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Movie Magazine April 1996

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MOVIE MAGAZINE April '96 (Australia Only)

The truth is that Slater has always been a professional, even if he has had his share of problems getting used to the pitfalls of fame. It's been a long steady climbs to his present status. At an age where actors are just getting their first breaks he's a veteran of 24 film roles, stretching back to his screen debut at 16 in The Legend of Billie Jean. His current status is not that of an overnight sensation. The likeable young actor has paid his dues since he first stepped on a stage at age nine in a Broadway musical.

"How do I feel about being a star now? Well I still try to live life and enjoy what I am doing," he says, giving of one of his distinctive throaty laughs. "As you get older you learn some balance and mediation in your life - that's where I am right now. I feel pretty comfortable about things."

If things are more settled in his personal life, it's probably reflected in the rapid strides he has made as an actor in the past few years. His breakthrough role was in Heathers i n 1989, followed in 1990 by the teen rebellion hit Pump Up The Volume. But it was his performance in Quentin Tarantino's dark and violent love story True Romance two years ago which made Hollywood really sit up and take notice. Since then Slater's done a straight romantic lead role in Untamed Heart, covered for River Phoenix in Interview With the Vampire, starred in the drama Murder in the First, played it gentle in Bed of Roses and is now starring in his long desired John Woo action thriller Broken Arrow. Slater has high hopes for this new film.

Woo made his reputation in Hong Kong doing violent formula productions like Hard Boiled, and Broken Arrow is his first major Hollywood production. Slater plays a pilot of a secret stealth bomber who finds himself pitted against a rogue fellow pilot (played by John Travolta), intent on stealing a nuclear bomb.

"I was always such an incredible fan of John Woo, I just wanted to do this film with him," says Slater. "This is such an action-packed rollercoaster ride I think people are really going to get into it."

Getting the opportunity to work alongside the oh-so-hot John Travolta was an added bonus. "I just loved working with him, he's such a sweet man. He has a great sense of humour and he doesn't take life too seriously. I just loved that. He'd be singing these songs from Grease on the set, it was just fun to be around him."

With much of the film on location in the Northern Arizona desert, the shoot itself was physically demanding, he admits.

"It was real tricky filming in the desert, these incredible sandstorms would come up and we'd all have to take shelter. It was pretty brutal at times because you couldn't keep your eyes open when all this dust was flying."

There was also little of the after work socialising that often takes place on a film set. "It was certainly quiet out there on location, there was really nothing to do at night. By the end of each day's shooting I was so exhausted anyway because it was gruelling, physical role - I was usually ready to sleep when we'd finished."

Woo has a reputation for stylish violence in his films, and Broken Arrow has its share of carefully choreographed actions scenes. The film opens with Slater and Travolta trading viscious blows in a boxing ring and, in fact, most of the plot centres on the confrontation between the two pilots, with Slater the heroic figure and Travolta in the unfamiliar role of "bad guy" (with a few likeable moments thrown in!). Slater says he doesn't personally have any problem with violent scenes in films.

"Art does imitate life, it has to come from somewhere. To put boundaries and limitations on it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. The extreme always seems to make an impression. The way I see it, if you're going to make an action movie, you've got to make one with John Woo."

Beyond Broken Arrow Slater has no current plans for another film, but he's not short of offers. Having reached a certain level in Hollywood he has the luxury of being able to pick and choose. His most recent films have lent his career a diversity of roles that allow him the freedom to try different characters.

"I feel I have a lot of options. I don't see I have fans who expect me to be in a particulare category. I see all kinds of people who might get excited that I may be in a particular movie. There's definitely still that insecurity about finding good new material, but I suppose my biggest fear now is not being happy.

"Right now I don't have anything on my plate, I'm just taking it easy. I'm planning a trip to Europe," he says. "In truth, making films doesn't feel like hard work because I always have such a good time doing it. When I'm not working I'll relax at home watching movies or go on America On-Line (as US internet chat line), do something like that."

At some stage he says he may take up an offer his co-star Samantha Mathis gave him at the Broken Arrow wrap party - free flying lessons.

"John and I talked about my getting my pilot's licence while we were making the movie and Samantha gave me this gift of free flying hours. I'll use them eventually."

The actor says he has no plans to leave Los Angeles because he likes being in the heart of the film industry. Slater grew up in New York, the son of a Broadway actor (Michael Gainsborough) and attended the Professional Children's School, but now he's a very much transplanted Californian.

"I pretty much reside here, it's been good to me. I like being in Los Angeles in the position I'm in now. I'm pretty secluded at home, but who knows, some day it may get to me and I'll do what everybody else does and move to Montana."

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