Cop caper movie Kuffs is the latest stage of the uneasy transition to mainstream star status for 22-year-old screen heart-throb CHRISTIAN SLATER. Trevor Johnston catches up with a young actor high on charm but hardly big on the wit-and-wisdom front.
on want me to tell you about my light-sabre too?’ says Christian Slater. casting a quizzical look on the raggle-taggle mob of journalists assembled before him. He‘s just reached that point in any movie idol’s life where the questions at the press conference start getting tricky. And this is the big one: would he confirm that he does indeed have a Star Wars temple in his bedroom?
It’s at times like this that you begin to have a certain sympathy for the dear chap. The major occupational hazard of teen iconhood after all is having to face the most trivial of interrogations. Do the writers from Big. Just Seventeen and Braindead Pubescent Monthly want to know about working with Sean Connery on The Name of the Rose or starring opposite Winona Ryder in
he’s a game old cove and tries to give almost everyone an answer. Maybe his intelligence is insult-proof, but the whole exercise proved a spectacle ofquite towering inanity, as the merest sample ofthe queries amply suggests.
Now that he‘s growing a beard for his next part, wonders one hackette. does his girlfriend still like kissing him? (‘She says it's like dating a new person.‘)
After he went to see Bambi with his girlfriend recently. she nicknamed him ‘Thumper’ — is that his idea ofa typical date? (‘Any animated feature out there and I‘ll go see it.’)
As a collector of action figures. was it a thrill to have the Will Scarlett doll from the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves merchandising modelled after him? (‘Bigger
‘I can empathise with this character because like most kids I thought I had all the answers beiore I went out there and learned my lessons.’
Heathers? They do not. To be fair to the star,
10 The List 27 March - 9 April 1992
than the Academy Awards. I‘ve about 200 of these little army figures and being able to add myselfto my own collection was really cool.’)
With press coverage like this, it‘s little wonder that so many of Hollywood‘s young tyros struggle to achieve the requisite credibility that’ll land them mature roles. The tension is certainly showing in Slater’s career, for although he made his name in left-field independent movies like Michael Lehman‘s Heathers and Allan Moyle’s Pump Up The Volume, subsequent offerings haven’t quite provided the same forum for the compelling edginess of his no-bullshit screen style to strut its stuff. With the vocal slinkiness of a young Jack Nicholson (a comparison he’s fed up hearing) and the pronounced mannerisms of a junior Peter Falk, Slater is gifted with a much more distinctive presence than many a conventionally suave leading man. but it‘s a shame he hasn‘t quite worked out how to use it yet.
As he talks about his own formative years, you begin to remember that his acting life started in TV soaps at nine years of age, and he had Broadway theatre already under his belt before landing the role opposite Connery in The Name ofthe Rose at fifteen. But aside from admitting his fantasy of cutting a Sinatra-style album of torch songs and regaling us with Connery’s advice on love scenes — ‘Just close your eyes and remember to breathe‘ — the picture on a thousand teenage walls is quite staggeringly inarticulate when it comes to issues of any substance at all. Pushed on the significance
of Heathers in his Hollywood learning curve. all we get is a dispiriting succession of ‘umms‘ and ‘ahhs‘.
In the past year or so. he‘s shot three movies back to back. From a strictly supporting bow in the Costner Robin Hood. he went on to share top-billing in the bloody but rcprehensibly superficial. yoof—marketed mafia saga Mobsters (due a belated UK release in May). before tackling a genuine star vehicle in Kuffs. a San Francisco-set comedy-drama-policier that’s loud. obnoxious and highly pleased with itselfin almost equal measure. This is the film that Slater is in Britain specifically to promote. and while he says his bit about the character— George Kuffs. a rookie law enforcement officer learning the ropes and emerging a more caring human being— it’s hard to believe that he actually likes the damn thing as much as he says he does.
‘I thought of Kuffs as another film like Heathers or like Pump Up The Volume.‘ he reckons. ‘Maybe it‘s not a movie for everybody. as has been proved at the box office, but like most ofthe things I‘ve done, I made it for me. This guy George Kuffs starts off as an irresponsible loner. but his attitude changes and he starts to deal with life a little bit more seriously. I can empathise with this character because like most kids I thought I had all the answers before I went out there and learned my lessons.‘ '
K ufjs opens throughout Scotland on Friday 3 April.
THE FILMS OF CHRISTIAN SLATER
The Name oi the Rose (1986) The Legend oi Billie Jean (1986) Tucker (1988)
Gleaming the Cube (1988)
Tales From The Darkslde (1990) Pump Up The Volume (1990)
Young Guns II (1990)
Robin Hood: Prince oi Thieves (1991) Mobsters (1991)