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The Face January 1995

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THE FACE- January 1995

Interviewer: Steven Daly

Slater is as relaxed as you'll ever see him, having been off duty since completing his 21st film earlier this year. Based on a true story from 1938, Murder in the First sees him playing an idealistic young lawyer defending a wrongly-accused Kevin Bacon. This sounds like the kind of grown-up role that could help Slater narrow the gulf between his talent and the material he works with. It could well be that the next phase of his career involves playing a different kind of outsider, like the slow-witted romantic who falls for Marisa Tomei in 1992's Untamed Heart.

"That was one of the huge motivating factors in doing Murder in the First," Slater says.

"When I read the script, both the convict and lawyer roles were available. I figured I'd played enough of these offbeat characters, it was time for something more mature. And this is a very mature character., someone with good values who fights for what's right. I enjoyed that - I have been on a moralistic high lately. There have been a series of events that have caused me to question a lot of things. I have to be hit over the head hard, and I'm lucky to have been hit. I've learned a lot of things about women, life, relationships."

"Alcatraz was hideous," says Slater. "Three weeks on an island with nothing accessible; difficult scenes; 17, 18 hour days that were gruelling and harrowing. The extras were clanging tin cups against the bars, all that stuff."

Ironically after all these years, the Nicholson comparison turns out to be off the mark. According to Slater, the main inspiration for his screen persona was actually his father, from whom he was estranged during many of his formative years. "A lot of my mannerisms come from my dad," he says. "He's a pretty wacky guy - people should understand that all that stuff in Heathers , that whole character, is really him."

"There was a time when I felt I should do everything that was offered to me, you know, ride the wave," Slater says of the numerous dogs that litter his filmography. "And I definitely did some movies where I knew there were problems with the script, films that I probably won't keep on video. I'm a very rough critic of myself and my work. I haven't done it for a long time, but a person who smashes up videos of his own movies is obviously hard on himself. Sometimes I feel older than I am - I forget I am only 25, and that you have to make your share of mistakes in life. You can't go putting yourself on a pedestal."

"Speed , for instance, threw a lot of ideas I had about working with new directors," he says. "It made me realise that there is no secret, no method to the business. True Romance had so many fantastic elements - I just don't know what happened, what went wrong. I can promote until I am blue in the face, but ultimately nobody knows what makes a hit. I want to do films I can relate to emotionally. If one of my movies hits, fine, but I'll never know till it comes out. I've been in small successes that proved I have talent; for me it's never been about the box office. I'm not looking for the quick score. Anyway, I don't necessarily envy the position Keanu is in right now - he has to follow up a huge hit. That's hell."

Everything, Slater reports cheerfully, is going well on the new movie, directed by first-timer Michael Goldenburg and co-starring Mary Stuart Masterson. Even better, Interview with the Vampire has come very close to the $40 million in opening weekend takings Slater had predicted. Word has it that Tom Cruise and Anne Rice have both already signed on for a sequel to the movie - would Slater follow?

"Never. Never again! There you go, there's a good line for you," he chortles. "No, of course I would be glad to work with them again. I've got some pretty interesting ideas about how I'd play a vampire."

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