- Actor and throat cancer survivor Val Kilmer, 61, has overcome some tough challenges, and in his new documentary debuting at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, he shows the world that he can still deliver his art and his message, despite his handicap.
- Kilmer dropped the film’s trailer yesterday, and announced that the documentary will be in theaters July 23 and available on Amazon Prime August 6.
- Throat cancer can be caused by alcohol and tobacco use, and also by the human papilloma virus, or HPV.
The actor once thought his career was shattered as his voice was greatly affected by a procedure called a tracheostomy during his cancer treatment.Read More
“It is difficult to talk and to be understood, but I want to tell my story more than ever,” a soothing, Kilmer-sounding voice reads in the film. The voice belongs to his son, Jack, who narrates the film for his dad, since Kilmer is sadly still a bit hard to understand. But with a wealth of personal footage from Val’s life and career, fans still get plenty of the old Val they know and love from films like The Doors, and there are even appearances from a young Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon.
“What makes Val a good and heartfelt movie, rather than just some glorified movie-star-as-trashed-parody-of-himself piece of reality-show exploitation, is that Kilmer brings the film an incredible sense of self-awareness,” said Variety’s Owen Gleiberman from a press screening ahead of the premiere.
Kilmer dropped the film’s trailer yesterday, and announced that the documentary will be in theaters July 23 and available on Amazon Prime August 6.
Kilmer’s brother dying in a jacuzzi at age 15 and Val’s divorce (to English actress Joanne Whalley) are depicted as the two low points in his life pre-cancer, and while the film depicts dark moments, Kilmer’s sense of humor is evident throughout.
“As I write this, my documentary is getting ready to premiere at Festival De Cannes,” he wrote on Instagram along with a trailer to the film. “And as grateful as I am for being selected with this high honor, I look forward most to sharing my life’s story with all of you.”
Kilmer had revealed years ago to his colleague Leo Scott, who directed the film along with Ting Poo, that he had over 1,000 hours of personal footage amassed from over the years and Scott convinced Kilmer to do the documentary. The Tombstone star said yes, but said he wanted it to premiere at Cannes. And his team delivered.
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The film festival, which usually starts in May but was pushed back due to the pandemic, has been serving up some of Hollywood’s most iconic red carpet moments since 1946, only on the French Riviera.
The “lifelong filmmaker” concluded his reveal of the trailer with these inspiring words: “Here’s to giving every day the opportunity to be the most beautiful of your life.”
Throughout Kilmer’s early career, the intense actor was quite easy on the eyes playing teen heartthrob roles such as ‘Nick Rivers’ in 1984’s Top Secret!, fan favorite ‘Iceman’ in 1986 hit Top Gun, and perhaps his sexiest role of all time, playing Jim Morrison’s character in The Doors movie in 1991. The striking star further proved his acting chops in the western film Tombstone as ‘Doc Holliday.’
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Val’s Cancer Battle
When Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015, he felt the need to stay quiet about his illness. After wide speculation that he was very sick, the avid artist finally told the public in 2017 that he had throat cancer. His kids Mercedes, 29, and Jack, 26 (who are co-producers on the film) had opposed how he was handling his illness, and convinced their dad to get proper care, and that’s when he began proper chemotherapy and radiation treatment, along with surgery.
After his voice changed, Kilmer found solace in writing, and came out with a book called I Am Your Huckleberry, which was one of his famous lines from Tombstone. “The fact that my impeded speech could spell the end of my career only served to motivate me,” Kilmer says in the book. He also said that he had to have the tracheostomy due to radiation and chemotherapy side effects. “It’s not from cancer,” he said. “That ‘treatment’ caused my suffering.”
Causes of Throat Cancer
Although it is often difficult to pinpoint exactly how or why we get certain types of cancer, it is important to stay educated. Throat cancer can be caused by alcohol and tobacco use, and also by the human papilloma virus, or HPV, which is usually associated with women and can be a cause of cervical cancer. However, men can also be affected by this sexually transmitted infection, and it has been proven to cause throat cancer.
Dr. Jessica Geiger of the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center told SurvivorNet in a previous interview that both men and women can get cancer from HPV. “The strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer are the same strains of HPV that cause throat cancer. The average patient with HPV-related throat cancer tends to be males in their 40s or 50s, who were never a smoker, or just a very light tobacco user.”
Pushing Through After a Cancer Diagnosis
Kilmer’s health was questionable at one point, and it was sad for fans to see the actor go through vocal changes due to his surgery. The actor still made a comeback, appearing in films—he is reprising his role as ‘Iceman’ in Top Gun: Maverick with Tom Cruise in late 2021. It’s an inspiring story to never stop dreaming, no matter what cancer has taken from you.