Rita: The most logical place to start is to ask, why a book on Christian Slater?
Nigel: I always thought he would make an interesting subject for a biography. It is always exciting to do a book on someone who has never been done before, and as there had never been any books previously available on Christian, I thought the timing was perfect, especially as Christian was having such remarkable success in Cuckoos Nest at the time the book was commissioned.
Rita: Was the title Back from the Edge your idea?
Nigel: It was a joint effort by my publisher, my editor and me. We all liked the title instantly so there was never a short list of other possibles or alternatives.
Rita: Was there any part of the book or chapter that you enjoyed writing most?
Nigel: The Heathers chapter as I call it, which in the book is titled Lethal Attraction, which was another title given to the film in some countries of its international release. It was actually the first chapter I worked on or put together simply because I had written about it previously in my biography of Winona Ryder. I was very familiar with the film, and since my Ryder book, a lot of documentary material had come to light that made it a must to re-write, so it was kind of fun to re-explore the movie and to write about it more in-depth and in a completely different way. The challenge of re-writing something like that is to tell it in a different way, and at the same time, cover new ground. Otherwise there is no point in retelling it. What is nice about this telling is the never before told story of a stage version of the film that was put on by one of Winona’s former high schools in Petaluma, and got banned – so the whole story of Heathers now has this really, very nice, kind of little footnote, because what was going on behind the scenes of getting the play put on is almost as controversial as how the film was received on its original release.
Rita: Did you interview Christian for the book, or did he co-operate with it in any way?
Nigel: No. I asked Christian via the London production company of Cuckoos Nest if he may be interested in co-operating with me on the book, but I was told he would prefer not to as he was apparently thinking about writing his own autobiography. But whether he will or not now, I don’t know. In my letter to him, I clarified that my aim was to write a book that fairly and accurately summed up his life and career so far, and with his help, I could produce a biography of the highest order, which would put paid to any plans other authors and publishers might be making to write a cheap ‘cut and paste’ or sensational biography, which is something that I have no interest in whatsoever. I told him, I was intending to write a serious biography, which would evaluate his professional and personal life insofar as they are related.
Rita: Do you think Christian will read it?
Nigel: Well, he has asked for a copy through the London production office of Cuckoos Nest, and his next West End play Sweet Bird of Youth, so hopefully, yes he will read it once he’s got it, which should be about the same time as this interview goes online.
Rita: Can you give us a rundown on the book?
Nigel: Yes. It is about 70,000 words, 300 pages, has two 8-page picture sections, and a filmography appendix. The text covers Christian’s life and career from his birth to the present.
Rita: Was it difficult to research and properly cover such a long career?
Nigel: It could have been if I hadn’t had the help of all those mentioned in my acknowledgements of the book. I had a great research team; I had someone in New York coming up with info on Christian’s schools, someone else in Canada finding me some really obscure articles about Christian’s childhood, and in the UK, my regular researcher helping me out on everything else. I was also lucky enough to talk to some journalists who had interviewed Christian, one of his former high school teachers and most of those involved with the Petaluma stage version of Heathers. Probably the most time-consuming part was the filmography, which is always swings and roundabouts when deciding which is the best way to do it, but I am really pleased with the one that we have in the book. I think it also helped that I had some really great help from the British Film Institute with all sorts of stuff. And as I say, without those people, the book would have been a lot harder to complete. And of course, I had a couple of very good friends that kept me sane during the actual writing process!
Rita: Do you have a favourite Christian Slater movie?
Nigel: Apart from Heathers, you mean? Yes, I would say Pump up the Volume although it is always difficult to choose a favourite from a body of someone’s work like Christian’s, because there are so many good ones to choose from. Broken Arrow, True Romance, Very Bad Things and Hard Rain – they are all favourites.
Rita: Did you see Cuckoos Nest – and if so what did you think?
Nigel: Yes, I went about a week before Christmas. I was in London filming an interview for a television documentary, so it was perfect timing for me to go and see the play – as part of my research for the book. I was blown away by the production and blown away by Christian’s performance. It is always great to see a Hollywood movie star on the London stage, especially Christian. I just thought ‘hey, this is the guy who was in Heathers, the guy who was in the Winona Ryder movie.’ I remember calling my daughter in the interval to tell her how exciting and thrilling it was to watch Christian live on stage, because of our mutual love for the film. I think she was just as excited as I was by just listening to me rave on about seeing him!