Whatever happened to Christian Slater?

heathersgunNot 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), Pump_Up_the_Volume_300_Mediumwith 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), trueromancebedSlater – 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.

Top ten performances of Tom Cruise

After being impressed with Cruise’s performance in Jack Reacher recently it got me thinking. Is Cruise one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood? He surely must be, given his output. Since his first credited role in Endless Love in 1981, I can only count seven instances in the last 31 years where he’s had more than a one-year break between jobs. Mostly he’s had at least one film out a year, 39 in total to date.

What’s most impressive is the range of films and quality of performances. I assume that’s why, for some people, he’s a divisive figure. A man at the top of his game and loving it. Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s hard to dispute his screen presence and charisma. Here’s my pick of his top ten performances:

  • lestat tom cruiseInterview with the Vampire – 1994
    Cruise wasn’t initially favoured by novelist Anne Rice, but won her and audiences over with his sublime, sadistic and graceful take on aristocratic vampire Lestat, constantly tormenting Brad Pitt’s troubled vampire Louis.
  • Vanilla Sky – 2001
    Described as ‘Jerry Maguire on an acid trip’ this sees Cruise play a publishing mogul who becomes facially disfigured following a car accident. What happens then is anyone’s guess as dream and reality blend together in Cameron Crowe’s twisted tale.
  • A Few Good Men – 1992
    Slugging it out with Jack Nicholson’s army general in a courtroom is no easy task. Cruise’s performance as idealistic navy lawyer was realistic and compelling, plus he gave us that iconic ‘you can’t handle the truth’ scene.
  • YouCompleteMe_JerryMaguireJerry Maguire – 1996
    Taking nothing away from the outstanding Zellweger, this film is anchored by Cruise’s raw, touching performance as sports agent Jerry, trying to rebuild a career and hang on to his marriage. A beautifully told, feel-good tale.
  • Minority Report – 2002
    Some may think this a Spielberg action tale, but it’s closer to a futuristic film noir. Cruise convincingly plays cop John Anderton whose life gets upended, accused of a crime and forced to clear his name whilst on the run.
  • Collateral – 2004
    Perhaps this was a nice warm up to play Reacher – here he played a cold, calculating and ruthless hitman, les-grossman-moviestuck in a cat-and-mouse game with Jamie Foxx’s average Joe-type cab driver.
  • Tropic Thunder – 2008
    With an ensemble cast of great comic actors, Cruise stands out as ruthless studio head Les Grossman – his tirades (I will massacre you!), his dancing, his menace. Fantastically funny and refreshing.
  • The Last Samurai – 2003
    As world-weary Captain Nathan Algren, his performance in Ed Zwick’s epic action tale is truly a masterclass in submitting wholeheartedly to the character. Compelling, heartfelt and affecting throughout.
  • Jack Reacher – 2012
    Ensuring the wrath of Lee Child fans worldwide, Cruise opted to play 6’5 man-mountain army detective Jack Reacher – a sort of modern Dirty Harry. Here he gives the character wit, intelligence and gravitas.
  • tom cruise Born on the Fourth of July 01Born on the Fourth of July – 1989
    Delivering arguably a career-best performance as wheelchair-bound Vietnam veteran Ron Kovich. This film came only a few years into his career ascendancy, but firmly cemented him as bona fide A-grade, talent.

Brilliance of Brad Pitt: his top 10 best performances

fight club brad pittFor this post I’d like to discuss the career and my chosen favourite roles of Mr William Bradley Pitt. But where are some of his recent critically acclaimed films you may ask? Well, I can only list films I’ve seen and I have yet to see Tree of Life, Moneyball and Babel, so cannot include them. From what I’ve heard, they’d probably make my list. Alas, not this time.

  1. Tyler Durden, Fight Club (1999)
    Mesmerising scenes, endlessly quotable dialogue. Became a cult hit largely due to Pitt’s character and performance. Raw, edgy, masculine and totally cool.
  2. Detective David Mills, Se7en (1995)
    Here he convinced as a young, headstrong detective. The conflicting emotions portrayed in the climactic scene were astounding.
  3. Lt. Aldo Raine, Inglourious Basterds (2009)
    Perfectly cast as the leader of the Basterds, with some great comic moments. His Italian scene was a classic.
  4. John Smith, Mr and Mrs Smith (2005)
    Take two of the most attractive and charismatic stars in the world, throw in assassination, action and zinging one liners and what do you get? Pure chemistry.
  5. Louis du point du lac, Interview with the Vampire (1994)
    Beautiful and distant with deep, melancholic eyes, Pitt played Louis the conflicted vampire perfectly. Watch his revenge scene.
  6. Jeffrey Goines, Twelve Monkeys (1995)
    Twitchy, edgy, mischievous and full of mayhem. He was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe for his performance in one of Terry Gilliam’s best films.
  7. Jesse James, The Assassination of Jesse James (2007)
    This film divided critics. It’s beautifully shot with a strong, understated performance from Pitt. He gives James a melancholic weariness, which is both troubling and beautiful. The assassination scene will stay with you.
  8. Mickey O’Neil, Snatch (2000)
    With an accent that was impossible to understand, Pitt’s take on the hard-fighting pikey gypsy was truly memorable. Switching effortlessly from wisecracking to intense, unwavering aggression.
  9. Floyd, True Romance (1993)
    A year before – what I consider – his breakout role in Interview with the Vampire, he appeared as a stoner providing comic relief in this Tarantino scripted, Tony Scott directed film. Don’t con-den-sen-in me man!
  10. Jerry Welbach, The Mexican (2001)
    Hapless, romantic, but well-meaning. Pitt gives Jerry a warmth and charm so you root for him throughout. An underrated performance.

In terms of characters, a mixed bunch. For me, Pitt is at his best when combining comedy and intensity. With the exception of Se7en, Interview with the Vampire and Jesse James, the rest of my list are – to a degree – comically driven characters. Or at least, that’s how he played them.

I think what defines a lot of his performances is charisma. Magnetism, sex appeal, the ability to hold the screen – whatever you want to call it, all the best have it. Take his scenes in True Romance as an example. Genius.