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Art imitates life for Val Kilmer, daughter Mercedes, in 'Paydirt'

"It was such a profound learning experience to work with -- not only my dad -- but any disabled actor," Mercedes Kilmer told UPI. "It really revealed how narrow my training had been."

Val Kilmer (L) and Mercedes Kilmer star in Paydirt. Photo courtesy of Uncork'd Entertainment
Val Kilmer (L) and Mercedes Kilmer star in "Paydirt." Photo courtesy of Uncork'd Entertainment

NEW YORK, July 31 (UPI) -- Mercedes Kilmer said she was happy to make her feature film debut in Paydirt opposite a talented leading man -- her father, Top Gun and The Doors icon Val Kilmer.

"It gave me a challenge because it was like getting in touch with an experience that is so close to my own that it is nearly indistinguishable. It was really fun," she told UPI in a phone interview Friday.

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The crime thriller casts Val Kilmer as retired Sheriff Tucker, who is tracking a parolee as he reunites with his old crew to reclaim millions of dollars stolen five years earlier during a Drug Enforcement Agency bust gone awry.

The actress plays the lawman's daughter, Jamie, a young assistant district attorney and the peacekeeper between Tucker and her mother.

"It is really similar to life, although neither my father nor I would be in law enforcement, if we weren't actors," Kilmer laughed.

"They are in a similar business and this idea of him passing on some of his experience to the next generation, and the fact that that does have a real-life reflection does give the material a lot of depth."

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A battle with throat cancer several years ago damaged Val's voice, leaving it difficult for him to speak.

A voice-over actor was used to dub his lines in Paydirt.

"It was such a profound learning experience to work with -- not only my dad -- but any disabled actor," Kilmer said. "It really revealed how narrow my training had been."

She described her dad's performance "historic."

"I can't really think of a lot of films that have a lead with such a pronounced disability, especially one that is so central to acting as a disability of speech," Kilmer said.

"The fact that he is doing this, I think, will open a lot of doors for other actors of different abilities and I couldn't be more proud to have been involved in that."

Kilmer said she was "not at liberty to discuss" whether she or anyone from her family will be in the new Willow series on which filmmaker Ron Howard is working for Disney+

"That's very exciting. I love Willow. That is why I exist," she said, referring to how her now-divorced parents Val Kilmer and Joanne Whalley met and fell in love in the original 1988 film.

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While most film and TV productions have been shut down in North America due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kilmer has been making good use of her time -- learning new technologies for performance, auditioning for roles and doing voice work remotely.

"I did at least over 40 plays on Zoom," the actress said.

"We were doing three a week and then I actually had to slow down because I had no time to do anything else," she added. "What I love about being an actor is that it gives you tools to make any challenge into a source of potential inspiration."

Co-starring Luke Goss, Mirtha Michelle, Mara Fimbres and Mike Hatton, Paydirt will be released in theaters and on digital and video-on-demand platforms Aug. 7. It was written and directed by Christian Sesma.

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