Val Kilmer didn’t want to date Cher.
In 1981, the Juilliard student was eating alone in a Manhattan restaurant when a friend showed up and said, “Someone is interested in meeting you.” Turns out it was the singer, whose career and personal life were then on the wane.
“I saw Cher as a less-than-fascinating character out of the gossip rags,” the actor, 60, writes in his new memoir, “I’m Your Huckleberry: A Memoir” (Simon & Schuster), out Tuesday. “I was not motivated to meet her, not out of snobbery but simply because I was sure we had nothing in common.”
He ultimately relented, and discovered Cher to be “the funniest person you’ll ever meet.” The two were on and off for years. “To most of Hollywood, I was . . . ‘Cher’s lover.’ I . . . could often hear industry folks whispering about us in fancy restaurants,” Kilmer writes of his early career, which kicked off with a starring role in “Top Secret!”
Cher wasn’t the only big thing Kilmer initially resisted.
When asked to audition for “Top Gun,” Kilmer writes: “I didn’t want the part. I didn’t care about the film. The story didn’t interest me. My agent, who also represented Tom Cruise, basically tortured me into at least meeting [director] Tony Scott, saying . . . he was completely obsessed with me.”
The movie would become one of the biggest hits of his career, and one of the first times he went so deep into a role that he almost got lost.
Kilmer became “obsessed” with figuring out why his character, Iceman, was a jerk. At one point, he hallucinated a conversation with Iceman’s father, who was chewing ice — a tic that Kilmer gave his character.
Kilmer, as Iceman, asked the hallucination what he wanted. To stay on your “journey for the clergy,” the imaginary dad replied.
The actor confesses he wasn’t sure what that meant but writes that it was crucial for informing his character.
Later, while filming Oliver Stone’s 1991 “The Doors,” Kilmer sank deep into playing Jim Morrison.
“I spoke 24/7 in his laconic, ironic, super slow delivery,” he writes.
Once, in the recording booth, he upset the sound engineer by acting like a brat: “Hey man, all I am saying is that this song is the dumbest, worst piece of filth I ever wrote and I don’t want to sing it now or ever.”
Kilmer’s been equally obsessive in love.
His first serious girlfriend was Mare Winningham, a Chatsworth, Calif., high-school classmate who would go on to star in films like “St. Elmo’s Fire.”
Kilmer writes that one night in Arizona, he had a dream that Winningham was kissing someone else. He awoke, borrowed his stepdad’s car and drove 300 miles back to California.
Moving by “feel and feel alone,” he mysteriously found his way to a swimming club where he discovered Winningham kissing someone else.
Later, he would date model Cindy Crawford (“I thought I could have died from her love, not because it was difficult but because its delight was simply too much to bear”) and Daryl Hannah (“Lord knows I’ve suffered heartache with women. But Daryl was by far the most painful of all”), and crushed hard on Carly Simon (“I probably would have jumped right out [her] window . . . if she’d even mildly hinted that it might make her happy”).
He’s remained close with Cher, and was visiting her Malibu mansion in 2015 when he started vomiting blood like a “scene out of ‘The Godfather.’ ”
Kilmer prayed, then phoned 911. The paramedic arrived, a hunky Gregory Peck type to whom Cher immediately took a liking.
Despite being covered in gore, Kilmer caught Cher’s eye and bounced his eyebrows “like Groucho Marx. Hubba hubba.”
The two laughed before an oxygen mask was shoved over Kilmer’s face and he was taken to the hospital.
The diagnosis was grim: throat cancer. Treating it would require years and two tracheotomies. The disease stole Kilmer’s voice, leaving him sounding like “Marlon Brando after a couple of bottles of tequila.”
“Speaking, once my joy and lifeblood, has become an hourly struggle,” Kilmer writes.
He will be seen later this year in “Top Gun: Maverick,” which he hopes will revive his “troubled career.”
These days, he’s mostly focused on his Los Angeles art gallery and says he hasn’t had a girlfriend in 20 years.
“My voice will come back,” he writes. “It isn’t just that everything is going to be all right. Everything is all right.
“Right now. Right now, the energy grows. I feel it more now than at any other moment in my life.”
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