Premiere Magazine, April 1988
by Khristine McKenna
Article Provided By Wanda
"When I first read the script for The Name of the Rose, I thought, 'there's just no chance,'" recalls eighteen-year-old actor Christian Slater. "It was such an intense role, with this wild love scene, and I was just sixteen. I was surprised when the director, Jean-Jacques Annaud, cast me. I played Sean Connery's apprentice in the film, and our relationship onscreen reflects real life; he was teaching me, and I was trying to take it all in."
Mighty humble words. As is obvious from talking with Slater on a set at the Culver Studios between takes for his current film, Gleaming the Cube, he is a prize pupil of the Jimmy Stewart Gee-Whiz School of Etiquette. You'd hardly guess from his unassuming manner that he has a featured role in Tucker, Francis Coppola's film about auto inventor Preston Tucker, is in virtually every frame of Gleaming the Cube, and recently starred with Frank Langella in a stage production of Sherlock
Graeme Clifford, director of Gleaming the Cube and Frances (1982), comments: "I'd seen most of what Christian had done, and he's very self-assured. You can only accumulate so much experience in eighteen years, but he has a good grasp on reality and is uncommonly versatile."
Certainly Gleaning the Cube is a stretch. Set in a Vietnamese community in Orange County, California, the film tells the coming-of-age story of a rebellious young skateboarder struggling to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of his brother. "I try to achieve something completely different with every film I do," Slater explains. "This is a modern movie, so I tried to look really cool - it remains to be seen if I pulled it off. I dyed my hair and let it grow long, pierced my ear, and practiced skateboarding for three months. It takes forever just to be able to stand on the thing. I skate well enough now to move around and make it look elegant for the movie, but three stunt guys did all my tricks for me."
Slater grew up in Manhattan, in a show-biz family. "My father's a stage actor and my mother is a casting director (for MGM/UA) so she knows everybody in the business and has helped me a lot," he says. "Though both my parents love the business, they warned me against it - but my mother accidentally launched my career. When I was seven years old
she was casting the soap opera One Life to Live and gave me a small part. Everybody applauded, and that was it - I was sold.
"Shortly after that I went on The Joe Franklin Show with my mother, and Michael Kidd happened to be watching. He was directing a stage production of The Music Man with Dick Van Dyke and wound up casting me in the part of Winthrop. I went on a nine-month tour. In the beginning, I'd be onstage and start waving to my mother in the audience - I was just a young, excited kid. Then as the show went on I began to understand what it was all about."
One assumes Slater learned a lot more of what it's all about on Coppola's Tucker, which is as big as it gets in his line of work. "Yeah, Tucker was a great experience," he enthuses. "Francis Coppola is a wonderful guy, and just being in the presence of people like Jeff Bridges and George Lucas was a thrill for me. I play Jeff Bridges's oldest son, and I sort of follow him around all the time - I guess I'm his novice."
Slater is now 'plowing through scripts' in the privacy of his apartment in the Hollywood Hills after confessing that "I don't really like to take time off," he explains that he spends his free time in a predictable fashion.
"Most of my friends are actors or musicians, and I hang out with them and listen to music (he likes U2, the Beatles, and
Bob Dylan), I watch TV, and go to the movies. I spend a lot of time with my girlfriend, who's a future star named Kim Walker. I met her at my high school prom."
But Slater doesn't let leisure time distract him from his goals, which he describes thus: "Jack Nicholson is my favorite actor, and I'd like to be like him when I get older. He's just so charming! I'd also like to continue to work steadily, have a house, and be respected as an actor."
He then adds one last thing that reminds us, lest we've forgotten, of his age. Oh yeah, I'd also like to have a Jeep Cherokee with a CD player in it."
[Christian Slater briefly appeared on Ryan's Hope in 1985 as D.J. LaSalle.]
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