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Christian Slater's Road From '80s Movie Heartthrob To Television Legend

Christian Slater has seemingly been around forever. He first made a name for himself in a very big way in the 1980s and 1990s, playing a wide variety of cool, tough, and sketchy characters in favorites of the era like "Heathers," "Pump Up the Volume," "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," "True Romance," and "Kuffs." And after some years in the relative wilderness of smaller roles and a string of short-lived TV series, Slater experienced one of the biggest comebacks in recent Hollywood history in 2015, landing a role on USA's acclaimed hacking thriller "Mr. Robot." 

So yeah, Slater has been popping up on the big and small screen alike for decades, and millions of fans are familiar with his instantly recognizable voice and on-screen presence. However, just because Slater seems to be everywhere, that doesn't mean the public knows everything about his impressive achievements and wild lifestyle. As it turns out, Christian Slater is a man of many secrets, and today, we're diving deep into his biography and exploring his adventures in the entertainment industry. From family drama to workplace crushes, here's the untold truth of Christian Slater.

The whole Jack Nicholson thing is on purpose

He's a famous actor with a very distinctive style, delivering lines in a slow, deliberate, almost sarcastic sounding drawl, complete with a cocksure, mischievous smile and a hint of danger behind the eyes. We're speaking, of course, of three-time Academy Award-winning actor Jack Nicholson. Oh, and Christian Slater, it would seem. Slater is well aware of the criticisms and comparisons between himself and the legendary star of "Batman" and "Terms of Endearment." And he doesn't really mind them, because doing a career-long Jack Nicholson impression was originally Slater's idea. 

Slater deliberately paid homage to Nicholson with his performance as dark teen J.D. in "Heathers." As far as he's concerned, Nicholson is "the best actor around," Slater told Rolling Stone. "I don't care. I did it. F*** it. I had fun doing it." He added that were he to ever come face-to-face with Nicholson, "I don't know what the hell I would do. I would probably die." Slater later explained to Yahoo! Movies that when he filmed "Heathers," he'd just watched "Easy Rider," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," and "The Witches of Eastwick," and so "there was a great deal of Jack Nicholson in my brain," which he says gave way to "a very conscious channeling."

He could've been in some iconic '90s movies

Christian Slater has appeared in all kinds of movies and TV shows, and his acting resumé definitely doesn't lack cult classics. After all, he's starred in a number of enduring, off-kilter films, such as "Heathers," "True Romance," "Pump Up the Volume," and "Interview with the Vampire." There's only so much time in an actor's schedule, however, and they can't land every role for which they're considered, but it's interesting to imagine a world where Slater also starred in two other pillars of '90s cinema.

In 1994, Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" was bookended with a young couple — known by their pet names for each other, Pumpkin and Honey Bunny — robbing a diner at gunpoint. According to Jerome Charyn's "Raised by Wolves: The Turbulent Art and Times of Quentin Tarantino," the filmmaker wrote the male role specifically for Tim Roth, who'd starred in his previous film, "Reservoir Dogs," but studio bosses didn't want the then-little-known actor in the pivotal part. So they urged Tarantino to instead cast one of his back-up options, Christian Slater. But obviously, that didn't work out.

The people who wrote the checks for "The Crow" similarly wanted Slater to play the film's title role of Eric Draven, a murdered rock star-turned-avenging dark angel. The actor was reportedly very interested but asked for too big of a salary. Newcomer Brandon Lee got the gig instead, and tragically, he died during filming.

The tragic reason Christian Slater appeared in Interview with the Vampire

Christian Slater was among a group of young actors who lit up Hollywood in the late 1980s and early '90s. These were brooding, intense, and handsome guys like Johnny Depp and the late River Phoenix. "I thought we'd be in this business forever, and we'd be competing for the same roles and doing all these things, and instead, that tragedy happened," Slater told Yahoo! Movies, referring to Phoenix's death from a drug overdose outside of a Los Angeles nightclub on Halloween 1993. 

At the time of his passing, Phoenix was days away from beginning work on "Interview with the Vampire," a major adaptation of Anne Rice's supernatural bestseller. Phoenix's role was that of Daniel Molloy, the reporter who interviews a 200-year-old vampire (Brad Pitt). Rather than have the studio cancel or greatly delay the film, Slater took on the role of the interviewer with very little prep time. "It was awkward. It was uncomfortable. It was hard," Slater told Yahoo! Movies. "How to replace somebody that died in that way, and somebody that I admired greatly." Slater ultimately made peace with it by donating his entire salary for the film to some of Phoenix's favorite causes and charities. 

He's still in love with Winona Ryder

Plenty of actors fall in love with their co-stars. Honestly, it's surprising that actors don't always fall in love with other actors on movie sets because there's so much romance-creating machinery in place there, such as spending lots of time together, accessing deep feelings as part of the acting process, and pretending to be on-screen-lovers. The lines between fictional and real love has blurred a couple of times for Christian Slater, and more than 30 years after two notable made-for-the-movies love affairs, he still harbors some special feelings. 

Slater's first film was the 1985 teen drama "The Legend of Billie Jean." He played the brother of the title character portrayed by Helen Slater (no relation), and he fell hard for the actress. "At the time, she was Supergirl. So when you talk about mad crush, I had a mad crush on her. That was a hard one to get through. I was madly in love with her," Slater told Yahoo! Movies. "I thought because we had the same last names we should've been married, ya know?"

As for his second big crush, well, that was his co-star in the 1988 dark comedy Heathers, Winona Ryder. Countless kids fell for Ryder, including Slater. Two decades later, Slater told PR Inside (via Vulture) that she still held a special place in his heart. "We don't speak on a regular basis, but I love her. I've never gotten over the crush I had on her then," Slater said. "She is still the woman of my dreams."

He's been in trouble with the law ... a lot

In the '80s and '90s, Christian Slater enjoyed a "Hollywood bad boy" reputation. Not only did he play dangerous types on-screen in films like "Heathers," "Mobsters," and "True Romance," but he acted out that role off-screen, too, compiling a long police record. In 1990, he was sentenced to 10 days in jail over a drunk driving arrest the previous year. He fled from police, and the chase ended when Slater hit a utility pole and reportedly kicked a police officer when he exited his vehicle. Five years later, Slater was arrested at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on an illegal gun charge. He'd packed a weapon in his suitcase, which is a big no-no. (He later made a bargain with prosecutors, and as a result, he spent time working with less fortunate kids to avoid prison.) 

In the summer of 1997, some people at a party in Los Angeles summoned police to calm down Slater after he got into a fight with a man who tried to prevent the actor from striking his girlfriend. Reportedly swinging his arms and screaming, Slater also allegedly lashed out at a police officer. After later admitting that he was under the influence of cocaine, heroin, alcohol, and a lack of sleep, he was sentenced to three months in prison. Then in 2005, New York police arrested Slater on a third-degree abuse charge over an incident in which the actor, reportedly intoxicated, grabbed the rear end of a woman on the street.

Christian Slater was a Broadway baby

Christian Slater is a quintessentially cinematic actor. He's all subtle facial expressions, eyebrow movements, and voice modulation. That, coupled with his appearances in so many artsy and edgy movies, makes it a little surprising (or maybe it's a testament to his versatility) that he got his start on the New York stage. And while for most theatrical actors, it's a dream and a goal to get to Broadway eventually, Slater first hit the Great White Way before he was old enough to drive. 

At age 10, Slater co-starred in the 1980 revival of "The Music Man" as Winthrop Paroo (the lisping kid portrayed by Ron Howard in the film version). A year later, he had a supporting role and understudied for a lead in the 1981 musical "Copperfield." In 1982, Slater portrayed Macduff's son in a production of "Macbeth," and he followed that by playing Young Merlin and Arthur in the musical-magic show "Merlin." After he found fame as a movie star, Slater returned to Broadway in 1998 to star in "Side Man," which won the Tony Award for best play

Chris Farley was obsessed with him

Not counting his career's second act with a Golden Globe-winning turn as a mysterious hacking collective leader on USA's "Mr. Robot," Christian Slater's career reached its highest levels in the early '90s. The man was so popular and famous that he was asked to host "Saturday Night Live" — twice. It was quite an "SNL" era to be a part of, and Slater was lucky enough to appear in a classic sketch that will live on forever in compilations and video sharing sites: "Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker," one of Chris Farley's first appearances as the abrasive character who tries to scare wayward teens out of choices that will make them end up like him, a guy who "lives in a van down by the river!"

While viewers loved Farley as Foley, Farley gave his love to Slater. According to the documentary "I Am Chris Farley" (via Esquire), Farley became transfixed by Slater after working together on "SNL." During the actor's hosting stint, Farley told co-star David Spade, "Christian Slater is cool." A day later, Slater wasn't the only guy in the studio with hip, slicked-back hair – Chris Farley was, too.

His father sued him

Christian Slater isn't one of those actors with the romantic story of riding a bus from his Midwestern hometown to Hollywood. He's got show business in his blood, and he grew up around the entertainment industry. His mother is casting director Mary Jo Slater, and his father is Michael Hawkins, also known as Tom Slater, a stage and soap actor probably best known for the title role on "Ryan's Hope." 

Mary Jo and Tom Slater split up long ago, but in February 2016, the elder male Slater filed a $20 million lawsuit against his son. He claimed that Christian and Mary Jo Slater had defamed him and ruined his acting career after they told the public that he suffered from schizophrenia. Christian Slater moved for a dismissal, filing a declaration that his father had been diagnosed with the mental illness in 1972 following his admission to a hospital in a straitjacket after threatening to kill his family. Just five months after the lawsuit was filed, Los Angeles area Judge Suzanne Bruguera threw out Tom Slater's lawsuit, citing the case's lack of "significant legal grounding." 

Christian Slater is a hardcore Trekkie

Christian Slater is a man of many passions, but the biggest of them all just might be "Star Trek." He's a hardcore fan, and as an actor with Hollywood connections, he was able to wrangle a small part as "Excelsior Communications Officer" in the 1991 film "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country." After all, the casting director on that movie was Slater's mother, Mary Jo Slater. "I'm not even going to kid around. I had an in, and that was it," Slater said on Graham Norton's BBC Radio 2 show (via Comicbook.com). 

Slater's costume for his part happened to be the same one William Shatner — Captain James T. Kirk — wore for "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." That became a souvenir for Slater. "I stole the costume, by the way," the actor said. Beyond pants worn by the William Shatner, Slater is in possession of another piece of one-of-a-kind "Trek" memorabilia. "A buddy of mine did get me the Captain Kirk chair," Slater said on "Conan" in 2012, meaning the actual captain's seat from the original 1960s TV series. "You can push the buttons and the lights go on. I love it!"

He's still trying to get his passion project off the ground

For any kind of Hollywood luminary to get a dream movie into production — a "pet" or "passion project," as they're often called — circumstances have to be just right. That writer, director, or actor has to have the clout and connections to get a studio involved, and they've also got to have the time to make the thing. In other words, it's no walk in the park, even if you're somebody like Christian Slater.

Back in 1995, small publisher Wild Card Press released its one and only title: Will Viharo's "Love Stories Are Too Violent for Me," a gritty detective thriller about an investigator named Vic Valentine. Christian Slater discovered this very obscure, then-out-of-print book in a Los Angeles store in 2001, and he loved it so much that he secured the film rights, adapted it into a screenplay, and made plans to star and direct the resulting movie. That saga began more than 20 years ago, and the project went into limbo in 2015, when Slater got too busy with his work on "Mr. Robot." He hasn't gotten around to "Love Stories Are Too Violent for Me" yet, but there's always tomorrow.

Becoming Mr. Robot

Christian Slater has spent time working on more than a few TV shows, but none have quite reached the heights of "Mr. Robot." The show, which ran for four seasons from 2015 to 2019, has received rave reviews and that's thanks in no small part to Slater who starred in all 45 episodes alongside the show's other lead, Rami Malek.

Malek plays Elliot Alderson, a drug addict and hacker who dreams of living in a world that isn't dominated by corporate power and greed. Slater plays the titular Mr. Robot, a man who seemingly has a plan that could make Elliot's dream a reality, but the cost might be too much to bear. From beginning to end, "Mr. Robot" is not just an accomplished techno-thriller, but also an astoundingly deep character-driven drama.

From the get-go, Slater was in love with the role and the project as a whole. In 2015, he attended the San Diego Comic-Con for the first time in his life to promote the show, and he later told The Hollywood Reporter, "I wouldn't have wanted to come to Comic-Con for any other reason than to have someone like Mr. Robot to share." Slater fans who haven't seen the show need to add it to the top of their must-watch list immediately.

He believes Val Kilmer's spirit was present on the Willow set

Christian Slater's spent a ton of time on TV in recent years, from taking on shows like "Mr. Robot" to "Dr. Death." Though he's usually tackling roles in gritty, realistic dramas, in 2022 Slater got to dive into a world of fantasy when he joined the cast of the Disney+ remake of the 1988 movie "Willow."

The original "Willow" features Warwick Davis in the title role starring alongside Val Kilmer as the roguish Madmartigan. Davis reprised his role for the new series, but because Kilmer wasn't able to return, the show introduces Madmartigan's friend Allagash to somewhat fill the Kilmer-shaped void. Slater has spoken on honoring Kilmer with the role and his genuine excitement about the project. "Willow" debuted when Slater was just 16 years old, so he's spent most of his life as a fan of the story.

Slater's also a huge fan of Kilmer, and the two of them have previously worked together on a handful of movies like "True Romance," "Hard Cash," "Masked and Anonymous," and "Mindhunters." When it came to "Willow," Slater had some big shoes to fill, but he didn't feel like he was alone in the work. "It always felt like Val's spirit was involved in some way," the actor said.

He's 18 years older than his wife

Christian Slater has played some edgy roles and might've even seemed like a dangerous individual in the real world at specific points in his life. Fortunately, Slater married his wife Brittany Lopez on Christmas in 2013, and appears to have lived a comparatively wholesome existence ever since.

Slater first met Lopez back in 2009, when she was just 21 years old (via Hollywood Life). Slater was at Little Palm Island in Florida when he saw Lopez get down on one knee in front of an older woman. He went over to congratulate the two on their engagement, only to realize the older woman was Lopez's aunt, and Lopez was just trying to take a picture of her.

Not quite four years after that picture-perfect meet-cute, Slater and Lopez were married. For the most part the two of them lead private lives, but according to US Weekly, the couple had their first child together in August 2019. Slater's youngest daughter also has two older siblings, Jaden Christopher and Eliana Sophia, from his previous marriage with journalist Ryan Haddon.

He had fun voicing Vance Maximus on Rick and Morty

Through his more than 40-year career, Christian Slater has never been one to take it easy. He's always jumping from one project to the next. IMDb lists Slater as having performed in well over 100 projects, and his recent shift in focus might actually let him rack up roles even faster.

For years now, Slater has been picking up voice acting jobs in a huge variety of shows. DC fans might recognize Slater as the voice of Deadshot in "Justice League Action," and he's delved into other comic book universes by joining the cast of "The Boys Presents: Diabolical." He's also put his vocal talents behind recurring roles in "Archer" and Netflix's "Inside Job."

There's one voice acting role, however, that really made an impression on Slater. He played Vance Maximus in a 2017 episode of "Rick and Morty," and he later told Comic Book Movies that he loved working with Dan Harmon on the episode. He liked it enough to come back to the role in 2022 for six episodes of "The Vindicators," and there's always a chance he'll be back for more.

He's committed to staying sober

Slater's well-documented problems with substance abuse and the law culminated when a multi-day drug and alcohol bender ended with an ugly, violent incident in 1997. For Slater, this was his wake-up call (via Parade). After finishing a not-quite 60-day stint in jail, Slater decided that he needed to make a change in his life or things would only get worse. He got sober, and though his 2005 arrest indicates at least one relapse, for the most part he's been committed to staying on the wagon. In a 2013 interview with The Guardian, Slater acknowledged that "There are definitely challenges" with staying sober in his career field, but added that, "It makes me feel sexier."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Pump Up the Volume is his favorite movie

There's no shortage of fantastic movies in Christian Slater's filmography. From "Heathers" to "Broken Arrow" to "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," there's something for every kind of film fan. Slater himself has noticed that one movie in particular seems to inspire the most comments from his fans. He told The Guardian, "85% of the time people want to talk about 'True Romance.'" Apparently, that's just one of those magical movies that people never seem to forget about.

Setting aside what his fans seem to like the most, there's one movie that's never released its hold on Slater's own imagination. Released in 1990, "Pump Up the Volume" is about high school student Mark "Hard Harry" Hunter running a pirate radio station from his bedroom. It might come across as a piece of ancient history to today's audiences, but it has all the ingredients of a classic teenage rebellion story.

In a 2022 interview with AwardsRadar, Slater said, "That's my favorite movie that I've done. I mean that honestly." He worked on the project at a special time in his life, and the nostalgia mixed with the film's fantastic characters have stuck with him through all of these years.

He's gotten into painting

Christian Slater spends a huge amount of time working on his career, and when he's not acting, he's busy being a husband and father. Still, everyone needs a hobby. What does a renowned movie and TV star do to unwind in his free time?

Slater told The New York Times back in 2021 that he's taken up a real interest in visual art. From painting to charcoals, Slater is willing to try his hand at just about everything. The actor said that his wife pushed him to give art a try and even went as far as signing him up for a watercolors class. He decided that he might as well give it a try and discovered that it's something he genuinely enjoys. "It's great," he said. "It's definitely meditative and relaxing."

Don't expect to see an exhibit from Slater anytime soon. He's found a perfect way to use art to relax when he's in between acting roles, and even though he says he's proud of the work he's doing, he doesn't seem to be in a rush to share it with the world at large.