Former teen idol Christian Slater has stepped back from the limelight and moved away from Hollywood. But, he’s happier than ever, the newly-engaged actor tells Kate Whiting Working with Sylvester Stallone is full of surprises. One day he’s holding a gun in your face, and the next, presenting you with cake and singing Happy Birthday.
This was what happened to Christian Slater on the set of Stallone’s latest action showpiece, Bullet To The Head.
”He’s certainly an intimidating force to deal with,” says Slater, whose character is strapped to a chair and interrogated by Stallone’s hitman alter ego.
”But when the cameras were off, he couldn’t have been more of a gentleman. It was my birthday on set and he brought out a cake and sang Happy Birthday - it was a blast!”
Slater, who turned 43 during the summer shoot in New Orleans, had grown up watching Stallone’s movies and missed out on the opportunity to work with him on 1995’s Assassins due to a “scheduling conflict”.
”He’s always been one of my heroes. Some movie stars are so iconic that it’s hard to see them as a person, you know? He’s like an object almost, so it’s fascinating to be around that kind of energy.”
Back in the Nineties, the same could have been said for Slater. After roles in cult films Heathers, Pump Up The Volume and the Quentin Tarantino-penned True Romance, he was a bona fide teen heart-throb, chiselled good looks matched by bad boy appeal.
Up there with contemporaries Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp, the former child actor mixed up quirky romcoms like Untamed Heart, with big-budget action like John Woo’s Broken Arrow.
When his friend River Phoenix died in 1993, Slater stepped into his role as the interviewer in the following year’s Interview With The Vampire, which also starred Pitt and Tom Cruise, and donated his fee to Phoenix’s favourite charities.
”There’s no way to really prepare yourself for something that is unpredictable, and you never know how you’re going to deal with some of those obstacles you’re faced with,” he says of those years, the twang of his voice instantly recognisable down the phone from his adopted home of Miami.
”A lot of doors are opened for you, you get treated in a particular way which is fun for a while, but you definitely feel a little weird and it can mess with your perspective on what’s real. It can screw with you a little bit.”
A few years ago, Slater made a concerted effort to distance himself from Hollywood, after falling in love with the Florida Keys. He also met “a very special girl”, Brittany Lopez.
They got engaged at New Year, with a party for 200 family members.
”For the last few years I’ve just been living a quieter life, a happier life,” says Slater. “It’s nice to have some distance between me and Hollywood and showbusiness in general. I love it, I enjoy the work, I just don’t think I necessarily enjoy the things that come along with it. It tends to create a little bit of chaos.”
By chaos, he could be referring to the media furore following his brushes with the law.
In 1997, Slater was sentenced to three months in jail for assaulting his then girlfriend and a police officer while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
In 2003, his wife of three years Ryan Haddon was arrested after hurling a glass bottle at him, gashing his neck. The pair, who have two children, Jaden, 13, and Eliana, 11, divorced a few years later.
Then, in 2005, Slater was filmed being arrested in New York for alleged sexual assault, a charge he denied.
Whether by choice or as a result of his perceived misdemeanours, Slater slid out of leading man territory. He now takes on character parts, in the likes of Bullet To The Head and Lars von Trier’s latest film Nymphomaniac, which he recently returned from filming in Copenhagen.
He sounds humbled, grateful for these opportunities, and is extremely honest about his prospects.
”I was just in LA and did a few days on Undiscovered Gyrl. I think it’s going to be an interesting movie, so I was grateful to get the opportunity to be a part of that,” he says.
”But really right now, I have no idea... I’m kind of in a waiting period at the moment, I guess the year’s just started and everybody’s gearing back up, we’ll see what happens. That may be the last movie I ever do, I have no idea.”
Born in New York to a casting agent mum and an actor dad, Slater was destined to end up in showbiz. He made his Broadway debut aged 11, opposite Dick Van Dyke in The Music Man, and his first film was 1985’s The Legend Of Billie Jean.
The following year, he starred opposite Sean Connery in the film adaptation of Umberto Eco’s The Name Of The Rose.
It was 1988’s Heathers, though, followed by his appearance as Will Scarlett in the 1991 blockbuster Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, that propelled him into the A-list.
He says acting is just like being a kid, really.
”I used to run around in my back yard and pretend to be an action hero,” he recalls. “When I was flying back from Copenhagen there was a lady watching Expendables 2, and Stallone and Jean Claude Van Damme were shooting it out. It reminded me of what I used to do when I was seven. This [job] gives you the opportunity to just keep playing.”
He certainly enjoyed being on the set of a Lars von Trier film. The controversial Danish director, known for pushing the boundaries, is according to Slater a “patient and compassionate director”.
Slater plays the father of the nymphomaniac of the title, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, who recounts her life story to a man who discovers her beaten in an alley.
Slater says being a dad helped with the role.
”It’s certainly something I treasure and enjoy and it made playing a father that much easier.”
His own children won’t be seeing the movie anytime soon though, and he admits he worries about what they’re watching online.
”Everything’s so much more accessible than it was when I was growing up, so I do my best to look over their shoulder and make sure they’re not watching something horrendously inappropriate. But you can’t police them every second.”
As for their thoughts on their dad, Slater says: “They hopefully appreciate the kind of person I am more than what I do for a living.
”But my daughter’s certainly expressed an interest in entertaining. We had a band at our engagement party and she got up and sang a few tunes - she’s certainly not shy.
”My agent was like, ‘Oh my God, I gotta represent her’. I was like, ‘Back off buddy!”’ For now, wedding plans are on hold while Slater and his new fiancee settle down - and get more involved in the Miami community.
They recently rescued a dog from a shelter, who they’ve named Fish (“He’s sort of my best friend at this point”) and are both on the board of an organisation called Voices For Children, that helps children stuck in the court system.
He’d love to have children with Lopez.
”She’d be a great mother, we definitely talk about it. We’re having a lot of fun together.”