Clean Slater

Still beloved by teens, but yet to carry a major hit, the reformed Christian Slater makes his bid for breathing room with Tony Scott’s True Romance.

Slater’s sexiness on-screen is a given. Now that he’s 23, though, one has to be increasingly suspicious about where he can take his Nicholsonisms and the hipster’s cockiness. It’s now-or-never time for vaulting the chasm between teen idoldom and grown-up stardom.

STEPHEN REBELLO: I’m thinking about how everybody used to like movie rebels who tangled with the law. What’s a rebel to do in the safe and sober era?
CHRISTIAN SLATER: Lie. [Laughing] No, I don’t know, really. All I can do is just try and be myself. It’s true that the guys we used to idealize seemed so romantic when they were doing stuff like getting arrested. It was really romantic, unless you were that guy.

How about finishing this sentence: “The toughest thing about monogamy is…”
[Laughing] Just doing it. I mean, it’s really tough. I’m doing my best with it, dealing with it, and it is really the only way to go today, truly. That whole sex thing, how it was in the ’60s with free love and all, those days are gone, come to a screeching halt. It might have been nice to be around then. But I’m in this relationship because I really am enjoying it and working towards having something good in my life.

Is it possible to be tight with guys with whom you’re competing for roles?
There’s so many guys—Brad Pitt, Brendan Fraser, River Phoenix, he’s wonderful—but there’s also so much material out there. I’d love to work with all these guys. In fact Brad is in True Romance, only in two scenes, but he’s great. Maybe a little bit of the competition plays into it because we are in the same category, the same realm, the same business. I guess part of me wishes I could just put all that stuff behind me.

Granted, but would you have pursued A Few Good Men?
Yeah. I’m not friends with Tom Cruise. But I would never go into a meeting and f** a friend out of a job or try to convince a director that I’m better than he is or more right than he is. That’s not in me. I wouldn’t want the director going, “I want you to come in because I really want you but we haven’t gotten rid of the other person yet.” That’s just too ugly and it’s too “Hollywood.” I was just faced with that kind of decision. I got away, and that was the right decision because I can sleep at night.

Then how about completing the sentence, “I wish someone had told me before I made Kuffs that…”?
[Laughing] To be quite honest, a lot of people did tell me that this was not a good movie, not the right thing for me to do. My agent did exactly like I told him I wanted: let’s go from Robin Hood to Mobsters to Kuffs, one right after the other.

What did you see in it?
I really loved the idea of talking to the camera. I thought, “This is an interesting character we can take a trip with and watch grow up.” Which is something that I’ve had to do. I knew that the script was incredibly weak. I wanted to try and make it into something else. But there were so many other factors involved that were so beyond my control, that I really just had to… I mean, even the poster where I was there with the gun… you know, these different little things they do to try and get a hook to sell it. I should’ve just been hooked off the stage.

Do you see this as another step toward crossing you over from teen fave to adulthood?
It’s a tricky question. I am concerned that the work that I am doing is appreciated by people who’ve followed me, because I’m not completely doing this work just for me. I wanted to be an actor because I want to perform for people. So, if the teen thing all went away, it might be a little bit depressing. But I think that the fans I’ve had through the years are growing up. Fortunately, I think I am too. Hopefully, we can all grow up together and just have one big party in the end where I can meet everybody.

I’m wondering about some of the roles you’ve passed on or that passed on you.
I try not to even think about it. Edward Scissorhands wasn’t a movie that I could have gotten, or was even considered for, but you see that type of movie and it’s like, “Wow, that would’ve been an interesting role to do.” Or young Indiana Jones would have been a kick in the pants, the greatest. I remember I went in for Say Anything… but I had a different interpretation than the director. I wasn’t in a simple frame of mind then. Anyway, John Cusack nailed it perfectly.

I heard you were up for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
[Laughing] “Why didn’t you do this movie, why didn’t you do that movie?” I should have, man. I’m sorry. I definitely thought Dracula was an interesting idea, but if I wasn’t going to be considered for the role of Dracula, I wasn’t interested in playing any other role. If you’re not going to play Dracula in Dracula, why bother? I’d already been Robin Hood’s brother.

Were you surprised that Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was such a hit, considering the chaos during the shooting?
A little surprised, because there were moments where I felt like the left hand didn’t know what the right was doing. I had a really good time and liked all the people I worked with, but I also saw what a nightmare it was for some people.

One hears your part got chopped because you looked young and hot and stole some of your scenes. If the Kevins—Reynolds and Costner—phoned you to do another movie, would you?
Absolutely. Kevin Reynolds is a great guy—truly, genuinely nice guy. I don’t sense any hidden agenda from Kevin Costner. I think during Robin Hood, he was probably going through the same sort of lessons that I was going through. He had just finished Dances With Wolves, was in the middle of editing that, signed up to do this movie, and was legitimately exhausted. So, his patience was a little less than it might’ve been.

But didn’t he find the patience and time to help re-edit Robin Hood and take some of you out of it?
That movie was shot in tiny little snippets. We’d start one scene on Monday, shoot something else in-between, and finish that scene on Friday. There are little snippets of things that it would have been cool to have in the movie because they were a little more heroic, a little more interesting and daring. And made Will Scarlet a little stronger. It’s tough to really say.

Because I’ve always been very shy in my own life, I’ve looked for characters that were not like that at all but were more boisterous, outrageous, ballsy.

You did a cameo for director Marc Rocco in Where the Day Takes You and I hear you’re going to do his next movie.
I don’t know that it’s definitely a guaranteed thing, so it’s difficult to talk about, but it’s a movie called Murder in the First that I want to do more than anything. It’s almost a To Kill a Mockingbird or Judgment at Nuremberg type movie that takes place in 1938 about a young lawyer and a convict. Other than that, I have an office at my house and an assistant who works for me, reading all the time. He’s trying to get me to read more, get more active in that. I’m definitely trying to get more active in my career and taking a more active role in the decisions.

What’s the biggest career bummer you could perpetrate on yourself at this point?
To once again put myself in a situation where I might be financially overextended so I have to work. That would really bum me out because I don’t want to sell myself short and just do a film for the sake of doing a film. I’m in this business because it’s fun and it’s enjoyable. I just want to do things that I can be proud of, you know?

This article has been edited for The complete story appeared in Movieline Jul.1993.

July 1, 1993 | draft, Interview | this post contains affiliate links