'Wonderland' Looks at mature content Star's Role in Murders

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Despite being billed as a movie about former mature content star John Holmes who, according to Hollywood folklore, had s_x with 2,000 women in 14,000 films, audiences see very little s_x in the new movie "Wonderland."

Instead, the movie that debuts in art house theaters in major U.S. cities on Friday is a cautionary tale about alcohol and drug abuse that put Holmes at the center of the brutal 1981 killings of four people known as the Wonderland Avenue murders after the Los Angeles street where they occurred.

In fact, excluding some early remarks about his career in the movie, a few shots of other characters glancing at Holmes' crotch and the 13.5-inch tape measures the film's backers have handed out at festivals where "Wonderland" has played, audiences might not even know Holmes was a XXX-rated film legend.

"It's a very harsh, stylized morality tale about the consequence of excess," said Val Kilmer, who portrays Holmes.

The role would seem like a natural for Kilmer, who has stirred empathy in audiences before for dark and conflicted characters like Jim Morrison in "The Doors."

But the 43-year-old actor said that at first he didn't want to play Holmes. "I'm not interested in mature content, and the character in the story, I just didn't understand," he said. "I didn't understand the value of telling about such a gruesome event."

He was won over, he said, by the filmmakers' passion to detail the people behind the Wonderland killings, the fact that Holmes' wife consulted and the strong cast that includes Lisa Kudrow, Dylan McDermott, Tim Blake Nelson and Kate Bosworth.

Kilmer, an actor who goes to great lengths to get under the skin of characters, said he learned that Holmes was, first of all, a hustler and not someone to be admired. But when sober Holmes had a certain sensitivity that conflicted with his career as a mature content star.

DRUGS AND MURDER

But by 1981, Holmes was not sober. He was hyped on cocaine, downed on Quaaludes and washing it all through his system with alcohol. Kilmer's goal was to bring some of the sensitivity of the pre-mature content Holmes into the character of the drugged-out Holmes, and that is where "Wonderland" starts.

Holmes would do anything for drugs, including hanging out with a group of dope-dealing thieves who lived on Wonderland Avenue in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles that has long been the home to rock stars and movie makers.

The mature content star also allegedly bought his drugs from former Hollywood nightclub owner Eddie Nash, a.k.a. Adel Nasrallah.

As the movie tells it, Holmes told his drug buddies where Nash kept his drugs and money, and they broke into Nash's house and robbed him.

Nash allegedly learned of Holmes' involvement, beat the mature content star until he told him who the robbers were, then unleashed his own henchmen on Holmes' friends. Four people, two of Holmes' drug-dealing friends and two of their girlfriends, were bludgeoned to death.

"Wonderland" tells the story primarily from two points-of-view: David Lind -- one of those who robbed Nash but escaped with his life -- and Holmes.

But the story really attempts to look at what drove a man -- who by all accounts was decent before getting involved in mature content -- to come to be at the center of murder. In "Wonderland," the answer is drug abuse.

"If you do drugs in this story, you suffer," Kilmer said.

Holmes and Nash were both tried for the murders and were acquitted. It wasn't until 2001 that Nash admitted, as part of a plea bargain on racketeering charges, to having a role in the Wonderland murders and was sentenced to 37 months in jail.

Holmes died of AIDS-related illnesses in 1988.
 
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