Val Kilmer has come to the defence of the late Marlon Brando over the disastrous 90s adaptation of HG Wells’ literary classic ‘The Island of Dr Moreau’.
Often cited as one of the most dysfunctional film sets ever – and a box office catastrophe – the ‘Top Gun’ star spoke about the troubled production in an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit.
Kilmer played a drug-addled former neurosurgeon in league with Brando’s Moreau, a mad scientist creating ungodly human-animal hybrids.
But when the production went south, and the original director Richard Stanley was fired – reputedly not unrelated to Kilmer’s reputation for being ‘difficult’ on set – things quickly went from bad to worse, with an out-of-control budget and an entire production shut-down, before veteran John Frankenheimer was brought in to take over.
It was said that Kilmer’s behaviour was at least partially due to the fact that he received divorce papers from his then-wife Joanne Whalley while on set.
Meanwhile, Brando’s wacky wardrobe also came under some baffled scrutiny once it was released, including an ice bucket hat and a range of bizarre gowns.
Speaking about working with Brando, Kilmer said: “Brando was everything you want the major icon in your world to be, a genius and a gentleman. I was getting divorced at the time and he was so gracious about offering me time and considered thought. He offered to call my ex on behalf of the children.
“He was one of the funniest men on earth. I still laugh out loud about some of the things he said and did. I mean he literally wore a salad bowl over his head.
“Much has been said about how awful the experience was. There were several embarrassed execs who made it seem worse than it was… because the film was so poorly received, and the replacement director was desperate for a comeback and blamed me for the film’s failure which doesn’t hold water when you watch it because I die in the film and the whole last half is just as bad as when I was alive so how could I have made stuff I wasn’t in not work? Doesn’t make any sense.
“I worked like a dog to make that film as entertaining as I could because it was such a privilege to work with the greatest. He was not really respected tho and the film suffered greatly by not taking his suggestions.
“He always took major chances and that true daring always makes people nervous. He would improv, which I love, but they wouldn’t film it or use what often did do. To be that great and that misunderstood. So sad… But I am so glad I did it.
“I begged the studio to film a documentary which I promised them was more interesting than what was happening in front of the camera, but no one ever took me up on it.”
The movie made $49 million from a $40 million budget, and as such was a massive flop after marketing and advertising costs.
One of Brando’s final movies before his death in 2004, Roger Ebert said it was ‘perhaps his worst film’.