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New documentary reveals why Val Kilmer only played Batman one time: 'It's very isolating'

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Aug 16, 2021, 12:04 PM EDT

The role of Batman in a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster seems like an absolute dream role for any young actor, but according to Val Kilmer, it's more of a nightmare than anything else. In Val, an autobiographical documentary about his life and career, the actor opens up about why he only played the Caped Crusader once, in 1995's Batman Forever. Given that he now has trouble speaking after a battle with throat cancer, Kilmer tapped his son, Jack, to narrate most of the film.

"I took the part without even reading the script," Jack recalls for his father. "But whatever boyish excitement I had going in was crushed by the reality of the Batsuit. When you're in it, you can barely move and people have to help you stand up and sit down. You also can't hear anything and after awhile, people stop talking to you. It's very isolating. It was a struggle for me to get a performance past the suit and it was frustrating until I realized that my role in the film was just to show up and stand where I was told to."

Despite negative reviews from critics, Batman Forever was a box office success, bringing in over $336 million against a budget of $100 million. Naturally, Warner Bros. wanted a sequel with Kilmer back in the titular role, but he declined the offer. The late Joel Schumacher returned as director for 1997's Batman & Robin, which starred George Clooney as Bruce Wayne. Speaking directly to the camera for the documentary, Kilmer laments the fact that "it made no difference what I was doing" when compared to the "huge" performances of his co-stars: Tommy Lee Jones (Two-Face) and Jim Carrey (Riddler). 

"I tried to be like an actor on a soap opera," he explains. "The way I would turn to Nicole [Kidman, who played Dr. Chase Meridian]. Go count how many times I put my hands on my hips. I don't know how they come up with this style of acting, but they seem to go to sopa opera school."

The day he wrapped Batman, Kilmer drove straight to the set of Michael Mann's Heat, which "felt like an indie film" when placed beside the film he'd just come from. "Yes, every boy wants to be Batman. They actually want to be him," Jack continues, explaining that Bruce's lack of powers makes him more of a relatable character. "They don't necessarily want to play him in a movie."

Val is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.