Not sure where this thought came from – one of my many random ones during the day I suppose. Whatever its origins, it’s an issue that needs addressing. Not that I’ll solve anything, but a problem shared is a problem halved, as my Nan likes to say.
Some would say he’s had his day, perhaps that’s true. What I do know is that, for me growing up, vintage Slater in full flow was always a welcome sight. Much like Val Kilmer (another ’80s star perhaps considered washed up), I still feel there’s a lot more mileage there. Putting Kilmer to one side, I’d like to take a look back at Slater’s top performances. Here’s my pick:
- Heathers (1988)
- Pump Up The Volume (1990)
- Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991)
- True Romance (1993)
- Interview With The Vampire (1994)
Clearly, 1988-1994 was his heyday, beyond that Hollywood simply didn’t know what to do with him. The world had moved on. Admittedly they tried to mould him into an action star a la Bruce Willis – think Broken Arrow (1996), Hard Rain (1998), with the godawful Churchill: The Hollywood Years (2004) being the last roll of the dice.
It’s such a shame. Looking at his best work, Heathers is widely regarded as a cult classic (number 412 on Empire’s 500 greatest movies of all time list), with Slater’s performance being compared to that of a young Jack Nicholson. Pump Up The Volume was arguably more of the same, yet he was a little more grown up, his performance more robust and matured. Robin Hood was a huge commercial success at the time, his Will Scarlett perfectly judged and beautifully balanced to Costner’s somewhat dour Robin Hood.
True Romance stands head and shoulders above the rest of his work, directed by the late, great Tony Scott, armed with one of Tarantino’s first scripts. Slater took the character of Clarence Worley and surpassed expectations. Yes Tarantino had caught him on the upwave of his career, yet he’s never been cooler – delivering line after effortlessly cool line in his cocky, offbeat way. ‘Do I look like a beautiful blonde with big tits and an ass that tastes like French Vanilla ice cream?’
When you simply cannot picture another playing the part, you know the actor in question has truly made the role his own. In a film which included Dennis Hopper, Christoper Walken, Gary Oldman and James Gandolfini (sadly another late, great), Slater – along with Patricia Arquette’s Alabama – acted not only as the driving force, but also the sweet heart and soul of the movie. A classic film and classic performance, thoroughly deserving of its place on my top films of all time list.
Post 1994, the dip in quality and output was not solely down to Hollywood’s inability to cast him correctly. Off-screen, a string of arrests and convictions no doubt played their part in stopping decent scripts landing at his doorstep. That said, maybe (hopefully) that’s all now behind him.
Plus, if there was ever a man that specializes in resurrecting the careers of faded stars, it’s Tarantino. His script for True Romance helped Slater achieve a career high and at present, when his career has never been lower, there simply isn’t a better time to cast one of the quirkiest bad boys of the ’80s and ’90s. Quentin, pick up the phone, you know what to do.