Tribeca Film Festival: A fourth-dimensional interview with Val Kilmer and Harmony Korine
“Hold on, we’re just on the cusp of an idea,” says Val Kilmer as I walk into the room. He’s seated with Harmony Korine and executive producer Eddy Moretti. Together they made one-third of The Fourth Dimension, a spaced-out omnibus film that features Kilmer playing himself, or at least a version of himself that preaches New Age dogmas of UFOs and interdimensional travel to crowds at bowling alleys. They’re trying to come up with a concept for a videogame that Korine — former wunderkind writer of Kids and director of such grimy bizarro odysseys as Gummo and Trash Humpers—would design. What would the game be like? “I don’t care,” says Korine. “As long as they cut me the check.” They all laugh. It seems like everyone in this room is on the same wavelength, even if that wavelength has just recently beamed beyond the Kuiper belt. We might as well get started, right?
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Have you two wanted to work with each other for a while before this?
Val Kilmer: I’ve wanted to work with Harmony from before we met. I don’t know about him. I can’t speak for him. He’s elusive. Even now.
Harmony, can you speak for you?
Harmony Korine: Yeah, definitely. What was the question?
Had you previously wanted to work with Val?
HK: I’d always loved Val, he’s one of my favorite actors. So yeah, I’d always wanted to do something with him and this was my chance.
Val, you spend a lot of time in the movie describing your vision of the fourth dimension. How much of that actually comes from you?
VK: In the film, he talks about his version of heaven, all that cotton candy. In this play I just wrote I quote Shakespeare. “There’s nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
This is your Mark Twain play?
Yeah. And now it’s more or less official. People are much more comfortable now because technology is busy proving these math rules, and we just walk around with these mad assumptions. I know the sun doesn’t really set, but we say it sets, and it looks like it sets. We don’t really correct everyone all day long, but we know that we’re spinning at thousands of miles per hour and it’s all very complex and weird and we get to live in the world where we get to prove that most of the rules we walk around with are not realistic rules. There’s another line in the play about how we’ve got three million laws — that’s an estimate in the United States — trying to enforce ten. It doesn’t matter what your religious belief is, you read those Ten Commandments and there’s not much beyond them. Most of them are redundant anyway. If you have a moral attitude and you really make an application to not harming anyone and not applying any judgments to the situation, you’re going to be a unique person because people just don’t do it. I mean, 3 million laws and we don’t really need most of them. It’s just greed.
So if you suddenly found yourself in front of a congregation, I’m guessing that’s what you’d preach?
VK: I wrote that into the Twain play and I’m really happy to do work, like this movie, which is about something. Even though it’s really light-hearted — I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say it’s absurdist — but it’s really unique and there’s not much going on right now that I would call unique.
Both you and Harmony have worked with Werner Herzog. Who does the best impression?
HK: Val’s is pretty good.
VK: [spot-on Werner Herzog voice] Val, please stop laughing before the takes. When they take the photograph of you, you’re made to look ridiculous!
HK: That’s wonderful.
That’s ecstatic truth right there.
VK: And in Burden of Dreams, [Herzog voice] The jungle, this is romantic? I hate it. It’s filled with death. Listen to that, it’s not a bird song, it’s a screech. A screech! [Normal voice] He says “screeching” for like a minute. And it’s true, if he ever gets into his own schtick, what’s so hilarious about him, it’ll destroy him. But I don’t think he can really know it. I literally couldn’t stop laughing all day while I was on the set [of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans]. You tell that story where he just arrives and looks around for a challenge. Like, “How far has someone swam?” And you say, “I don’t know, until you can’t see anymore.” And he jumps in the water, sploosh, and he swims out and he’s gone.
HK: And he ate his shoe.
VK: [Herzog voice] He’s unique
In the past, when preparing for a role, you’ve done a lot of research to get into character. What did you do to prepare for the role of “Val Kilmer”?
VK: I went over the text over and over. I made some tapes and listened to them constantly. Tapes of me talking, tapes of the monologue. Because it’s hard for some people, I’m one of them, to get the click of the rhythm of it. I made a little video on my phone as I was reading it the first time and then sent it to Harmony and he wrote back with, “Oh that’s perfect, exactly what I was thinking,” but it was my absolute first impression. But I think that’s the best way to work, to stick with your gut instincts and do something different. I mean, how many actors could you really say last year did a brand-new thing. There are very, very few. What a shock, and I love him, to see Johnny Depp in whiteface in a Tim Burton movie. They should just number them from now on. Johnny Depp/Tim Burton: 12, and it’s just a new color on his face. And I have nothing against him because he couldn’t be more successful. I think he’s been nominated for an Oscar twice, and God bless him, but it’s not a new idea.
Okay, last question: If the fourth dimension exists, it means you can see all of time as a single unit, right? So assuming you have the ability to view the entirety of your lives at one moment, which do you think would be your favorite part. Keep in mind, your answer could be from some point in the future.
HK: Whoa. That’s way too deep for me, man.
VK: No it’s not! You wrote the book on that s—.