Val Kilmer | Nia Vardalos | Joan Collins | Vancouver

Val Kilmer Ain't So Bad After All

You've probably read the stories, ad nauseam, about how awful actor Val Kilmer is to work with.

Kilmer, who once had a sky-rocketing career, and rave reviews for playing Jim Morrison in The Doors, seemed to self-destruct when he made a series of terrible movies, including Batman Forever and The Island of Dr. Moreau.

On the former production, director Joel Schumacher pretty much pulled out his long hair trying to deal with Kilmer. On the latter, Marlon Brando used him as an excuse to eat himself into oblivion.

The result was more bad movies, since suddenly everyone felt free to discuss Kilmer's bad behavior. Let's not forget the forgettable At First Sight or The Ghost and the Darkness. (Michael Douglas would prefer not to recall the latter either, I'm sure.)

But now director Renny Harlin, who just finished working with Val on Mindhunters for Dimension Films, says Kilmer is a changed man. That's because Harlin changed him.

"We had no problems once we understood each other," Harlin told me the other night. "There are some actors who want to test you, and keep suggesting ways of doing things on the set. Val is like that. I just explained to him we weren't going to be doing that, and he agreed."

Not right away, mind you.

"He tried a couple of things right at the beginning, but he could see he wasn't getting anywhere," Harlin said. "Then we had a fine time."

It doesn't hurt that the strapping six-foot-four Harlin is quite bigger and more robust than Kilmer.

Harlin said he's come across a few other actors in his time who've tried to take over a picture — or at least assert their position to the point of distraction.

"Stallone," he said, on Cliffhanger, for example. "But we worked that out."

Indeed, they did, since they re-teamed years later on Driven.

Kilmer, by the way, co-stars with our old pal Christian Slater in Mindhunters, which should be released next spring. As for Harlin, he told me that after making so many action films, he's ready for a character piece.

"I'm closing to making a deal, but I can't talk about it yet. It will surprise you," said the Finnish director.

In the meantime, he's developing something called Land of Legend, about a 9th century Finnish prince who is sold into slavery.

Nia: Her Big Fat Greek Payday

Nia Vardalos made her movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, for $5 million — and since then, it's grossed $170 million. So what did she wear to the Creative Coalition dinner on Tuesday night? Diamonds? Armani? Nope.

"This is a vintage jacket I bought for $18," she said, pulling at the velvet sleeve.

Vardalos is the toast of the town right now, and rightly so. She's about to do a tour of Europe, where, she reports, "Greek Wedding is No. 1 everywhere."

But she doesn't like to talk about all the loot Wedding has made for her.

"I have no idea, really," she said. "I'm not supposed to talk about it either."

Let's face it, though: Vardalos is likely a millionaire several times over. She's also gone into business with Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, who produced Wedding. They're doing her next movie. And then, of course, there's the TV version of Wedding.

"Everyone from the movie is coming back in," she said. "I used to say to NBC, 'Hey this movie is going to be big,' but they wouldn't listen and they didn't want anyone from the cast. As soon it was a hit, though, they called and said, 'Do you think you can get the cast?'"

John Corbett will be the lone drop-out, as he has a series set for the FX cable network. So who will play the part of Nia's non-Greek suitor?

"We're looking now," Vardalos said. "We've talked to a lot of good people, but no one's been right."

Our suggestion: Matthew Modine.

Joan Collins Needs More Light — Right Away

If we didn't tell you, you wouldn't know, but Joan Collins is there every day or so on CBS's soap Guiding Light. She signed a six-month contract and she's living up to her end of the deal. She shows up, looks great, is no prima donna and delivers her lines with gusto.

So why all the secrecy? CBS and Procter & Gamble apparently don't think they need to do promos to boost awareness of Collins. It makes you wonder why they bothered to lure her to the show in the first place.

Guiding Light is the longest-running soap on TV, but CBS acts as if they're embarrassed to have it.

When I tuned in the other day to catch Collins's performance, she was sashaying around Alexis Carrington-style, giving a mostly dowdy and drab environment a much-needed shot of glamour.

But the show hasn't cast a romantic lead for her, and that's what Collins needs now. She also needs to be in quicker paced stories. Going at the snail's pace that is the soap standard, she won't get very far during her stint unless the writers hurry up and let her chew some of that drab scenery.

Vancouver: A New Hollywood?

It had to happen eventually. So many movies and TV shows shoot in Vancouver, British Columbia, that you knew a glitzy hotel would open up sooner or later.

And so it has: Opus, owned by John DeEvans, premiered two weeks ago and the cast of the X-Men sequel have already become fixtures in the bar and dining room. Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills of R.E.M. have also holed up there.

Suddenly, the word is out that Vancouver is the new Hollywood. Is it? Well, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell just bought a house there so their son can play ice hockey. But it won't be Hollywood until there's a series of back-stabbings — and I do mean figuratively.