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“Val Kilmer’s goal is to become his generation’s preeminent Mark Twain impersonator”

By / 01.16.13

I’ve touched on it before when I posted about his stage show, and a lot people in and around LA already know about it, but I’m not sure most people (myself included) understood the full extent of Val Kilmer’s Mark Twain ambitions. That’s right, Val Kilmer, when he’s not cutting off clumps of his own hair with a knife onstage at rock shows, has Mark Twain ambitions. The subject recently came up in Vulture‘s interview with Up in the Air writer (the book, not the movie) Walter Kirn, who’s apparently good friends with Kilmer.

Oh, Val Kilmer. Here’s a tip: His real ambition, and what he’s putting all his time and money into — and this is no joke, because he’s good at it — is to be this generation’s preeminent Mark Twain impersonator. He wants to succeed Hal Holbrook. It’s actually kind of staggering, because no one really knows what Mark Twain’s voice sounded like. There are some descriptions but no recordings.

So he’s developed a show that he puts on somewhat spottily and informally around Los Angeles, where he wears $3,000-worth of prosthetic makeup, and he’s actually awesome at it. He wants to make the same kind of transformation that he did with Jim Morrison when he did The Doors. And as a friend, I think if he can just get a grip on his flakiness, he could really make a splash with this. It sounds a little eccentric, but he’s got a lot of material, because it’s not just old Twain, it’s the drunken, sad, regretful, pensive character that we’re not used to.

That’s right, Val Kilmer has written, produced, and finances his own one-man show that he performs in character as Mark Twain. This show, how awesomely Val Kilmer is it? Well, and I don’t mean to talk out of school, but I’ve heard tell, the thing has Batman Forever jokes. Delivered by Val Kilmer. As Mark Twain.

Here’s a particularly colorful account of one of the shows from Tumblr WalkersWheelhouse, who called it “truly one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen.”

- Right off the bat, Mark Twain Val Kilmer makes a Batman Forever joke. You know, because we were in the Hollywood Forever Cemetary. You can just picture him writing it and being like, “I can’t NOT make a Batman Forever joke! People will be expecting it!”

-There was a question and answer period after the show and a black woman expressed her horror at hearing the n-word over and over in the play, and instead of having a pre-thought out response, which one would assume he would prepare, because that’s the first thing I would do if I solicited questions and criticism after dropping the n-word dozens of times in a play I wrote, he first told an anecdote about how his friend 50 Cent said that it was OK for him (Val) to use the word. Val said that when Fiddy said that he was horrified and was all, “No way! I can’t say that word! Look at my face!” (Also, I’m sort of thinking that maybe 50 didn’t mean the n-word with the hard r ending, but the one with the -a ending, but I wasn’t there. Thank God.) Well, clearly Val got over it. Also, way to 50 Cent name drop.

-He bantered with his fiddler. (There was a fiddler) We later learned during the Q & A that Val Kilmer’s grandfather had fiddled. Also that his dad had picked cotton in Texas and that a lot of his family was from Tennessee and they had a story telling tradition. So that’s why he felt so connected to Twain. I grew up in Hartford where Twain lived for a large portion of his life, but I wouldn’t say that’s why I like him. Whatever, that’s nitpicky. Oh, Val also revealed that he went to private school in LA. Which is it, rural southern childhood or posh LA private school? By this point I had stopped paying attention. I’m sure he did both. Maybe he was a Beverly Hillbilly. I would never call Val Kilmer a liar.

-I think his son was selling merch at the merch table. ‘Lil Kilmer. ‘Lilmer. ‘Lil Kilm.
[...]
And that’s about it. Well, there’s more. Like the weird Power Point in the background and the part where he went up to the balcony and pretended to steer a riverboat. But I honestly don’t know how to even get into that.

I didn’t think anything could be as good as the Val Kilmer live performance of “Skeet Surfin'” that I often see in my dreams, but this sounds close. As a wise FilmDrunk commenter once said, “theater majors gonna theater.”

Don’t ever change, Val Kilmer.


TAGSCELEBRITY IMPERSONATORSHISTORICAL REENACTORSmark twainTHEATERval kilmerwalter kirn

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