What's really going on with Val Kilmer

Val Kilmer has clearly been going through something. The actor, who turned 58 in 2017, has flown under the radar for years, emerging rarely and often very covered up. His alleged health scares have made headlines in recent years, but he denies there's anything wrong. What's actually happening?

He lost weight

In September 2014, a noticeably leaner Kilmer was photographed strolling on the beach in Malibu. Sources told TMZ the Top Gun (1986) star noticed he'd let himself go and started taking regular walks to shed the extra pounds. There was no indication at the time that he may have been ill. In fact, many outlets remarked that he looked better than he had in years.

He started wearing scarves everywhere

In December 2014, people began to notice that Kilmer had seemingly lost even more weight. Radar Online posted several photos of the actor looking thinner than he had in years. This was also the first of several sightings of the Willow (1988) star covering up his neck area. He was photographed numerous times over the ensuing months with his neck obscured by scarves or high collars.

In June 2015, Kilmer insisted his increasingly large collection of bandannas and scarves was not a means to cover up any serious ailments. "I should mention I do not have cancer or a tumor. There has been a swelling that I have covered during this period of recovery from a procedure I had done which was not an operation on this area," he wrote on Facebook. "But I didn't want to create an opportunity for exploitive [sic] press to generate a story like what apparently now exists. I imagine I'm going to keep wearing scarfs [sic] till the swelling goes down, even though it's a silly look for LA SUMMER! Or LA EVER!"

He had a medical emergency, but denied it was cancer

In late January 2015, Kilmer was hospitalized. TMZ reported that paramedics rushed to the actor's home after someone called 911, stating that he'd been bleeding from his throat. Kilmer reportedly underwent surgery at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, Calif. A rep for the actor released a statement saying Kilmer was undergoing tests for a possible tumor, doctors were optimistic about his prognosis, and he was being cared for by his two adult children.

Kilmer disputed his own rep's statement, writing on Facebook, "I have not had a tumor, or a tumor operations, or any operation. I had a complication where the best way to receive care was to stay under the watchful eye of the UCLA ICU. Friends have assisted who know my spiritual convictions and have been most sensitive and kind for the extra effort in making sure there's minimum gossip and silly talk."

However, Kilmer did admit he had been hospitalized, adding, "Thank you all for your prayers, love and support. I'm so happy to say, the emergency that lead me to dial 911 is well over and I'm out of the hospital and in a safe healing environment. The doctors and nurses I met were wonderful and very respectful of my spiritual priorities and I can't thank you all enough for your professionalism and genuine care." The actor also tweeted a photo on his way home from the hospital in which he sported a high-necked hoodie and a big smile with the caption, "FREEDOM!"

He was spotted with a tracheostomy tube

Nine months after Kilmer was hospitalized for the aforementioned throat issue, Radar Online reported that he was admitted once again in late October 2015. A source told the tabloid that "Kilmer could barely speak" and "had a tracheostomy tube, IVs, and several other machine hookups trailing from his body" while he was in the intensive care unit.

Kilmer denied those reports, writing on Facebook, "Thank you all for your love and support. There's a rumor I'm unwell again and in hospital which is totally untrue. I was in to verify I have no tumor or infection of any kind which was verified by the very caring experts at UCLA."

In December 2015, a source told the National Enquirer that Kilmer was reluctant to seek medical treatment for his health problems. "Val 'talks' to the illness, and meditates on it," the insider said. "He's been putting up a great battle, [but] he's wasting away!"

He's recovering

In January 2016, a source close to Kilmer told Radar Online the actor was able to ditch the tracheostomy device he'd been wearing. "Val is telling friends that doctors believe they've gotten it," but added that Kilmer "speaks in a whisper and can't really talk. He actually looked pretty good—sturdy and not particularly frail." The insider added, "Val's whole mouth is wired up and he has a small whitish square on his throat near his Adam's apple where the surgery was." A famous pal reportedly came to his aid. The source told Radar, "Val is telling friends how Cher has been a huge help and a friend to him throughout this experience."

In February 2016, People reported Kilmer had stepped out without the device and even showed off a mostly-bare neck for the first time in more than a year.

His religious beliefs may have stalled his treatment

In February 2015, TMZ reported that Kilmer knew about his alleged tumor since the summer of 2014, but due to his strict Christian Scientist beliefs, opted to treat it solely with prayer and meditation. The tab alleged those close to Kilmer urged him to seek medical attention, but he'd supposedly cut them out of his life for pressuring him to see a doctor. Sources also claimed Kilmer wouldn't admit to being in pain because he viewed it as questioning his faith.

Kilmer's mother, Gladys Leach, told the National Enquirer in July 2016 that Kilmer did, in fact, have cancer in his throat but was "miraculously healed through Christian Scientist treatments."

He's back to work

In July 2016, Kilmer posted photos of himself getting back into shape for his role in The Super (2017). According to IMDb, he has two films slated to debut in 2018: Riptide and 1st Born. He has a little too enthusiastically expressed interest in the upcoming Top Gun sequel. He was also cast as Mark Twain in the upcoming film Mark Twain and Mary Baker Eddy.

Michael Douglas dished on his diagnosis

Actor Michael Douglas, a close friend of Kilmer's who himself beat oral cancer in 2013, told The Sun in October 2016 that, "Val was a wonderful guy who is dealing with exactly what I had, and things don't look too good for him. My prayers are with him. That's why you haven't heard too much from Val lately."

Kilmer denied Douglas' claims, though he made it clear he wasn't upset with his pal. "I love Michael Douglas but he is misinformed," Kilmer wrote on Facebook. "The last time I spoke to him was almost two years ago, when I asked him for a referral for a specialist to get a diagnosis for a lump in my throat…I ended up using a team at UCLA and have no cancer whatsoever. I still have a swollen tongue and am rehabbing steadily…Some fans have mistakenly thought my silence about my personal issues meant that somehow I wasn't being responsible to my health, because of my reliance on prayer and love. Nothing could be further from the truth. I hope this puts to rest any further concerns about my health by publications that have no respect for the truth. Whatever led Michael Douglas to speculate about my health, he's a loving and devoted friend to a privileged group of talent [sic] people around the world, and I'm sure he meant no harm."

He canceled a tour due to tongue swelling

Kilmer was forced to cancel a tour after his tongue swelled so much that he had trouble speaking in November 2016.

Radar Online reported the actor had to bail on a performance of his one-man play, Citizen Twain, after his speech became slurred. "I went into rehearsals down in Florida and I started having trouble with my speech," the Batman Forever (1995) star told the audience at a screening of Citizen Twain in Los Angeles on Nov. 10, 2016. "Obviously I'm still recovering from it. My tongue swelled up and I canceled the tour…As I'm recovering I'm showing a movie so I don't have to talk. It's fun, I've been enjoying myself."

Kilmer addressed the issue on Facebook after the screening, writing, "I'm celebrating my health in public and sharing my best work with my community during these emotional times, and yet the press wrote last week was that I was 'denying the rumors of my illness…' I'm still recovering my voice but I was raging in Pasadena when we filmed my play in 2013."

He's still recovering

After a video of Kilmer struggling to speak at an event on Feb. 9, 2017 was published online, the actor took to his Facebook to clarify what was going on. "Sorry to bore most of you who know I'm healthy, but there's more lies in the press that say I'm ill because I mentioned at my show I was doing speech therapy," he said. "That is perfectly normal for any entertainer who uses their mouth all day long. It's like saying Federer is 'ill' because he has tennis elbow. He's not ill. He just has to rehab his elbow. All this negative story line does is sell more tickets to my show and upset my mother…And needless to say it upsets my children who know I'm well."

He finally opened up about his health

In late April 2017, Kilmer finally admitted, after years of dodges and denials, that he's recovering from cancer via a Reddit AMA. When a fan asked about Michael Douglas' allegations that Kilmer had cancer, Kilmer replied, "He was probably trying to help me 'cause press probably asked where I was these days, and I did have a healing of cancer, but my tongue is still swollen altho healing all the time. Because I don't sound my normal self yet people think I may still be under the weather."

He's still not 100 percent

The Hollywood Reporter noted that during its December 2017 interview with Kilmer (seen here in December 2017 with artist Tracey Emin,) the actor admitted he had undergone chemotherapy. Kilmer was reportedly short of breath often and his voice had been "reduced to a rasp."

In October 2017, Kilmer was photographed (via Radar Online) being pushed through LAX in a wheelchair with his head obscured by a blanket.

A source told Radar Online in December 2017, "[Kilmer is] a strong character, but sadly it doesn't seem like he's got a lot of fight left in him."

His daughter was hospitalized at the same time

Almost immediately after Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer, his daughter, Mercedes (seen here in November 2012,) was in a car accident that left her with a large scar on one leg. "We were in the same hospital at the same time," she told The Hollywood Reporter. Kilmer's son, Jack, added, "I was just, you know, miserable, distraught, sitting next to these two."

He has a new lease on life

Kilmer told The Hollywood Reporter that his diagnosis and recovery changed his outlook on not just fame and acting, but also on the rest of his life. 

"I was too serious [when I was at peak fame]. I'd get upset when things like Oscars and recognition failed to come my way," he said, while admitting that critical recognition was still something he craved at times. "I would like to have more Oscars than anybody. Meryl Streep must feel pretty good, you know? It must feel nice to know that everyone loves her. It's about being loved."

He's finding solace in art

A source told Radar Online that Kilmer was using art to take his mind off of his health issues. "He's drowning his sorrows in paints and brushes, stencils and metals and sculptures … It's a way for him to get through the day without talking since his voice is a thick inaudible rasp," the source said. "His style is described as contemporary abstract and colorful pop art."

He made amends with his estranged brother

Kilmer had long been estranged from his brother, Mark, in part because Mark disagreed with Kilmer's strict Christian Science beliefs, but the siblings have reportedly made amends. A source told Radar Online, "They've finally got things back on track just as [Kilmer's health is] fading."