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Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - Val Kilmer interview

Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr take aim in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Compiled by Jack Foley

Q. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang strikes an unusual balance between biting satire and bruising action. Was that difficult to achieve for you all?
A. The script does have a lot of irreverence that wouldn’t have gotten into the movie unless you had someone like Joel Silver saying to a very substantial company like Warner Bros. that they should trust him, that it’ll work. I’d say that as much as half the script would be cut or altered going through the regular routine.
Joel is daunting, he’s a powerful guy, and he wants what he wants. He’s very archetypal. But if you look at his movies they’re ambitious. Think of The Matrix. I saw the storyboards and met those guys and it was crazy, impossible to understand, but it was extraordinary. You can’t achieve things like that unless you’re a certain type of guy.

Q. What was your initial impression of Shane Black?
A. On the very first day I called Joel and asked about Shane, asking who he was, and he said he wrote the script and was going to direct it just like he wrote it. He told me not to worry, but I worried anyway. The first couple of days I thought maybe he was so terrified that he wasn’t saying anything, because he looked so calm. But it turned out he was that calm.
He was prepared, every question we asked him he had an answer to. And he gave us freedom and a lot of respect. I think he’s very animated about, and pleased with, the performances we gave him. When that happens it’s a great feeling to go to work.
I wanted to make Michelle [Monagahan, who plays Harmony] happy and take care of her; I wanted to make Robert happy; I wanted to make Shane happy and Joel. It doesn’t happen that often, where you go in service, because you usually need to take care of yourself.

Q. It’s a long time since we’ve seen you in a comedic role, how come?
A. I’ve been looking for a comedy for maybe a decade, which is a long time to be talking to people about it. I went and did Saturday Night Live even as a kind of audition, to remind people that I could do comedy, but I still couldn’t get one. I offered one friend of mine, a producer as substantial as Joel, that I’d even do a comedy for free. But they want someone who is already, or has just been, funny. So I couldn’t get a job in a comedy until this. I was very lucky.
It was actually because of Robert’s wife, Susan Levin, who is one of our producers and really liked Real Genius when she was four-years-old or something!

Q. One of the intriguing qualities in the film is the part Los Angeles itself plays in the drama, isn’t it?
A. You have to fight cynicism no matter what you do for a living but Hollywood as this film celebrates it, is a tough town for that. Look at Michelle’s character, Harmony, who came out there with her dreams. Or in the play I’ve just finished, The Postman Always Rings Twice, where Cora confesses to Frank that she came out there because she won a beauty contest in Iowa, she got a screen test and two weeks later was slinging hash with guys pinching her butt and asking her out on dates.
I grew up in LA and you see it all the time, really interesting people who are doing menial jobs because they were the prom queen or the star quarterback in Missouri and everyone told them they should go to Hollywood. And now they’re parking cars for a living. That’s kind of sad. And Shane sees it. He kind of revels in it, but he appreciates people.

Q. How do you feel about playing a supporting character as opposed to a lead?
A. My plan for my career was to try and grow as an actor, and to stay fresh and on the edge and interested. Last year, I did a stage musical, which I’d never done before. For a lot of years I took that approach to my career, in some cases arbitrarily turning down very good jobs. I really didn’t consider my place in Hollywood until a few years ago.
I turned 40 and started thinking about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to live, because you always make plans but at 40 you’re somehow halfway done with life so you’d better see if you’re not too old to play Romeo.

Q. Did turning 40 have any other repercussions in your life?
A. I got more involved with community issues. I live in a very poor state, so I took some time off to help get a bill passed through our legislature to bring more work to New Mexico. I think it’s the third poorest state in the union, so a lot of people that I care about I was able to help because of the work that I’d done before.