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Scott Harris

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By day, Scott Harris writes about movies. But by night, he patrols the streets of his city, clad only in pure justice.

Christian Slater: What Went Wrong with That Guy?

When the new Sylvester Stallone action vehicle “Bullet to the Head” comes out this weekend, chances are you’ll be seeing a bunch of stories in the media about Sylvester Stallone’s recent career resurgence. “The Expendables,” “Rocky Balboa,” “Rambo” — after almost two decades of Hollywood irrelevancy, Stallone is once again back in business as an A-list star.

But you know what you won’t be seeing much of? Stories like that about his co-star, Christian Slater.

So, just what went wrong with that guy?

For those under the age of 30, it might be hard to believe, but once upon a time, Slater wasn’t just hot, he was actually expected by many to become an international superstar. What Brad Pitt and George Clooney are today? That’s what everyone thought Slater was going to become.

Sure, it may sound crazy now, but there was actually good reason to believe it at the time. Not only did he have movie star looks, but he had an edge to him that (along with his distinctive voice) led many to picture him as the second coming of Jack Nicholson. Between his darkly cynical turn in the jet black 1988 cult comedy “Heathers” and his roles in 1990′s “Young Guns II” and “Pump Up the Volume,” by the age of 21 Slater had already turned himself into a counter culture icon.

True RomanceAnd that’s actually when things started to go wrong for Slater. First, he began going mainstream, appearing in big budget flicks like “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.” He kept some indie cred by appearing in the Quentin Tarantino-penned ‘True Romance” in 1993, but by the time of 1995′s “Interview with a Vampire” and 1996′s “Broken Arrow,” it had become apparent that Slater was trying to go big time.

In hindsight, that was a bad idea, of course. On the one hand, Slater alienated the fans who had made him popular in the first place. And on the other, his edgy, snarky persona may have been perfect for the underground scene, but it clashed with mainstream America, meaning he never really caught on with the new audience he was courting either.

Which led to the second nail in his career coffin: a bruised ego. When you gain success as fast as Slater did, you tend to let it go to your head — and the same is true when you lose that success. The result was a string of run-ins with the law, including drunk driving and assault in 1989, trying to smuggle a gun onto an airplane in 1994 and assaulting both his girlfriend and a police office while wasted on drugs in 1997.

Bullet to the HeadThat episode proved to be the last straw, in many ways, for Hollywood; with his box office power already on the wane, he was just too big a headache to deal with.

Slater has been in plenty of movies and TV shows since, but he’s never come close to living up to his early promise. So will “Bullet in the Head” help spark a career renaissance for a man who, at 43, is finally showing signs of maturity? Who knows, stranger things have happened.

Just ask that old wash-up himself, Sylvester Stallone.


Categories: Features

Tags: Broken Arrow, Bullet to the Head, Christian slater, Heathers, Interview With The Vampire, Pump Up the Volume, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, True Romance, Young Guns II