A lot has been said about Val Kilmer, whose reputation for clashes with crew and cast members — on such films as Batman Forever, The Island of Dr. Moreau and Red Planet — is among Hollywood's most colorful. And while the actor is quick to offer his own viewpoint on the oft-told tales, he also will admit that he's made some mistakes in his career.

"I'm old enough to be able to see patterns in my own behavior and [I can tell if I've] done something awful," Kilmer shares with TV Guide Online. "It's embarrassing, but I pretty regularly turned down work with really fine directors, of which there just aren't that many.

"I would never do that again," he asserts. "If Ang Lee (The Ice Storm, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) called me up and said, 'I want to make a comedy about, I don't know, a dinosaur,' I'd say, 'Okay!' I wouldn't even read the script, just because I think the films he does are so interesting. Whatever he wanted me to do, I'd like to do it."

Toward that goal of courting favor with visionary auteurs, all Kilmer can do is try to bury that aforementioned reputation. In his latest offering — the gritty crime thriller The Salton Sea (opening Friday) — he and director D.J. Caruso got along just fine.

"I've read stuff which has been unfair," says Kilmer, getting back to the legendary on-set tales that haunt him. "People that said things that affected my ability to get custody of my children [in his 1996 divorce from actress Joanne Whalley].

"But," he sums up in his defense, "a lie is a lie, and the truth is the truth."