A month later, the production coordinator from Long Gone called me to work on another HBO film, The Man Who Broke 1000 Chains, featuring Val Kilmer in one of his first starring roles.
Kilmer was very aloof on set. I don’t know whether it was part of his process as an actor, or a symptom of something else, but he remained very much in his own world. I don’t believe he ever looked me directly in the eyes. An odd occurrence when you’re the camera operator.
I went to judgment. This is not right, was my verdict. I created a story about his being self absorbed and egotistical. In hindsight of course I only wanted to be seen by him.
Fifteen years later, I would operate a picture called Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, starring Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Junior. On day two of production, we filmed a scene in an alley in Long Beach with the stars.
We completed the master and were into shooting coverage, a shot that did not include Kilmer, or even require him to be on set. But someone screwed up, and next thing we knew, there was Kilmer exiting the van that had brought him from base camp. He came to a stop standing right next to me. We both stood there, shoulder to shoulder, looking forward.
Kilmer surveyed the camera placement and realized he didn’t have to be there. Agitation building, he began to mutter to himself, “I’m not in the shot. I’m not in this shot.”
I gently leaned in his direction and without turning to him, said, “for Christ sake, don’t tell Kilmer – he’s liable to throw a hissy fit.”
In my periphery, I could see Kilmer look at me. I counted to five and then turned to him with smile. I was finally being seen by Val Kilmer. His anger and resentment didn’t have a chance in that moment. He began to smile.
I introduced myself and told him we had worked together on The Man Who Broke a 1000 Chains. It was clear, he had no memory of that, but it didn’t matter, we were off to a wonderful start on this project, having performed a variation of “I’m here to be seen. I see you.”
*Excerpted from my book: Shooting Myself: Careening Toward Enlightenment in the Film Biz