Val Kilmer Plays Joseph Smith?

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According to T&S, Richard Dutcher claims that he now has all the funds necessary to produce his new film on Joseph Smith. He also confirmed that Val Kilmer is interested in the lead role. In the T&S thread, one commenter thinks that only a member of the church with a testimony of the Prophet should play him. Given my theatre experience and the fact I have occasionally had someone state I look(ed) like Joseph Smith, I’d be happy to do it.

Doubt that would happen though. American filmmakers?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùespecially LDS ones?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùdon’t come to Canada looking for actors.

Anyhow, I don’t think someone’s religious affiliation should be a consideration in casting. Look what happened to the flop that the Book of Mormon Movie was. I’d rather see a non-member experienced actor playing Joseph Smith that an active member, but poor actor playing him.

35 thoughts on “Val Kilmer Plays Joseph Smith?

  1. I totally agree with you; the best actor should get the job. It’s silly to impose religious requirements. Neither Willem Dafoe nor Jim Caviezel are Jewish, but they both played Jesus.

  2. just think what a great missionary tool it would be to use a non member!! Especially someone that others follow or that has influence. Look at what happened when Gladys Knight joined the church in 97. People think hey if this person joined obviously there must be something to it and they start with the discussions

  3. I didn’t like the guy who played Joseph Smith either. He was not only very unconvincing he annoyed me. He was NOT the right person to play him.

  4. I am all for Val playing the role of Joseph Smith. I think it would be a positive choice. More non lds would be attracted, I for one think he is easy on the eyes and a great actor!

  5. I’m the goof over at T&S who said that the actor ought to have a testimony of Joseph–and I stand by that statement. My reasoning is that without some sense of who Joseph really was (besides being an historical figure) the actor cannot convey those aspects of his character that make him unique. Is there nothing peculiar about our religion? This may come across a little stuffy, but the fact is that without the Holy Ghost we lose a whole dimention of reality. And, without that dimention we don’t comprehend who Joseph Smith is.


  6. Acting isn’t about making something real. It’s about making something good. If you want something real, read a book.

    Whether Joseph Smith had the Spirit or not is irrelevant to the movie. You just need someone to portray him in a way that will make him someone people can relate to, who people can think about.

    Dutcher has it right on the money when he said he wants to play Joseph Smith the prophet and Joseph Smith the man.

    Sometimes we tend to place our leaders on high pedestals, making them virtually infallible, and the longer the time goes by since they existed, the more deified they become.

    It will be good to see a movie that helps us to remember the personal struggles Joseph Smith experienced and how they relate to our own personal experiences.

    We certainly don’t need another crappy movie that relies too much on emotion, like Legacy.

  7. now Jack, Kim didn’t call you a goof.

    I don’t know, I think there are some actors who do an incredible job of playing spiritual characters without the Spirit. And that guy in Legacy, I don’t know if he was a member or not, but let me tell you, if he was my first and only introduction to who Joseph Smith was I don’t think I would have been interested in seeing any more.

    How about a good actor who is a member of the Church? There are a few of those around. Personally I am more interested in who plays Emma.

  8. Kim, I don’t think reading a book makes anything real either. I think what we want is a film that makes the material “alive”. Alive in the sense that the Word is a living thing. IMO the only way to succeed in doing this is to be in harmony with it.


  9. You know you don’t need to believe or be a member to play Joseph Smith convincingly.. look at Mel Gibson playing in both Braveheart and The Patriot. Now we all know he didn’t live in those days and couldn’t really have a testimony of how it really was. But he, like all good actors, did his research, and the end result was you believed that he really did live at that time because he made you believe. Now personnally I don’t care for Val Kilmer or anything he has ever starred in. You have to have someone who can portray being 14 without actually being 14 like Chris Heath?Or David Gallagher?

  10. “like all good actors, did his research, and the end result was you believed that he really did live at that time”

    IMO, that’s not a good actor; that’s a Hollywood actor. Hollywood has done much to warp the drama/theatre industry to the point that people think the purpose of acting is to make something a real as possible. Something has been lost in all the emphasis on theatrics in the last 80 years or so.

    The difference between Legacy—and other films done by the Church on Joseph Smith—and what Dutcher is proposing is that orthodox films depend on music, emotion, and cheesy sound bites to be effective. They depend on people being emotionally connected to the movie. People will be touched by these movies bu then never think about them again beyond how they felt.

    Films like what Dutcher is proposing depend on good writing and good acting to be effective. They depend on people connecting with the movie on different levels. People will evaluate their own beliefs, morals, actions and character. People will evaluate the condition of the current society in which they live.

    Quite honestly, if all this film is going to be is nothing but trying to portray Joseph Smith as realistically as possible, I won’t watch it. I’d rather read Lucy Mack Smith’s biography of her son.

    On the other hand, if the film is going to portray Joseph Smith as a man who had many struggles (spiritually, with other members, with friends, with the government, with neighbours, etc) and how he overcame or didn’t overcome those struggles, then I’d be first in line.

  11. Kim, I agree with you on the problem of forcing an emotional connection with the audience. I also agree that the theatre isn’t about realism per se. But I disagree with the dichotomy that you create between Hollywood and Dutcher. IMO, one of Dutcher’s biggest draw backs is that he’s too much like Hollywood. His stories are terribly contrived in some ways and are calculated to drive home a point more in terms of ethics than religion–not that ethics is bad in and of itself. But (imo) religion runs too deep for ethics and therefore is never really addressed in a way that may culminate in real religious experience.

    So, my point is that we simply cannot tell our story faithfully without making possible a real religious experience, or at least something that leads to it. We don’t really have a unique story without the gifts that were restored through Joseph Smith. And, those gifts are meaningless unless they are operative in real time. Imagine a discussion between missionaries and investigators where there is no influence from heaven. Now granted, some may argue that this isn’t “art”, but I think that argument doesn’t address the fact that our story is peculiar precisely because of the influence of heaven, and again, that peculiarity cannot be comprehended without experiencing that influence. Hence, the need for testimony or some measure of belief associated with the story telling.


  12. I am not creating a dichotomy between Dutcher and Hollywood. The dichotomy is between the way Dutcher says he is going to make this film and the way Hollywood (and the Church generally) make films.

    I completely agree that Dutcher is Hollywoodish in the last two films he made. My wife and I were talking about this every thing last night. In fact, I was telling her how I thought he should have picked a member to be the killer rather than a convert. Using a convert seems like an easy way out.

    I don’t think Dutcher is trying to tell “our story”. The Church has done that many times. From what I’ve read, he’s trying to portray a humanistic view of Joseph Smith.

  13. “I don’t think Dutcher is trying to tell ‘our story’. The Church has done that many times.”

    Well, I think they’ve tried and, to date, I don’t think they’ve really succeeded.

    “From what I’ve read, he’s trying to portray a humanistic view of Joseph Smith.”

    Why? Why this seperation of the transendent from the temporal? A humanistic view of Joseph Smith simply won’t give you Joseph Smith.

  14. “Why this seperation of the transendent from the temporal? A humanistic view of Joseph Smith simply won’t give you Joseph Smith.”

    Read my previous comments.

  15. Reading Kim’s previous comments…

    Oh! I get It! There’s just one thing I don’t understand–

    Why this separation of the transcendent from the temporal? ;>)


  16. When I was acting in The Mountain of the Lord, I learned that the actor playing Wilford Woodruff was not a member of the Church. Yet it appears that after reading President Woodruff’s journals, he really came to a sincere belief that he had been a prophet. (That’s based on an alleged quotation in a second-hand story, so keep your salt shaker handy.) Either way, I thought he was wonderful, and made the movie much better than it might have been. John Phillip Law (also not a Mormon) did pretty well as Brigham Young, too; it’s unfortunate that the filmmakers decided to completely dub over his voice with another actor’s.

    I think the Church tries very, very hard to avoid having people in its films who might subsequently embarrass the Church in some way. Of course, it happens anyway, but the vetting process can be quite tough on some projects.

  17. “should have picked a member to be the killer rather than a convert.”

    Oh my gosh, I think blood is about to start squirting from my forehead. A convert is not a member? Wow. I’ll have to let all my friends at church who weren’t born into LDS families know they aren’t really members of the Church after all.

  18. ltbugaf

    Obviously he meant a lifelong member.

    And both of us coming from families of converts (my father, my maternal grandparents, Kim’s parents, actually Kim himself), no need to get all sarcastic about it.

  19. Just saw an old 1940 B&W movie on the satellite “late-show” called “Brigham Young”. Guess who played Joseph Smith???… and MAN did he do a good job! Go-figure!

  20. Actually, even the church does not always cast LDS actors in their films. Since good actors do study their roles and try to put themselves into the shoes of those people they are portraying, I think any good actor could play Joseph. After all, RD cast himself in God’s Army even though he looked far above the age of a missionary, but he pulled it off pretty well I thought, and Anne Hathaway was in The Other Side of Heaven as well as Brokeback Mountain. I didn’t see the latter, but she did well in The Other Side.

  21. Movies are movies; life is life. The thing that moves someone isn’t a movie, it’s that something inside all of us that says, “Who am I? Where do I come from? Family?”

    Have you ever said, “GOD help me?”

    Superheros may be imaginary, but Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God. Don’t take my word for it, ask God yourself. I did.

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