Val Kilmer Plays Two Rock Icons, Do You Remember Both?

By Douglas Helm | Published

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Val Kilmer

Val Kilmer has had quite a varied and interesting career, and it’s safe to say that he was never really pigeonholed when it came to his roles. However, he did end up playing two massive rock icons in his early 1990s roles, with one being much more prominent than the other. Every Kilmer fan will remember that he played Jim Morrison in The Doors biopic, but he also popped up as the King of Rock n’ Roll himself in True Romance.

Val Kilmer portrayed Jim Morrison in The Doors biopic and Elvis Presley in True Romance.

Both are great films and well worth checking out, but if you’re looking for an extended performance from Val Kilmer, then The Doors is definitely going to be the right choice. As mentioned, Kilmer has the lead role in The Doors as Jim Morrison in the Oliver Stone-directed biopic about the band and its influence on culture.

While the historical accuracy and the depiction of Morrissey as a person in The Doors have been criticized and questioned, almost everyone agreed that Van Morrison gave a fantastic performance.

Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison

Along with Kilmer, the film starred Meg Ryan as Morrison’s girlfriend Pamela Courson, Kyle MacLachlan as keyboardist Ray Manzarek, Frank Whaley as lead guitarist Robby Krieger, Kevin Dillon as drummer John Densmore, Billy Idol as Cat, and Kathleen Quinlan as journalist Patricia Kennealy.

While the historical accuracy and the depiction of Morrissey as a person in The Doors have been criticized and questioned, almost everyone agreed that Van Morrison gave a fantastic performance. Funnily enough, director Oliver Stone was initially interested in casting Kilmer in The Doors after seeing his performance in Ron Howard’s Willow as Madmartigan.

It’s interesting because when Willow was revived for the TV series years later, Kilmer’s True Romance co-star Christian Slater would be cast as a former friend of Madmartigan due to Kilmer’s filming conflicts at the time.

While Stone was interested in Val Kilmer for the role, Kilmer went above and beyond to convince Stone that he was the right man for the part. He ended up spending thousands of his own money to put together an eight-minute audition video where he acted and sang as Morrison during different phases of his life. Kilmer would get the role and spend six months rehearsing and learning the songs to prepare for the role.

The Doors came out in 1991, but it wouldn’t be long at all before Val Kilmer would portray another rock legend. Two years later, in 1993, he would appear as Elvis in the Tony Scott-directed and Quentin Tarantino-written True Romance. Tarantino had actually been considering the idea of making a biopic of The Doors before Stone made it, so there’s probably a parallel universe out there where Tarantino directed Kilmer’s biopic.

Val Kilmer makes a big impression as Elvis, and his role is crucial to the film.

Christian Slater and Val Kilmer in True Romance

Instead, we got Val Kilmer and Tarantino teaming up in this film, which follows Christian Slater’s Clarence Worley and Patricia Arquette’s Alabama Whitman as two newlyweds who flee from the Mafia after stealing a drug shipment.

Kilmer’s role is much more truncated in this film, and he technically doesn’t actually play the literal Elvis. Slater’s character is actually a massive Elvis fantastic, and Kilmer’s Elvis shows up in various parts of the film as either a vision of the rocker or an apparition.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Val Kilmer’s small role isn’t impactful. He makes a big impression as Elvis and his role is crucial to the film. True Romance itself has become a cult classic over the years, and the smaller performances from characters like Kilmer’s Elvis and Brad Pitt’s stoner roommate have helped it become iconic over the years.

In short, both films are well worth the watch if you’re a fan of Val Kilmer, but you’re going to get a much more Kilmer-focused film with The Doors. True Romance is a great film too, so you really can’t go wrong with either.

True Romance is a bit harder to watch since it’s available to rent on platforms like Apple TV+ but not available to stream anywhere right now, while The Doors is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.