Stars reveal a normal side Celebrities: Val Kilmer, reputed to be a terror, seems decent enough, and Elisabeth Shue even picks up after herself. Imagine that.

April 04, 1997|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,SUN FILM CRITIC

WASHINGTON -- The sinner who is "The Saint" and the saint who is his co-star came here to attract attention to that movie on which, for both of them, much rides.

For him, it's a chance to prove that he can carry a big movie without wearing a bat cape; for her it's a chance to consolidate after the triumph of "Leaving Las Vegas."

She's very angular; he's very unangular. She's got a profile; he's got a blur. Both are blond; neither is very big. He eats Bagel Chips and smokes Merits while he talks and literally wears rose-colored glasses; she eats a fruit salad. A slice of banana gets away from her and she races across the room to pick it up.

NEWSFLASH: Movie star picks up her own banana in D.C. hotel room!

They really like each other.

"I would never play 'The Girl' in a big action-adventure picture if I didn't really respect the people I was involved with," says Elisabeth Shue. "I don't want to get lost among the explosions, and I'm very picky about men. Val was great. He's misunderstood on some levels, but he's a great actor. We were given considerable latitude to develop our characters and our relationship on screen, and we worked hard on it. It's kind of like a two-character play hidden inside a huge movie."

Like Kilmer, Shue is an old pro whose youth completely belies her experience. She was in the original "Karate Kid" movie way back in 1984; she starred in "Adventures in Babysitting," then watched the career get smaller and smaller until she turned it all around with her brilliant turn in "Leaving Las Vegas."

"It's all taught me a new philosophy. That is, to focus on the experience of making the film. Enjoy that, enjoy the special moments that you can have as an actor. Then let it go. Don't care about the result. You can't really control that anyway."

Val Kilmer probably agrees, but nevertheless he's committed to an attempt to regain control. He's not really a sinner; he only plays one for his directors, and that indeed seems to be part of the agenda of this sail through medialand. Recently, both Joel Schumacher, who directed him in "Batman III," and John Frankenheimer, who directed him in "The Island of Dr. Moreau," have said nasty things about him: He's supposed to have bolted off of sets, to have hidden in his dressing rooms, to have been too picky about the scripts and done all sorts of movie-star things from the age of Tallulah.

"Well, the most obvious thing," he says intensely, "is how poorly it reflects on them. It's not possible to say anything else to damage me. Now, if I were that bad, don't you think the word would have leaked out before? I mean, a movie set like 'Batman' involved 500 people. Wouldn't someone have said something? The industry knows the truth.

"But," he adds, "it is a lie that is based on a certain truth. I'm basically being accused of being too involved. It's based on the fact that I care very much about the story. I guess I'm still naive about the business. Hollywood's not really my scene. I don't even have many friends out there."

That said, he seems to settle down. At 36, with a big wad of tousled blond hair, he really seems like what you would call your basic pretty good guy. No vanities attend him, and neither does a staff of go-fers and creeps; he's not afraid to talk and even enjoys it, and his conversation rushes by adroitly, as he shows off his knowledge of a dozen arcane fields.

"I really am very fortunate to be one of the .0001 percent of the people in the world who actually get to make a living doing this kind of work. Hollywood has really treated me very kindly. It's a privilege to work in movies."

Pub Date: 4/04/97

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