Lloyd Grove writes:
Where did Val Kilmer get the bright idea that he could ever be elected the governor of New Mexico? At 49, he’s an aging movie star who has logged lots of memorable screen time—as Ice Man in Top Gun, for instance—but zero political history.
Oh please, God, let Val Kilmer run for governor, and attempt to answer that criticism! Should that happen, I hope to hear him argue that he is the most qualified gubernatorial candidate in American history. After all, he possesses the military knowledge of a former air force pilot, the leadership skills of Moses, the charisma of a rock star, the crime-fighting bona fides of Batman, and experience as a CIA agent on a critical mission, not to mention other relevant bits of life experience to numerous to mention.
But wait, you say, aren’t you just alluding to acting roles Val Kilmer took on? Why yes! If you’re still confused as to why, you’ve missed out on one of the finest Hollywood profiles ever written.
I’ll turn things over to Chuck Klosterman, reporting from Val Kilmer’s ranch:
He’s weird in ways that are expected, and he’s weird in ways that are not. I anticipated that he might seem a little odd when we talked about acting, mostly because a) Kilmer is a Method actor, and b) all Method actors are insane. However, I did not realize how much insanity this process truly required. That started to become clear when I asked him about The Doors and Wonderland, two movies in which Kilmer portrays acutely self-destructive drug addicts. Late in Wonderland, he wordlessly (and desperately) waits for someone to offer him cocaine in a manner that seems excruciatingly authentic. I ask if he ever went through a drug phase for real. He says no. He says he’s never freebased cocaine in his life but that he understands the mind-set of addiction. The conversation evolves into a meditation on the emotional toll that acting takes on the artist. I ask him about the “toll” that he felt while making the 1993 western Tombstone. He starts talking about things that happened to Doc Holliday. I say, “No, no, you must have misunderstood me. I want to know about the toll it took on you.” He says, “I know, I’m talking about those feelings.” And this is the conversation that follows:
You mean you think you literally had the same experience as Doc Holliday?
Oh, sure. It’s not like I believed that I shot somebody, but I absolutely know what it feels like to pull the trigger and take someone’s life.
You understand how it feels to shoot someone as much as a person who has actually committed a murder?
I understand it more. It’s an actor’s job. A guy who’s lived through the horror of Vietnam has not spent his life preparing his mind for it. He’s some punk. Most guys were borderline criminal or poor, and that’s why they got sent to Vietnam. It was all the poor, wretched kids who got beat up by their dads, guys who didn’t get on the football team, couldn’t finagle a scholarship. They didn’t have the emotional equipment to handle that experience. But this is what an actor trains to do. I can more effectively represent that kid in Vietnam than a guy who was there.
I don’t question that you can more effectively represent it, but that’s not the same thing. If you were talking to someone who’s in prison for murder and the guy said, “Man, it really fucks you up to kill another person,” do you think you could reasonably say, “I completely know what you’re talking about”?
Oh yeah. I’d know what he’s talking about.
Let’s say someone made a movie about you—Val Kilmer—and they cast Jude Law in the lead role. By your logic, wouldn’t this mean that Jude Law—if he succeeded in the role—would therefore understand what it means to be Val Kilmer more than you do?
No, because I’m an actor. The people in those other circumstances don’t have the self-knowledge.
Well, what if it were a movie about your young life, before you became an actor?
I guess I’d have to say yes.
Okay, so let’s assume you had been given the lead role in The Passion of the Christ. Would you understand the feeling of being crucified as much as Jesus?
Well, I just played Moses [in a theatrical version of TheTen Commandments]. Of course.
So you understand the experience of being Moses? Maybe I’m just taking your words too literally.
No, I don’t think so. That’s what acting is.
So obviously Val Kilmer is qualified to be New Mexico’s governor. The real question is how long it will take until President Obama, now searching for empathetic Supreme Court candidates, will start contacting method actors.