Actor Val Kilmer shocked the world of Batman fans and critics when he wore the cape and cowl nearly 20 years ago.
Michael Keaton had walked away from what would have been his third round as the Caped Crusader on the big-screen. Tim Burton stepped out of the director’s chair, but stayed on-board as producer; Joel Schumacher took his old seat. Everything was running smoothly and coming together like puzzle pieces as Warner Bros. worked hard behind-the-scenes to create a blockbuster hit follow-up to the 1992 Batman Returns.
However, Kilmer was definitely a surprise choice for the Caped Crusader – especially since everyone had become so used to seeing Michael Keaton in the Batcave from the franchise’s first two installments. It is important to note, though, that there was a considerable amount of doubt and uncertainty when Keaton was first announced as Tim Burton’s choice for the 1989 film Batman. Therefore, most people were willing to at least give Val Kilmer a shot – allowing him to have the same chance that they had given Keaton nearly six years prior.
With A-list actors Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones, and Nicole Kidman along with rising star Chris O’Donnell added to the cast, fans knew that it could easily shape up to be a solid ensemble for a great film. That was, of course, as long as Val Kilmer knocked it out of the park as Batman.
How did he do?
Batman Forever was a huge hit for Warner Bros in the summer of 1995. According to Box Office Mojo, it generated over $336 million at the box-office worldwide — over half of which came straight from the United States.
Each of the leading and supporting stars were praised for their performances — whether heroic or villainous. How, though, did Val Kilmer do?
Director Joel Schumacher opened up about Batman Forever during an October 2011 interview with IFC. The longtime director reflected on the success of Batman Forever and his praises and commendations for Val Kilmer’s performance as the Dark Knight in the film.
“For me, Val Kilmer was the best Batman. I thought he looked great in the costume, and I thought he brought a depth to the role. I thought the relationship between Val and Nicole Kidman was very sexy. Jim Carrey, of course, was the perfect Riddler. And then I had the great Tommy Lee Jones and a lot of other great people are in that movie.”
With that type of rave review from the film’s own director, one would think that Val Kilmer would have been the very first choice to reprise his role in at least one follow-up movie. However, his days of playing billionaire Bruce Wayne and vigilante Batman apparently ended way back in 1995 with that one blockbuster hit. Why? What happened?
Multiple reports claim that everything behind the scenes of Batman Forever was not as pleasant as it may have seemed on-screen — especially when it came to the off-camera behavior of Val Kilmer himself.
According to Xfinity, Joel Schumacher opened up about Val’s antics in a past interview with a major media outlet.
“[Val Kilmer] was being irrational and ballistic with the first assistant director, the cameraman, the costume people. He was rude and inappropriate. He was childish and impossible. 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!”
Apparently, Val Kilmer’s behind-the-scenes reputation of negative behavior and irritable actions did not begin and end on the Batman Forever set. A May 1996 article published by Entertainment Weekly titled “Val Kilmer Makes Enemies in Hollywood” referenced other directors that reportedly had complicated interactions with the actor — including director Richard Stanley, who was with The Island of Dr. Moreau temporarily at the start of production before being replaced.
“Val would arrive and an argument would happen.”
John Frankenheimer, the director who replaced Richard Stanley on the same film, made his disliking of Val Kilmer crystal clear with a statement of his own.
“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.”
Val Kilmer once was viewed as rising star, especially with a solid number of solid performances in successful movies throughout the late 80s and 90s. However, his star power has basically fizzled in the years that have passed since then. The last time that he was part of a box-office hit was when he voiced a relatively small supporting role in the 2013 animated Disney film Planes.
[Featured Image by Vince Bucci/Newsmakers]