It’s no surprise that Val Kilmer has some stories to tell.
The actor has played such inimitable figures as Jim Morrison, Doc Holliday and Batman. He rocketed to superstardom in a fighter jet in “Top Gun,” parted the Red Sea as Moses in “The Prince of Egypt” and acted opposite his icon Marlon Brando in “The Island of Dr. Moreau.”
But those stories aren’t even the most interesting parts of Kilmer’s new memoir, “I’m Your Huckleberry.” In tender vignettes, the actor, 60, charts his life from birth to present day, writing with candor, vulnerability and sometimes regret about family, love, faith, financial problems and a waning acting career.
Here are some of the book's most interesting revelations.
Daryl Hannah is his biggest romantic regret
Kilmer writes rapturously of his romances – and there were many. He was “hopelessly in love” with Carly Simon. He shared a romance that was “as whimsical as it was whirlwind” with Ellen Barkin. He fell hard for Cindy Crawford ("I thought I could have died from her love, not because it was difficult but because its delight was simply too much to bear"). He was besotted with Angelina Jolie. (“When people ask me what Angelina Jolie is like, I always say she’s like other women and other superstars, but just more. More gorgeous. More wise. More tragic. More magic.”)
But two women in particular stand out: Cher and Hannah.
Cher was one of Kilmer’s formative romances. They met when he was 21 and she was in her mid-30s, after a mutual friend told him she wanted to meet him. Kilmer was not enthused by the prospect. “I saw Cher as a less-than-fascinating character out of the gossip rags. I was not motivated to meet her, not out of snobbery but simply because I was sure we had nothing in common.”
He was wrong. “Cher was funny, hysterically funny. I ended up driving her home on the back of my Harley through the streets of Manhattan. She loved the Harley. We both loved laughing and went on doing so for well over a year.” They’ve remained friends ever since, and Kilmer writes about how their friendship has deepened, calling Cher the “funniest woman I ever met.”
But his most crushing romance was with Hannah when they briefly dated in 2001.
“I knew I would love her with my whole heart forever. That love – invisible, ephemeral, and infinite – has lost none of its strength,” Kilmer writes. When they broke up, he cried every day for half a year.
“It was no great surprise that she wound up marrying Neil Young. It was a matter of one giant attracting another,” Kilmer writes. Hannah began a relationship with the musician in 2014; they married in 2018. “Neil Young, I always loved you, but I’m afraid I hate you now.”
Cher helped Kilmer through his cancer
When Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015, Cher was by his side.
Kilmer was staying in Cher’s guesthouse when his cancer scare suddenly turned into a cancer emergency. He had already discovered the lump in his throat and had difficulty breathing. Then, Kilmer writes, “Suddenly I awoke vomiting blood that covered the bed like a scene out of ‘The Godfather.’” They called an ambulance as “blood dripped down my body, my vision blurred, my energy drained.”
Cher got him into the ambulance, and Kilmer woke up in a hospital in Santa Monica, where he got a tracheotomy. Later, after Cher made a few calls and got him transferred to UCLA, he would undergo chemotherapy and radiation.
Kilmer says the cancer is gone, but its scars linger. “When I speak now, I sound like Marlon Brando after a couple of bottles of tequila. It isn’t a frog in my throat. More like a buffalo,” he writes. “Speaking, once my joy and lifeblood, has become an hourly struggle. The instrument over which I had complete mastery is now out of my control.”
Kilmer was once visited by an angel
Kilmer is a devout Christian Scientist, a faith passed down to him by his parents. He invokes his faith throughout the memoir, especially during his battle with cancer. He attributes his healing to God, and not to the medical treatments he received. “I went along with the program, mainly to reassure my children I was doing everything ‘humanly’ possible to be healthy,” he writes. “They had been constantly taught by others in their lives to be wary of Christian Science, and although they had each had several extraordinary healings in my opinion, I respected their skepticism and did not wish to increase their fear in any way.”
In the book’s most striking passage, Kilmer says he was visited by an angel.
On a trip to New Mexico when he was 24, Kilmer awoke to an “amorphous black figure.” He writes, “It will ruin the absolute gravity of this moment but in truth this dark angel looked very like Darth Vader, though without the helmet.”
Kilmer claims the angel reached into his body and extracted his heart to replace it with a bigger one. “At first I thought it was the Angel of Death before realizing it was the Angel of Life. I wish I could elucidate the experience more than I have already done, but I can’t. It simply happened,” Kilmer writes. “I have nothing else to say about this, except that I am grateful for the new heart. It has served me well. And I’ve only just begun to use it.”
Kilmer begged to be in the ‘Top Gun’ sequel
“I didn’t want the part. I didn’t care about the film. The story didn’t interest me.” That’s Kilmer talking about, of all movies, “Top Gun.” At first, he’d wanted no part of the 1986 film that was destined to make him a mega movie star. When he was pressured by his agent to audition for it, he pouted. “I showed up looking the fool, or the goon. I wore oversize gonky Australian shorts in nausea green. I read the lines indifferently. And yet, amazingly, I was told I had the part. I felt more deflated than inflated.”
Decades later, when the sequel starring Tom Cruise was announced, the tables were turned; Kilmer initially wasn’t tapped to reprise his role as Iceman in “Top Gun: Maverick.” But, Kilmer writes, “as the Temptations sang in the heyday of Motown soul, ‘ain’t too proud to beg.’” And his begging worked. “The producers went for it. Cruise went for it. Cruise couldn’t have been cooler. … Tom and I took up where we left off. The reunion felt great.” But don’t turn to Kilmer’s book looking for spoilers. “As far as the film’s plot goes,” Kilmer writes, “I’m sworn to secrecy.”
“Top Gun: Maverick” is currently scheduled for a Christmastime release.