While Goose felt “the need for speed” in “Top Gun,” Val Kilmer feels the need to tell the story of his momentous life through a new documentary with footage from the last four decades.
Amazon Studios debuted the official trailer for the new documentary “Val” on Tuesday ahead of its world premiere at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.
For over 40 years, Kilmer — who starred in 1984’s “Top Secret!” and 1985’s “Real Genius” — personally shot and documented his life and craft through video. The 61-year-old has amassed thousands of hours of footage, including 16mm home movies and clips of his time shooting blockbuster movies like “Top Gun,” “The Doors” and “Batman Forever.”
According to the official film synopsis from Amazon Studios, “This raw, wildly original and unflinching documentary reveals a life lived to extremes and a heart-filled, sometimes hilarious look at what it means to be an artist and a complex man.”
Directors Leo Scott and Ting Poo spent over nine months digitizing Kilmer’s home videos for use in the documentary. He shot over 200 hours of footage by the time he worked on the 2000 film “Red Planet,” Poo told IndieWire.
“It was gold, like a treasure trove you’re lucky to come across in your career,” Poo added.
The documentary provides a first-person account of the actor’s rise to Hollywood star, followed by a bumpy next few years. Shots are taken from his early years as an up-and-coming actor, his conflict-laden acting career in which he details his creative vision and his tragic battle with throat cancer.
In 2017, Kilmer confirmed that he had cancer after months of denying he was sick. Fellow actor and pal Michael Douglas mentioned that Kilmer had been fighting throat cancer, but Kilmer called him “misinformed.” Eventually, though, he came clean.
“[Douglas] was probably trying to help me cause press probably asked where I was these days, and I did have a healing of cancer, but my tongue is still swollen altho healing all the time,” he wrote. “Because I don’t sound my normal self yet people think I may still be under the weather.”
“Val” and its trailer stretch back to Kilmer’s childhood, when his brother Wesley — who died from a seizure while Kilmer was still a child — filmed Val in a number of 8mm films.
“His brother was really a budding genius director who probably could have gone on to be one of the greats,” Scott told IndieWire. “There were just loads and loads of these reels that hadn’t been transferred… It was just really special to unearth all these things, and then to actually put those animations together for Val to see for the first time.”
The documentary also touches on his passion projects as a Juilliard undergraduate. Footage reveals the actor in a dressing room for his 1983 Broadway debut in “Slab Boys,” where he performed in the shadows of Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon.
The documentary also taps into his camaraderie with Tom Cruise on “Top Gun,” as well as his experiences alongside Marlon Brando on the disastrous, “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” In his 2020 memoir, “I’m Your Huckleberry: A Memoir,” Kilmer acknowledged that he didn’t even want to star in “Top Gun,” although he came to love it.
“I didn’t want the part,” he wrote. “I didn’t care about the film. The story didn’t interest me. My agent, who also represented Tom Cruise, basically tortured me into at least meeting [director] Tony Scott, saying . . . he was completely obsessed with me.”
The documentary later showcases his project “Cinema Twain,” a one-man show about American author Mark Twain. Kilmer had intended to transform the show into his directorial debut, but it was pushed due to his health struggles when his cancer intervened.
Viewers also catch a glimpse of Kilmer’s current endeavors such as painting and other creative projects.
The trailer, which includes clips from childhood to his current recovery from throat cancer, opens, “Hi my name’s Val. I don’t do this with every interview I go on, take you inside my home, I don’t. But I’m going to.”
“I’ve lived a magical life and I’ve captured quite a bit of it,” the trailer continues. “I was the first guy I knew to own a video camera.”
The trailer carries on with narration in which he reveals that it is difficult to talk and to be understood, but he wants to tell his story now more than ever.
“I have behaved poorly,” he says in the trailer. “I have behaved bravely, bizarrely to some… I see myself as a sensitive, intelligent human being but with the soul of a clown.”
“Val always said he didn’t see it as a documentary,” Scott told IndieWire. “He saw it as a movie starring Val Kilmer as the main character in the story about his life, and we all aligned on that feeling.”
Amazon Studios will release “Val” in theaters on July 23. The documentary will begin streaming on August 6 on Amazon Prime Video.