Val Kilmer was born in Los Angeles, California, to Gladys Swanette (Ekstadt) and Eugene Dorris Kilmer, who was a real estate developer and aerospace equipment distributor. His mother, born in Indiana, was from a Swedish family, and his father was from Texas. Val studied at Hollywood’s Professional’s School and, in his teens, entered Juilliard’s drama program. His professional acting career began on stage, and he still participates in theater; he played Hamlet at the 1988 Colorado Shakespeare Festival. His film debut was in the 1984 spoof Top Secret! (1984), wherein he starred as blond rock idol Nick Rivers. He was in a number of films throughout the 1980s, including the 1986 smash Top Gun (1986). Despite his obvious talent and range, it wasn’t until his astonishingly believable performance as Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone’s The Doors (1991) that the world sat up and took notice. Kilmer again put his good baritone to use in the movie, performing all of the concert pieces. Since then, he has played two more American legends, Elvis Presley in True Romance (1993) and Doc Holliday in Tombstone (1993). In July 1994, it was announced that Kilmer would be taking over the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne from Michael Keaton.
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