I saw a production still that showed Val in the middle of his sermon while Harmony watched on a nearby monitor and smiled. It made me wonder who was really in control of the performance.
Harmony Korine and Val Kilmer on the set of "Lotus Community Workshop."
VK: It's scripted, so it's all in the spirit of that guy. There are a thousand ways to play any role. The only organic, logical and immediate take on it, if it's taken seriously, is that this guy has gone insane. He has lost perspective. You could see this really absurdist film where the guy has lost his mind. You know, he's giving advice that's not relevant or valuable. But I really like the rhythm of it, the way preachers, self-help guys or advertisers do it. This distinctly American confidence. How to get rich -- OK, first you get some gold bars, then bury them. Because what else are they selling on TV?
But since the character has your name, the film is a commentary on the kind of expectations people have of celebrities. There's a weird disconnect.
VK: Yeah, they listen to them more. I do start off, right away, saying, "How lucky you are to be here with me." And a guy did come up to me once and say, "I'm so glad you had the chance to meet me." I was like, "You kinda goofed on that." But people do believe that.
The other part of the movie follows Val riding around parking lots on bike, hanging out with his girlfriend and renting movies. It's like he stumbled into "Trash Humpers."
HK: Actually, that part we filmed in nice neighborhoods and stuff.
VK: Every nice neighborhood has an alley. With trash humpers.
HK: Yeah, I guess that crept in there. The point was that you saw what he was like onstage, his performance, so I thought it would be nice to cut between his personal life and his performance. He's got this girlfriend and they play violent videogames together.
"I was just playing the character and he's not involved in that. He's very confident that what he has to offer is very valuable."
VK: He rides a bicycle but he lives in a mansion. And his girlfriend's a badass.
Val, while you might not be giving motivational speeches, you have gone through a lot of stages in your career. So do you relate at all to the guy in this short?
VK: Well, the one-man show [in which Kilmer plays Mark Twain] that I'm doing now is about duality and identity. It's got to be the core of any artist's preoccupation because you're trying to get to know what you're really like and share it or have the courage to stay on that and be revealing about that. So that's not really going on in this film. I think it has more to do with what Harmony wrote and what's going on with the audience. It wasn't about me confronting fame or humiliation -- you know, being overweight or being crazy. I've worn crazy clothes. One year, I was so proud, I got on one of those 10 worst-dressed lists. My friends were all like, "Where'd you get that purple jumpsuit?" But what Harmony wrote was more important than anything about memyself. I was just playing the character and he's not involved in that. He's very confident that what he has to offer is very valuable.
HK: I think he also wants to be entertaining. He just likes these hard-luck cases. A lot of people are troubled and he just likes making them crack up.
EM: The cool thing about what Harmony did is that he really wanted this to be more like an experiment and not fully bake all of the meaning. So the character doesn't have to express any kind of past. He's fully in this chapter of his life. With the bike, the girl, and the speaking, there is no hint of the past. But because we recognize Val, we bring all this past to bear. And that's the fun. Everything about the way it's shot, the cast, the way he looks into the camera -- the audience becomes part of it. It's a real social film experiment that makes it fun. It is a bit like an interactive game. And this film is an experiment that's a point of departure for maybe a whole bunch of other versions of the character in this scenario, so stay tuned.