Val Kilmer’s daughter Mercedes is proud to share the big screen with him in their upcoming crime thriller “Paydirt.” She also hopes her father’s performance, his first after having a tracheotomy that drastically changed his voice, opens doors for other actors with disabilities.
“Hiring more disabled actors only enlivens the work and inspires more different kinds of communication,” Mercedes Kilmer, 28, said in an exclusive interview with TooFab.
“Paydirt” is Mercedes Kilmer’s first feature film. While it was extra special to play her father’s daughter in the heist movie, she wants her dad’s performance to lead to “a bigger shift in the entertainment industry” when it comes to hiring actors with disabilities.
Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015. He kept his battle private and denied he was sick until he confirmed a “healing” in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session in 2017.
As part of his treatment for the disease, Kilmer underwent chemotherapy and radiation that year. The treatment “zapped my whole throat, and it’s still dry as a bone,” he told the New York Times in an interview published in May 2020. It also left Kilmer with a tracheotomy tube.
The newspaper described Kilmer as being able to still “squeeze air up through his windpipe… and past the hole that was cut in his throat” for the tracheotomy tube in a way that makes him somewhat understood.
“The sound is something between a squeak and a voiceless roar. He says the fact that I can understand him is a result of the endless vocal exercises that he was trained to do when he went to Juilliard after high school, that he was taught to work his voice ‘like it was a trumpet,'” wrote Taffy Brodesser-Akner.
The 28-year-old actor said filming with her dad was sometimes “challenging,” since it also “revealed the sort of narrowness of my training.”
“My dad has had to circumvent his speech by creatively using his other senses and using other avenues of communication, which is very fascinating as an actor,” she said.
Kilmer’s lines in the movie were also dubbed over by a voiceover actor.
“I think that because he is so well known, it will open more doors for other actors that are less well known that have different abilities to be able to be hired,” said Mercedes. “I think it’s really monumentous actually and I’m really, genuinely so proud of having been involved.”
“Paydirt” is now available in select theaters and video on demand.