Val Kilmer: Sinner or ‘Saint’?

Compiled by Times Staff Writers and Contributors

The buzz in Hollywood this week is that “The Saint,” starring Val Kilmer and Elisabeth Shue, is provoking decidedly mixed reviews but will nonetheless provide the strongest test yet of whether Kilmer is a bankable star. Paramount Pictures, which will release the action-adventure film in about 2,500 theaters Friday, could have a “franchise” film that spawns various sequels if “The Saint” can reach the $100-million level in ticket sales. But some question whether the moody Kilmer, who plays the title role as world-class thief Simon Templar, has the star power of an Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford or even Brad Pitt to pull in audiences. Kilmer, who landed the coveted role as the Caped Crusader in Warner Bros.’ “Batman Forever,” shocked Hollywood by turning down the next installment. Joel Schumacher, who directed Kilmer in “Batman Forever,” told Premiere magazine this month that Kilmer was “the most psychologically troubled human being I’ve ever worked with.” But Mace Neufeld, one of the producers of “The Saint,” said, “We had no problems with Kilmer, and he had a lot on his shoulders.” Kilmer has been aggressively promoting the movie but, at the recent ShoWest convention in Las Vegas, some were surprised when Kilmer, instead of being enthusiastic about the movie, seemed to freeze up while co-star Shue giggled. “Here are exhibitors from around the country and Paramount executives are there, and [Kilmer and Shue] didn’t perform mightily at the microphone,” one industry insider said. Asked about the incident, Neufeld replied: “I don’t think [Kilmer] expected to do anything except say, ‘Hello.’ He was with Elisabeth, who was the only woman on the podium. She didn’t think she had to speak.”

Beauty: It’s in the Purse of the Beholder

Southern California’s art aficionados are being offered their first up-close-and-personal peek at New York’s spring art auctions in a preview exhibition this week at Sotheby’s Beverly Hills galleries. Estimated prices of the artworks are only for the wealthy, but looking is absolutely free, and the public is invited. Star attractions in the big-bucks Impressionist and Modern art category include Amedeo Modigliani’s “Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne” (valued at $8 million to $10 million), depicting the artist’s lover, who married him and later committed suicide, two days after he died in 1920; a rare landscape by Gustav Klimt ($5 million to $7 million); and a pastel drawing of ballet dancers by Edgar Degas ($5 million to $7 million). Among works from the estate of Thousand Oaks developer William C. Janss are Georgia O’Keeffe’s 1925 painting “White Birch Tree” ($500,000 to $700,000) and Wayne Thiebaud’s 1980-’81 vertiginous cityscape, “San Francisco Freeway” ($400,000 to $500,000). Henry Moore’s monumental carved marble sculpture, “Reclining Figure--Bone Skirt,” ($2 million to $3 million) is an example of 44 works in the late artist’s personal collection that will go on the block in May. The show, at 9665 Wilshire Blvd., is open Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

So Viva, High-Definition Digital Technology

If he were still around, the King himself might be proud to see an estimated 100,000 people descend on Las Vegas beginning this coming weekend for the annual National Assn. of Broadcasters convention, a showcase for state-of-the-art technology while providing broadcasters an opportunity to line the pockets of Vegas casinos. The convention’s scope has ballooned recently, with attendance doubling over the last five years. Part of that is because of an explosion of television worldwide, with organizers projecting that one-fifth of the attendees will come from abroad. Another stream of new faces has come from other fields, like phone companies and computers, which seem destined to eventually converge in shaping what comes out of television sets. Various other issues will be explored, including Rupert Murdoch’s plan to launch a satellite service capable of beaming up to 500 channels into homes and the new TV ratings system. And no show-business gathering would be complete, of course, without an awards ceremony, so broadcasters will honor Barbara Walters and induct the “Today” show into its broadcasting Hall of Fame. Elvis would have loved it.