1977–1989: Early success
Slater started acting from an early age. His first television role was at the age of eight on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live. Following a run on Ryan’s Hope, he made his Broadway debut as the lisping Winthrop Paroo opposite Dick Van Dyke in the 1980 revival of The Music Man. Additional Broadway credits include Copperfield, Merlin, Macbeth, Side Man, and The Glass Menagerie. In addition he has performed in London’s West End in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Swimming With Sharks. Slater made his big screen debut in 1985’s The Legend of Billie Jean, playing Billie Jean’s brother Binx. Though expected to be a big hit, the film fell short at the box office. It has gained a cult following. His career improved with his role in The Name of the Rose (1986) alongside Sean Connery. Slater played Connery’s apprentice monk while they investigated a series of murders at a Benedictine abbey. Slater followed this by playing Junior Tucker in Francis Ford Coppola’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) stared in Gleaming the Cube and appeared in Beyond the Stars (both 1989). At the age of 19, Slater played the dark character J.D. in the 1989 film Heathers alongside Winona Ryder. Heathers was billed as the teen film of 1989. (It was later adapted as a musical in 2014, and was highly successful.) Slater beat out many other actors such as Brad Pitt for the part, and his performance drew comparison with a young Jack Nicholson. After Heathers, Slater had offers to play more troubled youths, including as a rebellious teen in Pump Up the Volume (1990) and a wild gunman in Young Guns II (1990), in which Slater acted alongside Emilio Estevez and Kiefer Sutherland.
1990–1999: Box office success
In 1991, Slater was cast as Will Scarlett in the Hollywood big budget production of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves alongside Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman and Alan Rickman. The film was a commercial success, taking US$390 million worldwide, and Slater became one of the major A-list stars of the 1990s. With Slater being a big Star Trek fan (in addition to his mother, Mary Jo Slater, serving as the casting director for the film), he accepted a cameo role in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, shortly after playing Charlie Luciano in the crime drama Mobsters. The following year he starred in Kuffs. In 1993, Slater tried to expand his film genre, playing opposite Marisa Tomei in Untamed Heart and playing Clarence Worley in True Romance, written by Quentin Tarantino, which received many rave reviews. In his review of True Romance, Roger Ebert awarded the movie 3 stars out of 4 and said, “the energy and style of the movie are exhilarating. Christian Slater has the kind of cocky recklessness the movie needs.” He gained the role of the interviewer Daniel Molloy in Interview with the Vampire (1994) after the death of his friend River Phoenix, who was originally cast. Slater subsequently donated his earnings from the film to Phoenix’s favorite charities. He played the character of Lewis in the romance film Bed of Roses in 1996 opposite Mary Stuart Masterson then that of Riley Hale in the big-budget John Woo film Broken Arrow (1996), which also starred John Travolta. In 1998 Slater appeared in Hard Rain alongside Morgan Freeman. The same year he also starred in the comedy Very Bad Things opposite Cameron Diaz.
2000–present: Television roles, Mr. Robot
Since 2000 Slater has mixed TV work with leading roles in mainly lower budget films, along with supporting roles in a few mainstream productions. He appeared in the successful The West Wing and Alias TV series. He was also part of Hollywood films, including Bobby and 3000 Miles to Graceland. He has also worked as a voice-over artist in productions, including the character of ‘Pips’ in the successful Australian animated film FernGully: The Last Rainforest, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, and TV documentaries, including Prehistoric Planet and Dinosaur Planet. Slater also voiced the character John Watson a.k.a. “Wonko the Sane” in BBC Radio 4’s production of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Slater starred in the television series My Own Worst Enemy in 2008 and The Forgotten in 2009. In 2011 he co-starred in the action film The River Murders, with Ray Liotta and Ving Rhames. Also in 2011, he starred in the television series, Breaking In, which ran for two seasons. Slater co-starred with Ving Rhames in the film Soldiers of Fortune (2012), and in the Sylvester Stallone action thriller Bullet to the Head (2013), directed by Walter Hill. He co-starred in the 2014 television series, Mind Games, which was cancelled after five episodes were aired. He was part of the ensemble in Lars von Trier’s controversial film, Nymphomaniac. In October 2014, Slater signed on for his title role in the television series on USA Network Mr. Robot. Slater plays a computer hacker, “Mr. Robot,” who recruits Rami Malek’s character, Elliot, into Slater’s band of hackers called fsociety. The series premiered on June 24, 2015 and concluded in 2019 with its fourth season. For his performance, he earned the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film in 2016, with additional nominations in 2017 and 2018. Prior to beginning his role in Mr. Robot, Slater announced in 2013 that he was developing and making a film based on Will Viharo’s 1993 neo-noir novel Love Stories Are Too Violent for Me, the first of three works to feature Vic Valentine. However, the success of Mr. Robot and contracts for additional seasons has delayed his being able to develop his adaptation. Slater voices the character “Slater” on the FX original series Archer. He also provided the voice of Ushari the Egyptian Cobra in The Lion Guard. He also made a short film for HP called The Wolf, which shows how easily malware can spread on unprotected printers and computers. In 2018, Christian Slater appeared in The Public, the latest film by Emilio Estevez. At the world premiere of the film at the Toronto Film Festival, Slater discussed his role, Josh Davis, with Ikon London Magazine: “He (Josh Davis) is definitely the character in the movie who represents that side of politics where he is not as open-hearted as you’d like him to be. He is definitely the guy who feels this is all a mess. And he is a law and order politician in this movie. So hopefully, he is the kind of guy you love to hate“.