Val Kilmer Told Us He Saw an Alien
I talked with Val Kilmer, Harmony Korine, and Eddy Moretti about their short contribution to VICE's new film "The Fourth Dimension" and what, if anything, it all means.
We’ve been going on about our new film The Fourth Dimension all week, and you damn well know it’s not going to stop anytime soon. If you missed one of the three NY screenings this week, you blew it. Good news is the film will see a wider release soon at a theater near you.
The first of three short films that constitute The Fourth Dimension is Harmony Korine’s Lotus Community Workshop, which features Val Kilmer as a washed-up and completely unhinged motivational speaker named Val Kilmer who rants about “awesome secrets,” spaceships, and all sorts of other nonsense to a skating rink full of downtrodden souls. Earlier this week I sat down with Val, Harmony, and producer and VICE executive creative director Eddy Moretti to talk about their weird but glorious creation and hash out what, if anything, all of it means.
VICE: So apparently the impetus to make this film began with a “creative brief.” That’s pretty typical for the ad world, but I’ve never heard of it being used for a movie.
Eddy Moretti: The idea of the project was to do a couple of short films but to somehow tie them together. We went through a number of different ways of connecting them and then we just thought, “Let’s just send a set of instructions to people and let them pull elements from the instructions and put them together.”
Was the idea for Lotus Community Workshop kicking around for a while or was it created especially for The Fourth Dimension?
Harmony Korine: Well, the strange length of the movie makes it too long for a short, but not long enough for a feature. And I didn’t really know, so I just started thinking, I should make something that just works on its own logic and its own time. I started thinking about more of a monologue, and I started imagining that if I could get anybody to say these lines, who would it be? And it was Val.
Lots of reviewers have been saying Val’s monologue is improvisational. Is that true? It sounded like at least some of it came out of Harmony’s brain.
Val: It’s always nice to hear, because people can’t tell. But it’s a compliment to your writing and the acting, but I would say that it’s almost 100 percent scripted.
Eddy: I was amazed, actually, by how close it was to the script.
Harmony: My only role in writing is to react, to make it real, to make it entertaining.
Have any of you guys ever paid to see a motivational speaker?
Harmony: I took a “Stop Smoking” course at work.
Eddy: You did? It worked?
Harmony: It worked!
Where was it shot?
Harmony: We shot it in Nashville, at the Brentwood Skate Rink. I grew up there. Like, breakdancing there when I was a kid.
Val: I was concerned about the low-ceilings, because when you think “motivational speaker,” you want your audience to think all these obvious thoughts. Of course, it didn’t do anything remotely like a usual motivational speaker. One of the ideas, which there’s only one brief cut at the end, was that we would see him being filmed, and that would be part of the story. But the thing that made it so suddenly poetic and fantastic, which must have been in [Harmony’s] mind—I go down on my knees to tell the story of the Mothership [a non sequitur alien spaceship randomly mentioned by Val in the film] because otherwise there’s just no size to this story, and the ground is reflected. So these ridiculous lights become lights of the ship on the ground. It looks like there’s a Mothership above us, as if it was a big master plan.
Does that tie into the whole space-time, fourth dimension stuff?
Harmony: Yeah, I guess so.
Eddy: I never even asked you if you’ve ever really saw a spaceship.
Harmony: I’ve never seen one.
Val: I have.
Where’d you see one?
Val: New Mexico. The epicenter.
Harmony: That’s true. That’s where they all are.
Val: I think the birthplace of the bomb had something to do with it. This big flash went out into the cosmos…
Eddy: And it attracted some attention.
Val: And they said, “Let’s go check that spot out.”
Harmony: That makes sense.
What’s up with the name Lotus Community Workshop?
Harmony: I was just trying to imagine what it would be called.
That seems about right. It seems like it’s something real, like in Williamsburg or something.
Harmony: Williamsburg? Oh Jesus.
Or in San Francisco.
Harmony: San Francisco.
It’s not national, to me.
Val: And you guys had a friend who was like, our moderator, kind of?
Harmony: Oh yeah! Troy Duff.
Harmony: The black guy with the dreads [who introduces Val to the crowd in the film].
He’s just a guy you’ve known?
Harmony: He like, spray paints underwear and stuff and sells it on eBay. It’s called “Duff’s Stuff.”
Val: Is he not the guy in the iPod ad?
Harmony: Yeah, he’s also the dude in the iPod ad.
Val: The very first guy that came out.
Harmony: The silhouette that starts, you know, with his hair…
Val: So did you do that ad or he just got that gig?
Harmony: No. Yeah, he just got that.
Were a lot of the other audience members just dudes from around town?
Harmony: Yeah. Hard-luck cases.
Eddy: Wasn’t there some guy at a bus shelter, when we were driving around and you were like, “This is the guy that was in Gummo.”
Harmony: Oh you’re talking about the black dwarf. Little Bryan.
Eddy: And you wanted to invite him to the set.
Eddy: Yeah. He never made it.
Have you seen the completed film?
Harmony: I just saw it on Friday, yeah.
And what did you think about how the other two shorts connected with yours?
I liked that it wasn’t too literal in terms of connection, but it’s definitely evocative.
Eddy: It’s just, like, to create a mood—being playful, trying to distract people from making simple connections.
Another unique thing about the movie is that Grolsch helped fund it. Is that something that you find brands are more willing to do right now?
Eddy: Some of them are.
It’s kind of risky though.
Eddy: It’s very risky. And these two guys, Thomas and Ronald, ended up being really cool guys. We spent a lot of time talking about what they should do, and at first it wasn’t even apparent what they wanted to do, and then I suggested that we make a film together and they said, “That could be fun.”
And it’s not like people are drinking Grolsch stuff.
Eddy: It’s not about that. They go around and sponsor film festivals and they came to us and said, “What else can we do? Is that all we get to do, just put our logo on a film festival brochure?” And I said, “No, you can actually be a part of the film community and support some interesting film projects.” So, that’s what they wanted. They wanted to be recognized for supporting. Look, all these fucking brands have a lot of money. And what do they generally do with their money? They make 30 second spots. And that’s it. There’s a whole other world of things they could be doing with that money, it gets kind of pissed away in fees.
Val: Well, it’s an interesting statistic of how ineffective conventional advertising is. It almost all the time fails. But everybody goes around hoping that this one time it will work.
Eddy: That’s what maybe makes Mad Men so popular right now, because that’s where people are creatively. They’re still in a 50s, 60s kind of place. It’s fucking retarded. Advertising has reached a point of ultimate, maximum retardation—so something else has to happen. And these guys were cool enough to say “fuck it.”
What are you working on next?
Harmony: Just editing a movie called Spring Breakers.
Oh, with the ATL twins and Selena Gomez?
Val: The twins? You stuck them in there!
How about you, Val?
Val: I’m dong my one-man show. I’m also getting a doctorate next week.
Eddy: Are you?
Val: Yeah… [laughs] “Are you?!”
Eddy: Well they do those, they have honorary doctorates.
Val: Yeah. And now I have one.
Eddy: I could see you at the College of New Mexico.
To find out more about The Fourth Dimension go to grolschfilmworks.com.