human even Val Kilmer is and you see how most of his colleagues could not embrace a diagnosis like this and be so publicly open, unabashedly carry on with such love, humor, authenticity and grace. There is no other person quite like Val. And there most certainly will never ever be another Val Kilmer.

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Sue Dhillon is an Indian American writer, journalist, and trainer.

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