Val Kilmer is looking to the future six years after being diagnosed and treated for throat cancer. After undergoing radiation, chemotherapy and a tracheostomy that permanently damaged his voice, the actor, 61, is cancer-free and ready to tell his story in the new Amazon Original Documentary Val. The documentary includes tons of personal video footage from behind-the-scenes of Kilmer’s most popular films as well as more candid and personal moments about his health journey over the years.
“Now that it’s more difficult to speak, I want to tell my story more than ever,” Kilmer says in the documentary, which received a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival. Coping with the physical limitations remaining from his cancer battle, Kilmer’s voice sounds raspy and soft in the film: “I obviously am sounding much worse than I feel,” he says, as per PEOPLE.
“I can’t speak without plugging this hole,” he says of the hole in his throat. “You have to make the choice to breathe or to eat. It’s an obstacle that is very present with whoever sees me.” Kilmer was first diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015, but kept his diagnosis private until 2017, when he also underwent the tracheostomy that would change his life in many ways. Ting Poo, who co-directed the new Amazon Original film with Leo Scott, told PEOPLE just how open and vulnerable Kilmer was willing to be while filming Val.
“He doesn’t have the vanity that you would expect from someone of his fame and celebrity. There was never any of that kind of artifice or protection that people who are really famous have to put up around themselves,” she said. “It’s humbling to be around that.” Calling the Top Gun star “such a layered person,” Poo added, “He’s a lot of opposites that make him incredibly interesting, and it’s kind of why our film is so interesting.”
Despite Kilmer’s physical challenges, he has continued working in Hollywood through artistic pursuits tied into his gallery/creative incubator HelMel Studios in Los Angeles. In 2020, he appeared in the thriller Paydirt and will appear in the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick reboot. Val is streaming now on Prime Video.