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What the Hell Happened to Christian Slater?

Christian Slater

Christian Slater

When Christian Slater came onto the scene, he was compared to a young Jack Nicholson.  In the late 80’s and early 90’s he was one of Hollywood’s most talked-about actors.  While he never really headlined any massive box office hits, he sure seemed like a big time movie star.  Slater also made headlines with his frequent run-ins with the law.  By 2011, the internet was buzzing with rumors that he was dead.

What the hell happened?

Christian Slater - The Music Man - 1980

Christian Slater – The Music Man – 1980

Christian Slater’s father was a soap star and his mother was a casting agent.  At age seven, Slater’s mom gave him a bit part on the soap, One Life to Live.  When Slater was 8, he made an unscheduled appearance on The Joe Franklin Show.  Slater’s mother was a guest on the show and when the host spotted her son waiting in the wings, he called Slater on to the set.

Director Michael Kidd happened to be watching the show when Slater came on and ended up casting him in the 1980 Broadway revival of The Music Man starring Dick Van Dyke.

At first I had no idea what I was doing,  I was up on stage and I’d be waving at my mother in the audience. But as the tour went on, I started to grasp the idea that I had to be a whole different character and not myself when I was on stage.

Christian Slater - Standing Room Only: Sherlock Holmes - 1981

Christian Slater – Standing Room Only: Sherlock Holmes – 1981

In 1981 Slater appeared on the HBO series Standing Room Only.  In the early days of premium cable, Standing Room Only presented various stage acts on TV.  Slater appeared very briefly in a televised performance of Sherlock Holmes starring Frank Langella as the famous detective.

Christian Slater - CBS Library - Robbers, Rooftops and Witches - 1982

Christian Slater – CBS Library – Robbers, Rooftops and Witches – 1982

The following year, Slater appeared in an episode of the anthology show, CBS Library.  His segment adapted the Ray Bradbury story, The Invisible Boy.  Slater played a young boy whose parents are away.  In their absence, he is being cared for by an old woman in the woods who claims to be a witch.  He asks her to share her magic with him so she makes a potion which she claims has turned him invisible.  Slater spends the rest of the episode trying to determine whether or not the magic is real.  While filming the TV show, the young actor broke down crying on the set because the script called for him to take off his clothes.

Christian Slater - ABC Weekend Specials: The Haunted Mansion Mystery - 1983

Christian Slater – ABC Weekend Specials: The Haunted Mansion Mystery – 1983

In 1983, Slater starred in an ABC Weekend Special based on Virginia Masterman-Smith’s novel, The Haunted Mansion Mystery.  Slater played a neighborhood kid who tells the new girl in town that her new home is haunted by a creepy old miser.  According to legend, the miser hid a million dollars in cash in a secret room in the mansion’s basement.  The kids go on a treasure hunt but are trapped in a cave-in beneath the house.

Christian Slater - Living Proof: The Hank Williams, Jr. Story - 1983

Christian Slater – Living Proof: The Hank Williams, Jr. Story – 1983

Slater also appeared in the TV movie, Living Proof: The Hank Williams, Jr. Story.  Richard Thomas, aka John-Boy from The Waltons, played the country singer who struggled to get out from his father’s shadows.  The movie depicted Williams’ bouts with alcoholism and a near-fatal mountain climbing accident.  Jay O. Sanders played rancher Dick Willey who accompanied Williams on the climb.  Slater played Willey’s son who stayed with Williams’ while his dad went for help.

Christian Slater - Tales from the Darkside - 1984

Christian Slater – Tales from the Darkside – 1984

In 1984, Slater appeared in an episode of the horror anthology series, Tales From the Darkside.  In A Case of the Stubborns, Slater played a teen whose grandfather is too stubborn to admit he’s dead.  Slater tries to prod his granddad on to the great beyond.  When that fails, he enlists the help of a reverend played by a pre-Star Trek Brent Spiner.

slater - the-legend-of-billie-jean

Christian Slater – The Legend of Billie Jean – 1985

Slater’s first role on the big screen was opposite 80’s superbabe (and Supergirl) Helen Slater in the teen rebellion comedy/drama, The Legend of Billie Jean.

The two Slaters (who are not related) played Texas siblings in the movie.  Billie Jean (Helen Slater) is harassed by a group of teenage boys.  Her brother Binx (Christian Slater) humiliates the boys.  As revenge, the boys steal Binx’s precious scooter.  When Binx goes to reclaim his scooter from the bullies, they beat him up and trash the scooter.  Billie Jean and Binx go to the head bully’s father and ask him for $608 dollars to fix the broken scooter.  Instead, he attempts to rape Billie Jean.  Binx pulls a gun on the would-be rapist and accidentally shoots him in the shoulder.  They escape and become fugitives.  Eventually, they take a willing hostage played by Keith Gordon and issue a demand for their money with the rally cry “fair is fair”.  The media coverage of the event makes Billie Jean into a teen icon.

Leadin up to 1984’s Supergirl, it was assumed that Helen Slater would become a movie star like Christopher Reeve.  Unfortunately, that movie tanked.   The next year, many assumed that Billie Jean would make Helen Slater a household name.  But that didn’t happen either.  Reportedly, Helen Slater was already something of a prima donna on the set despite not yet being a star.  Here are some stories from people who worked on the film:

During the scene when she was chasing the ambulance with Binx inside, the driver drove way too fast and she couldn’t keep up so she just stopped short right in the middle of the street stamping her feet in disgust.  The crowd of extras running full speed right behind her couldn’t stop in time and plowed into her knocking her over.  Everybody started to laugh and she stormed off to her tent.

I was an extra in The Legend of Billie Jean and I remember it took quite a few takes for the scene when they were going up the escalator in the Sunrise Mall.  The one take I remember the most is when Helen Slater overshot the rail and ended up in the waterfall.  She promptly got up and stomped off the scene mumbling to herself.  It took another two hours before we shot again.

Next: More Legend of Billie Jean and The Name of the Rose

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Posted on September 20, 2012, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 104 Comments.

  1. gluestry would you also agree kilmer never drew people to a movie with his name alone . He jumped on to an already successful franchise with batman forever and No one saw Prince of Egypt for him since it was animation kids did not know it was him. the rest of his other hits where in supporting roles such as heat top gun tombstone and Dejavu.

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    • I don’t think Val Kilmer’s name alone sold any films to the public (he was great in “The Doors”, but it was The Doors, directed by Oliver Stone, which I think was the selling point). He disappeared into so many roles and appeared in various projects, so I’d have to say no. I think at one time Nic Cage’s involvement in a film may have swayed audiences, but I don’t think Val Kilmer was ever that guy.

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  2. the doors was a flop anyways. Cage had severla box office hits on his own name. He was a draw at one point

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  3. ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER 09/15 #12

    https://goo.gl/eVkwZz

    Someone going in the opposite direction of #11 is this actor who used to be A list. Drugs got the best of him for awhile and it took him a long time to work his way back up to A list on television. He is blowing it though with his relapse. The women he is sleeping with probably won’t help his marriage out either. Christian Slater

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