It’s apparent that Christian Slater has mellowed over the years. Long gone is the carousing brat once charged with beating up his girlfriend. Now a father of two, Slater is happily married to Ryan Haddon for the past two years.
Preferring to act in ensembles rather than star in his own vehicles, the latest example of that is the World War 2 drama, Windtalkers, in which his character forges a bond with a Navajo Native American. It was a friendly and gracious Christian, now 32, who spoke to Paul Fischer.
Question: Windtalkers is your second outing with director John Woo. What’s the attraction?
Answer: I think any time anybody gets an opportunity to work with John they should. I mean it’s just no matter what it is, he’s just such a great guy, and he takes such great care of the actors he works with, and very, very special, special man, you know, he’s very humble and you just feel safe and comfortable.
Question: Why do you think war has become such a popular new, sort of rediscovered, genre in Hollywood now?
Answer: I don’t know, I mean, it really is sort of amazing how it really has become a very large topic again. I mean, I think, you know, Stephen Spielberg with Saving Private Ryan, made such a wonderful movie there that probably inspired a lot of other filmmakers to kind of put their take on it and have an opportunity to kind of tell of their stories. I mean I know from John Woo you know he just became an American citizen a few years ago and he really wanted to make a very patriotic movie and sort of honor a particular culture that not a lot of people are aware of.
Question: Did you attend a boot camp?
Answer: Did I attend a boot camp? Yes. (laughter)
Question: Other cast members have said you were stripped butt naked in training.
Answer: That’s right. You know, we all got there, you know, everybody left us, and it was really kind of scary, I mean the first couple days we weren’t really sure how seriously these drill sergeants were gonna be taking their jobs.
Question: How seriously DID they take you?
Answer: They yelled in our faces and humiliated us and degraded us. When we first got there they threw our duffel bags at us, and we did all kind of have to strip in a big circle.
Question: What was your pet name?
Answer: I think they called me big daddy. (laughter)
Question: Is that because you were a daddy in real life?
Answer: That’s right, yeah.
Question: Was that very recent?
Answer: Well, I think when I made the movie my son was I don’t know, yeah, he was probably a year or something, maybe 8, 9 months, something like that, yeah.
Question: And was it an 8-day session, a two-week session…
Answer: It was a 7-day, 7-day session.
Question: You play the harmonica in the film. Have you taken it up now?
Answer: Uh, not that, no. I’ve done a lot of things, I mean this movie kind of opened my eyes to, certainly going through the boot camp experience, I mean I think opened my eyes to more physical stuff that I was capable of doing. Cause the things that they asked us to do really forced us to dig deep into our souls. It’s not like they lightened up on us. The beach marches we did and things like that just seemed to go on for miles and miles and miles, I mean there were guys dropping out, and gasping and wheezing for air, so…
Question: Did pride pull you through?
Answer: Well, I don’t know, I mean something in you says no I cannot drop, I cannot drop, you know, there’s always some, inner voice that just keeps you trudging along. And since then, you know, I did the LA Marathon here, and that was the first time I’d ever done that.
Question: And you did that because of what you had learned through that whole boot camp experience?
Answer: Probably had something to do with it, I mean that kind of introduced me to a new level of physicality that I wasn’t aware of, so that was a unique challenge, and the little voice I had in my head there was you know if Oprah can do it I can do it. (laughter)
Question: Were you a fan of World War II movies, like Audie Murphy, John Wayne.
Answer: I’ve always been a fan of these kinds of movies. I know, and John has too, John Woo, he talks about John Ford and how this movie and the Monument Valley is sort of a tribute to those movies and All Quiet on the Western Front is one of his favorite movies.
Question: What’s yours?
Answer: One of mine was The Big Red One. Yeah, that was a great movie. Lee Marvin,
Question: What is it about the material that fascinated you about Windtalkers?
Answer: Well, the story, of course, and getting the opportunity to be a part of a story that was shedding light on a particular culture and a chapter in history that I didn’t know anything about, so as I turned the pages it was really a history lesson for me. And I had no idea the influence the Navajo Indians had in helping us to win the war and turn the tides. And of course, working with John Woo, working with Nic Cage, was another huge element that really inspired me, and just playing this character. I mean I liked the idea of sort of being the opposite side of the coin to Nic’s character, who was certainly a lot darker and a lot more war-weary, and this guy still had his heart, he was still, you know, connected to himself and was still willing to develop a friendship and a relationship with a guy he had to protect.
Question: Christian, you’ve done some pretty darkish films in your career. Does being a dad sort of change the way you look at material now?
Answer: I think so, yeah, sure, it plays a part. A majority of the material that I come across today is you know A Bug’s Life, Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; these are all the things that are sort of in my visual space right now, so I do tend to be more attracted to a little bit more of a lighter fare.
Question: I can’t imagine you’d want to show your son something like Very Bad Things, right?
Answer: Yeah, I don’t think that would be the first on my list today. I mean, I enjoyed that experience at the time, and I love playing colorful characters. Really the last few years what I’ve really been doing is concentrating more on building a life and having a life and you know just getting to be part of an ensemble and work with actors that I have a great deal of respect for. I just tell fun stories and sort of be an actor amongst actors, and not have to carry the weight of an entire project.
Question: Not deal with all the sort of Hollywood stuff and…
Answer: Sure, sure, and just, you know, I mean, I think I feel like I’m kind of ready to take on more, as I grow and evolve as a human being, but I’ve really been enjoying the things that I have been doing.
Question: Are there any personal projects on the back burner that you’d really like to get off the ground one day?
Answer: I guess I’ve gotten into developing some things for myself that I’m kind of working on, and I’m in the middle of writing this thing right now.
Question: A screenplay?
Answer: Screenplay, yeah, I’ve never done anything like that before, and I actually made it the whole way through…and you know, it’s like the marathon, it’s a huge accomplishment.
Question: Very lonely, too, I understand.
Answer: Yeah, , but I also have kids running in you know and pulling on me and doing all that stuff, so it’s kind of great just having the people that I have in my life, because they really do help me to finish things. They really do kind of inspire me to want to see projects all the way through.
Question: What kind of a screenplay or something…
Answer: Well, it’s kind of like a detective sort of very film noirish Bogart Sinatra-esque type….
Question: Christian, is Windtalkers the toughest film you’ve ever done?
Answer: There were certainly many physical challenges, yeah, absolutely, absolutely. It was very powerful. I don’t know if it was the toughest. It was a lot of fun, you know, cause it was a great group of guys.
Question: Have you done anything else since, have you shot anything else?
Answer: I shot another film called the Mind Hunters, that Reny Harland directed and it’s sort of an FBI psychological profile and it was a lot of fun to do.
Question: Christian, you seem like a family man now, and you’re choosing your projects, do you consider this the happiest point in your life?
Answer: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I definitely would say this is probably the happiest point in my life.
Question: How is it different from today than it was ten years ago for you in your personal life?
Answer: Well a lot has changed, a lot has happened, many things, a lot of lessons, and this has just been an exciting road to travel on. I’ve just had a great time, have been very fulfilled and very happy with the opportunities to work on these kinds of projects and work with great people. I’m like a fan, you know, I mean I’m like a movie fan, in that I love movies and I love to be a part of ’em, and the whole ride, it’s just very exciting.
Question: The movies were your calling?
Answer: I think they were. I mean now more of my life calling would be the father to my kids, this maybe takes a back seat to that. Father to my kids, husband to my wife, be an actor, somewhere in there.
Question: Finally, if you were gonna put your life to music, what would the song be?
Answer: That’s Life.