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Secret Heartbreak

Val Kilmer Mourning Brother's Traumatic Death Amid Health Crisis

‘To live with that kind of family tragedy has to be hell.’

Eyebrows were raised recently when, out of the blue, actor Val Kilmer began tweeting messages gushing about his love for actress Cate Blachett, revealing that he even dreamed about her at night. When fans started calling him out for his “creepy and obsessive” tweets, Val jokingly answered, “I’m a pervert.”

Fans of the Batman Forever star have long known that Val is considered one of the more eccentric — and difficult — ­actors in Hollywood since his star-making role in the 1991 movie The Doors. In fact, it was noted in 2002 that he had strangely been checking into hotels under the first name Wesley. When asked why, Val said, “It’s a great name. A family name.”

However, as Star as learned, there’s a sad method to that madness. Val had ­actually been honoring the memory of his younger brother, Wesley Kilmer, who died in 1977 at the age of 16. “It’s no wonder that Val seems to occasionally be on the edge,” says an insider. “To live with that kind of family tragedy has to be hell. It’s a tremendous, terrible weight to have to carry through your life.”

Val, whose parents divorced when he was 9, grew up with his father and older brother, Mark, in Chatsworth, Calif. Wesley, two years Val’s junior, had been living with their mom in Arizona, but returned home in June 1977, a year after he was diagnosed with epilepsy. Wesley had started taking drugs to control his seizures and was watched most of the time by a family housekeeper. According to L.A. Coroner’s Office documents, exclusively obtained by Star, on the morning of Sept. 12, the housekeeper left him alone for 15 minutes to go to the store, and returned to find Wesley – who had been warned to stay away from the family’s backyard pool because of his illness – clad in swimming trunks, “submerged in a 3-foot-deep spa near the swimming pool,” face down and unconscious.

Paramedics frantically tried to revive him, but Wesley was pronounced dead at the scene. Noting a “small location” on his forehead, the coroner surmised that he “had a seizure [and] then fell down into the water and struck his forehead against some hard object or the corner of the spa.”

Val, 57, has spoken little of his brother, but the two did share an exceptionally tight bond. Years ago, Val described Wesley, an aspiring filmmaker as “a genius” who “could have been another Steven Spielberg or George Lucas.” Admitted to NYC’s Julliard drama school shortly after Wesley’s passing, Val has said it was “a place to make sense of my brother’s death,” adding that “the understanding he gave me about art and life was [a] gift.”

Unfortunately, Val seemed to lose sight of those valuable lessons, acquiring a nasty reputation as an highly volatile, combative artist on the set, Batman Forever director Joel Schumacher blasted his leading man as “rude and inappropriate… childish and impossible.” Another of Val’s directors, John Frankenheimer, once spewed, “I don’t like Val Kilmer.. and I don’t want to be associated with him ever again!”

“There’s no question that Val has a very dark side,” adds the insider, “but you have to consider the personal pain he’s been through. He’s obviously a man of incredible talents – and we all have our demons.

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