Val Kilmer talks in ellipses. He eventually circles back somewhere near his point, but he leaves out all the connective tissue, so you're just sitting there as he looks directly ahead, talking about Tom Hanks and being related to poet Joyce Kilmer and the importance of branding, and you can't help wondering, "Is he really just drinking green tea with honey?"
What follows, to give you an idea, is a typical direct quote without any words omitted--the ellipses just signifying a brief Kilmer breath: "I'm looking to do comedy ... I'm very lucky. I never had to pay dues. I went to Juilliard. I wrote about a West German terrorist for Joseph Papp. That was my first job ... I had a wonderful marriage while it lasted ... Things like the Film Commission and visiting with friends ... I really have respect for guys my age or older who can do so many things at once ... Maybe with Shane I'll be lucky enough to do both at once ... So I'd like to make big movies again, but with a different kind of attitude." I'm pretty sure what he meant was that he's bummed he hasn't become as big a star as people thought he would, and he thinks his new movie will help him change that. But the only reason I know that is because I asked him. Three times.
At 45, after making a specialty of playing dark characters like Jim Morrison in The Doors and drug-addicted John Holmes in Wonderland, he's starring in his first intelligent buddy comedy. The directorial debut of Shane Black--the highest-paid screenwriter of the early to mid-'90s (Lethal Weapon, Last Action Hero), who hadn't worked in six years--Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang pairs Kilmer with Robert Downey Jr. in a very meta film-noir detective story in which the narrator is constantly interrupting to apologize for various film clichés. Kilmer plays Gay Perry, a private investigator who's gay and named Perry.
That film, Kilmer believes, could be the start of his new business model. He has talked to Downey about teaming up on more comedies, like an edgier Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller. "I knew Tom Hanks. We were starting in comedies around the same time," he says, sipping his tea at the bar at the Hotel Bel-Air and recalling his mid-'80s roles in Top Secret! and Real Genius. "Tom Hanks was very smart. He made several of the same kind of films in a row. Sweet films: Big, Sleepless in Seattle. So you thought of him as a product. I'd be very happy to do a bunch of comedies in a row. Sean Penn, Nic Cage, Johnny Depp have very established identities. I would enjoy being recognized for a kind of acting."