Christian Slater: Clean Slater
Q: Speaking of suspicion, Is it possible to be tight with guys with whom you're competing for roles?
A: 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. I learned a little lesson about four years ago. I was up for this movie and it was looking really good, you know? Well, there was this other up-and-coming actor up for it, too. This is just egotistical on my part, but I sort of said to myself, "If he gets it, I will get out of the business forever." It just didn't make any sense to me that this guy should get the role over me. Of course, he did get it and I felt like an incredible loser. I figured maybe I'd take back that threat about retiring.
Q: What other actors' fingerprints are likely to be on scripts that you see?
A: Pretty much the guys I just mentioned. I will do whatever it takes to get a role if a director's got a project I think I am right for, or at least would like to be considered for. I feel like I deserve at least a meeting. But if the director's dead set on his ideas of who he wants, I certainly don't want to end up playing the game of going into a meeting and trying to convince him that the actor he wants isn't right and that it should be me. With A Few Good Men, Rob Reiner had it in his mind that Tom Cruise was it, which was completely appropriate. But it would really suck to be put in the position where a director has this other guy in mind for the role and then he sees you, and he now says, "Okay I want you," when I'm friends with the other guy.
Q: How would you handle that?
A: I wouldn't be able to do that film. I know me. My conscience is too... I can't get away with it.
Q: If Rob Reiner had called you and you knew that he wanted Tom Cruise for A Few Good Men, but he saw you and he went, "Well, now, wait a minute..."
A: Tom Cruise is one of a kind.
Q: Granted, but would you have pursued A Few Good Men?
A: Yeah. I'm not friends with Tom Cruise. But I would never go into a meeting and fuck 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.
Q: What's the big misconception directors have about you?
A: They don't know what to make of me. I'm different in different situations. I just went in to meet with a director to play a sophisticated-type person. I wore the suit, the tie, my hair was just right. He didn't have to use much of his imagination. He spent most of his time on a cellular phone. It's like, "Wait a minute, you agreed to take this time with me. Let's take it."
Q: Someone said that you're not big on testing or reading for roles.
A: Depends. If Tom Cruise had passed on A Few Good Men, an actor would have had to be crazy to tell Rob Reiner, "Forget reading for you, you should just judge from my work." For other projects, like if the guy is a complete schmuck who's never done anything before and says, "I want you to come in and read," I might go, "Well, fuck you, I want you to come in and show me how you direct." Then, of course, it could turn out to be a brilliant project and I'd feel like a schmuck. But, hey, you take that chance, roll the dice.
Q: So how does it sit with you that, in the minds of most studio heads, there's Tom Cruise and then there's the rest of you?
A: I guess you have to be bankable, but I really don't feel like that has ever been a major factor for me. The films I have received the most notoriety from are little movies that might not do very well at the box office, but, over time, they collect a certain amount of respectability. Certain things Tom Cruise has passed on I think are brilliant. I mean, Untamed Heart is Tom Sierchio's first script, and there is really good material out there.
Q: And lots of not so good material, like Kuffs and Mobsters. Who advises you, anyway?
A: My mother for one. My agent. But I can't point the finger and blame anybody else. Those movies were completely my choice.
Q: Then how about completing the sentence, "I wish someone had told me before I made Kuffs that..."?
A: [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.
Q: What did you see in it?
A: 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.
Q: And Mobsters?
A: When I saw it, I was like, "Well, it's sure not The Godfather, is it?" I mean, it was just a gangster movie, not any of these things that we were led to believe it was going to be. I don't think it's so embarrassing I have to bury my head like an ostrich, you know? One of the things that I come away with from Untamed Heart is that I can have it in my library and look back in maybe 20 years, you know, and go, "Jeez, I'm really proud I did that movie." I guarantee you Kuffs and Mobsters will not be in my library.
Q: How do you deal with career disappointments?
A: In my own way: I get the video and smash it.
Q: Does True Romance shape up as a keeper or a smasher?
A: It's an incredible cast, a great director, Tony Scott, and one of the best scripts I've read because it's insane. Right up that alley that I love.
Q: Which alley is that?
A: To describe it is really tough. My character, Clarence Worley, is this guy whose big obsessions are Sonny Chiba movies and Elvis Presley. He meets and falls madly in love with this girl who tells him about her past and turns out to be a prostitute. He's a weird guy who seeks advice from imaginary people, namely from Elvis Presley. And Val Kilmer plays Elvis and he's great. It's just an insane movie that builds from an out-there premise and gets completely outrageous.
Q: Outrageous? Or outrageous and good?
A: I haven't seen the movie.
Q: Do you see this as another step toward crossing you over from teen fave to adulthood?
A: 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.