Since selling his ranch near Santa Fe for millions of dollars last year, Val Kilmer has made something of a career shift, immersing himself in the character of Mark Twain while trying to develop his own film project.
The 52-year-old actor is back in Los Angeles, where he is appearing in a one-man stage show as Twain, part of preparations to portray him in a film about the author and his historical adversary, Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy.
Kilmer, who has been working on the project for years, posted a note on the movie's website last year that said, "I have made a crucial decision to sell my home so that I might continue the momentum that is required to create a film as unique as its subject."
The website has a button where visitors can donate to the project and invites them to share ideas, including casting suggestions for the various historical figures in his original screenplay.
"We have a long way to go before our film is financed," he said in a January 2011 note addressed to supporters of the project, "but there has been a weekly increase of donors and this is energizing and exciting news for us all."
Kilmer, who was raised as a Christian Scientist in Los Angeles, has told interviewers that in recent years he "opted for a quiet life in New Mexico" after such career-making roles as Batman, Jim Morrison and Doc Holliday.
A deed filed last September with the San Miguel County Clerk's Office indicated Kilmer sold the bulk of his 5,328-acre Pecos River ranch to a Texas oil and gas executive. The ranch, originally put on the market in 2009 for $33 million, sold for $18.5 million.
"My kids are older, and I was quite preoccupied with their well-being and trying to be responsible to them on a daily basis," Kilmer told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview published online this week. "And I sold my ranch, so I just kind of cleared the decks. I haven't been on a date in seven years."
He has been traveling around the country doing research and performing his one-man show, donning a wig, mustache and white suit while getting into the character of his hero in a production he calls Citizen Twain.
"I am wearing the hats of writer and director and for the moment, sole producer as well, and have for over 6 years now," he said in his note to supporters of the "Mark Twain and Mary Baker Eddy" film project on the website twaineddyfilm.com.
Kilmer plans to travel to Missouri in May, according to a news release from William Woods University in Fulton, Mo., where he is scheduled to speak at the school's commencement and receive an honorary doctorate of fine arts degree.
The announcement, which identified Kilmer as a friend of the university president's husband, said that while in Missouri, Kilmer will travel with representatives of the school to Hannibal, Mo., where he will speak at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum.
Meanwhile, in California, his Twain show is scheduled to run for the next two weekends at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Although the two never met, Twain apparently was obsessed with Eddy's views. Kilmer describes his screenplay for the film as "a quirky, tender, tragicomic portrait of two contrasting lives, set against the backdrop of Gilded Age America."
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