Working with Sylvester Stallone is full of surprises. One day he’s holding a gun in your face, and the next, presenting you with cake and singing Happy Birthday.
This was what happened to Christian Slater on the set of Stallone’s latest action showpiece, Bullet To The Head.
“He’s certainly an intimidating force to deal with,” says Slater, whose character is strapped to a chair and interrogated by Stallone’s hitman alter ego.
“But when the cameras were off, he couldn’t have been more of a gentleman. It was my birthday on set and he brought out a cake and sang Happy Birthday – it was a blast!”
Slater, who turned 43 during the summer shoot in New Orleans, had grown up watching Stallone’s movies and missed out on the opportunity to work with him on 1995’s Assassins due to a ‘scheduling conflict’.
“He’s always been one of my heroes. Some movie stars are so iconic that it’s hard to see them as a person, you know? He’s like an object almost, so it’s fascinating to be around that kind of energy.”
Back in the Nineties, the same could have been said for Slater. After roles in cult films Heathers, Pump Up The Volume and the Quentin Tarantino-penned True Romance, he was a bona fide teen heart-throb, chiselled good looks matched by bad boy appeal.
Up there with contemporaries Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp, the former child actor mixed up quirky romcoms like Untamed Heart, with big-budget action like John Woo’s Broken Arrow.
When his friend River Phoenix died in 1993, Slater stepped into his role as the interviewer in the following year’s Interview With The Vampire, which also starred Pitt and Tom Cruise, and donated his fee to Phoenix’s favourite charities.
“There’s no way to really prepare yourself for something that is unpredictable, and you never know how you’re going to deal with some of those obstacles you’re faced with,” he says of those years, the twang of his voice instantly recognisable down the phone from his adopted home of Miami.
“A lot of doors are opened for you, you get treated in a particular way which is fun for a while, but you definitely feel a little weird and it can mess with your perspective on what’s real. It can screw with you a little bit.”
A few years ago, Slater made a concerted effort to distance himself from Hollywood, after falling in love with the Florida Keys. He also met ‘a very special girl’, Brittany Lopez.
They got engaged at New Year, with a party for 200 family members.
“For the last few years I’ve just been living a quieter life, a happier life,” says Slater. “It’s nice to have some distance between me and Hollywood and showbusiness in general. I love it, I enjoy the work, I just don’t think I necessarily enjoy the things that come along with it. It tends to create a little bit of chaos.”
By chaos, he could be referring to the media furore following his brushes with the law.
Whether by choice or as a result of his perceived misdemeanours, Slater slid out of leading man territory. He now takes on character parts, in the likes of Bullet To The Head and Lars von Trier’s latest film Nymphomaniac, which he recently returned from filming in Copenhagen.