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.

Christopher Walken – oh what, wow, he’s the greatest dancer!

chris-walkenAs an actor, Christopher Walken is unique. From his voice and delivery of lines to his undeniable screen presence and quirky nature, when he’s on form there’s something hypnotic, vulnerable and somewhat frightening about him.

Indeed, he’s given some mesmerising performances over the years, sometimes for the whole film, sometimes just for a scene or two. And like the cinephiles we are we’ll take what we can get, because on his day, full-on Walken is a sight to behold.

Here’s my pick of performances I’ll cherish as classic Walken:

  • King of New York (1990)
    Frank White, a drug lord fresh from prison looking to rebuild his empire, was one of the first Walken performances I saw as a youngster and it got me hooked. Playful menace doesn’t come much better in the Abel Ferrara directed crime thriller.
  • True Romance (1993)
    One of my all-time favourite scenes. Walken is astonishing as Sicilian gangster Vicenzo Coccotti. ‘You tell the angels in heaven you never saw evil so singularly personified in the face of the man who killed you.’ If there was ever a spin-off to be made with Vicenzo hunting down Clarence and Alabama again, I’d be first in line at the cinema.
  • Pulp Fiction (1994)
    One scene comprising of a monologue about a gold watch. That is all. Ok, a little more. From his off-kilter delivery of lines and wavering voice through to intelligent menace and perfect dramatic and comedic timing, this scene has it all, and provides a crash course in his appeal.
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002)
    God, which scene do you pick? From ‘Two little mice’ to ‘Where you going Frank?’, Walken’s star shines oh so bright in this film and he practically steals each scene, overshadowing DiCaprio with a twinkle in his eye. A raw, tender performance to be cherished.
  • Seven Psychopaths (2012)
    Back to his best? After years of languishing in mediocre films – particularly god-awful comedies – he pulls this out the bag. Going toe-to-toe with Woody Harrelson’s gangster, Walken just grins and turns on the malevolent menace, with some juicy lines delivered with typical gusto ‘dream sequences are for fags but…we all gotta dream don’t we?’

So there we go. Where’s The Deer Hunter you ask? Or even his sexy dance in Wayne’s World 2? Whilst the former is clearly a career-high, it felt out of keeping with the rest of my list in some ways. I suppose I just prefer Walken in playful menace mode – far more appealing. As such, I’d like to finish with this ‘motivational’ scene from Poolhall Junkies

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.

Who are the top 20 most intense actors of recent times?

charlie bronson

I do like an intense character and performance when I’m watching a film. Someone who literally rivets and welds you to the screen, look away at your peril. Some people probably like their films bright and breezy. I don’t mind those too, but there’s something about intensity that leaves a lasting impression. You remember those performances.

As such I thought I’d offer a couple of lists of actors and actresses that have had me mesmerised, entranced and – at times – a little frightened. I’ve most likely left off a lot of vintage performances and characters, but this is MY list so I’m allowed. Let me know your thoughts. Who would you have liked to have seen included?

In these lists I’ve put links to clips from some performances you might not have seen before, or maybe just want to revisit. Remember though, best not watch alone though, these lot are intense!

The guys

  1. charlie bronsonDaniel Day Lewis (Bill ‘the Butcher’ Cutting, Gangs of New York; Daniel Plainview, There will be Blood)
  2. Heath Ledger (The Joker, The Dark Knight)
  3. Tom Hardy (Charles Bronson, Bronson)
  4. Christian Bale (Patrick Bateman, American Psycho; Batman, The Batman Trilogy)
  5. Kevin Spacey (John Doe, Seven)
  6. Christopher Walken (Vicenzo Carcotti, True Romance; Frank White, King of New York)
  7. Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men)
  8. Christopher Waltz (Col. Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds)
  9. Vincent Cassel (Jacques Mesrine, Mesrine)
  10. Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills, Taken)
  11. Jeremy Renner (Sergeant William James, The Hurt Locker; Jem Coughlin, The Town)
  12. Gary Oldman (Drexel, True Romance)

The gals

  1. helena bonham carter harry potterHelena Bonham Carter (Red Queen, Alice in Wonderland; Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry Potter)
  2. Cate Blanchett (Galadriel, Lord of the Rings)
  3. Marion Cotillard (Mal, Inception)
  4. Angelina Jolie (Lisa Rowe, Girl, Interrupted)
  5. Melanie Laurent (Shosanna Dreyfus, Inglourious Basterds)
  6. Charlize Theron (Aileen Wuornos, Monster)
  7. Famke Janssen (Xena Onotopp, Goldeneye; Jean Grey, Xmen: The Last Stand)
  8. Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

So, there’s my list. You’ll notice there’s more men than women, I’m not sure why. I think, perhaps, there’s a tendency – particularly in Hollywood – for studios to shy away from films with intense, female leads. I wonder if they are more of a risk commercially? I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s more to do with a lack of decent scripts for women, ones that don’t play to stereotypes.

One thing I’ve noticed is how top actors portray intensity – for me – it’s in the eyes. I think it’s what separates great actors and actresses from the rest. If you allow yourself to be drawn into their gaze, there’s so much depth there. Depending on the character they’re playing, it can be equally exciting, captivating and terrifying. Watch Pacino in The Godfather, making the decision to kill with his eyes. A lesson in intensity.

Right, I need to go watch some comedy now to level out. It’s all got too much. I’ll finish with artwork of Marion Cotillard, not because it’s intense, but because it’s simply beautiful – and that’s all the reason you need.

Marion Cotillard artwork