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Val Kilmer's Transformation over the Years — from a Young Heartthrob to His Post-cancer Life

Edduin Carvajal
Apr 02, 2021
09:55 A.M.

Val Kilmer has been one of the most popular actors in Hollywood since the 80s, and his appearance has changed a lot over the years, especially after battling throat cancer.

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Even if you’re not a die-hard fan of Val Kilmer or his work, you’ve probably watched some of his films, like “Top Gun,” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” or “Batman Forever.” What you might not know is that he has a unique personality.

When he landed his first acting gig, for example, he walked off the set because he could not get into his character’s motivation. He was only 12 years old then, and the job was a TV ad for hamburgers.

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VAL KILMER’S CHILDHOOD

Kilmer once admitted that their nanny, who their dad hired because he (the nanny) drove a red convertible Mustang and studied art, introduced him and his brothers to the “hippie lifestyle.”

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After graduating high school, Kilmer went to Julliard and had some starring parts in “Orestes” and “The Wood Demon.” At that time, he also wrote a play with his classmates titled “How It All Began.”

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In 1984, years after working on the hamburger ad, Kilmer made his film debut in “Top Secret!” It was so successful that he attracted the attention of many people in Hollywood.

Cher and Val Kilmer in London on March 25, 1984 | Photo: Getty Images

Cher and Val Kilmer in London on March 25, 1984 | Photo: Getty Images

VAL KILMER’S MOVIES

Two years later, he was cast alongside Tom Cruise in “Top Gun,” the film that made Kilmer one of the most sought-after actors in the 80s. However, he hated that project and even clashed with Cruise.

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Kilmer kept booking parts in films like “Kill Me Again,” “The Doors,” and “Batman Forever,” and although his popularity was at its peak, there were also reports that he was hard to work with.

Apart from constantly complaining and making nearly impossible demands, Val Kilmer would also be rude to his co-stars and refuse to get out of character.

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While shooting “The Doors,” Kilmer had an argument with the film’s writer and director Oliver Stone for glorifying substance abuse. Still, it is important to remark that the movie was about Jim Morrison, who struggled with drug use until he died aged 27.

[Val Kilmer’s kids] desperately begged him to stop trying to cure the disease only with faith.

Val Kilmer in 1988 in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images

Val Kilmer in 1988 in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images

“Batman Forever” director Joel Schumacher didn’t like working with Kilmer either and even called him “psychotic.” Kilmer was supposed to appear in the film’s sequel, but George Clooney ended up replacing him.

Neve Campbell, Val Kilmer and Daryl Hannah on September 24, 2003 | Photo: Getty Images

Neve Campbell, Val Kilmer and Daryl Hannah on September 24, 2003 | Photo: Getty Images

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According to Kilmer, he couldn’t shoot the second movie due to his busy schedule. Still, the fact that Schumacher already gave him such a negative label makes people wonder if that was actually the real reason.

Val Kilmer on February 29, 2004 in Hollywood, California | Photo: Getty Images

Val Kilmer on February 29, 2004 in Hollywood, California | Photo: Getty Images

HE’S BEEN SINGLE FOR 20 YEARS

Val Kilmer’s love life has been very particular, too. Years ago, he dated celebrities like Cindy Crawford, Angelina Jolie, and Cher and was even married to Joanne Whalley for eight years.

Val Kilmer on September 12, 2011 in Toronto, Canada | Photo: Getty Images

Val Kilmer on September 12, 2011 in Toronto, Canada | Photo: Getty Images

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With Whalley, he had two children, Jack and Mercedes Kilmer, who are both up-and-coming actors. Although they were raised away from Los Angeles's craziness (in New Mexico), acting is in their blood.

Val Kilmer on September 25, 2013 in Santa Monica, California | Photo: Getty Images

Val Kilmer on September 25, 2013 in Santa Monica, California | Photo: Getty Images

Still, Kilmer revealed in his memoir “I'm Your Huckleberry” that he had not had a girlfriend in two decades. That was not the only shocking revelation in the book, though.

Eva Dolezalová, Jack Kilmer and Val Kilmer on June 14, 2018 in Hollywood, California | Photo: Getty Images

Eva Dolezalová, Jack Kilmer and Val Kilmer on June 14, 2018 in Hollywood, California | Photo: Getty Images

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VAL KILMER’S THROAT CANCER

In 2015, the actor was diagnosed with throat cancer, but he rejected the diagnosis due to his devotion to Christian Science. Following his spiritual advisor’s instruction, he just prayed. It didn’t work.

Val Kilmer on July 20, 2019 in New York City | Photo: Getty Images

Val Kilmer on July 20, 2019 in New York City | Photo: Getty Images

Mercedes and Jack Kilmer desperately begged him to stop trying to cure the disease only with faith. Eventually, after collapsing and being rushed to the hospital, Kilmer got a tracheotomy done to remove the tumor and help him breathe.

Val Kilmer on October 28, 2019 in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images

Val Kilmer on October 28, 2019 in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images

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Apart from that, he underwent chemotherapy and radiation. Nowadays, he is cancer-free, but the procedures drastically changed his voice. He recently said that he missed his old voice because he didn’t “laugh like a pirate.”

Although Val Kilmer’s appearance has changed a lot throughout the years and has had his ups and downs, he is still working as an actor and is expected to appear in “Top Gun: Maverick.”

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