By Robert Isenberg
Special to MSN TV
How do you describe a guy like Christian Slater? He's a talented actor, a former teenage idol and a thrice-arrested hothead. His career is all over the Hollywood map. He's tried every kind of role, every genre of movie, and when his efforts go straight-to-DVD, he trudges into another project, eager to prove himself once more.
Maybe it's some kind of inner fire that makes him so tireless. Maybe it's because the man still looks 28. Whatever the case, Slater has made the slow transfer from film to television, and the man is about due for a renaissance.
As unpredictable as ever, Slater stars this week in the new FOX comedy "Breaking In." And because Slater's latest project (a prime-time sitcom?) is such a startling turn of events, we at MSN TV figured it was high time to look back on the peculiar life of Christian Slater. "Breaking In" premieres Wednesday, April 6, at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.
1969: Slater is born in New York, the son of an actor and an acting agent.
1970s and early '80s: As a child actor, Slater cuts his teeth on Broadway and soap operas. He is successful onstage, but he remains obscure until his big-screen break, "The Legend of Billie Jean," in 1985.
1986: Slater co-stars in "The Name of the Rose," a medieval mystery, alongside Sean Connery. He is selected from an enormous audition pool of teenage actors. The film bombs at the box office, but Slater finds traction for his career.
1989: After a haphazard series of movie roles, Slater co-stars with Winona Ryder in "Heathers," the story of a boy, a girl, three girls named Heather, and an attempt to blow up their high school. (Back when high school violence was hilarious). "Heathers" receives lukewarm reviews, but the film goes on to become one of the most revered cult classics of all time.
1989: Slater is sentenced to 10 days in prison for DUI and assault.
1990: Although he wasn't one of the original stars of "Young Guns," Slater ends up in "Young Guns II" as "Arkansas" Dave Rudabaugh. Like his co-stars Kiefer Sutherland, Emilio Estevez and William Petersen, Slater is catapulted into superstardom at an early age -- and like so many young celebrities, Slater faces a rocky road.
1991: Slater appears as Will Scarlet in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" opposite Kevin Costner. Instead of the good-humored minstrel of yore, Slater's Scarlet is ornery and vengeful, and he's Robin Hood's long-lost brother.
1991: Trekkies are surprised by the appearance of Slater, in a tiny cameo, in "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country." While the role is nondescript, it revealed Slater as a lifelong "Star Trek" fan.
1992: His celebrity cemented, Slater provides the voice for Pips, a forest fairy in "FernGully." While Slater receives little credit for his voiceover work, this animated feature begins a long series of voicing gigs, from "Jimmy Neutron" to "Robot Chicken."
1993: "Untamed Heart" gives Slater his most appealing role: the ordinary guy who is a hopeless romantic but also kind of a mess. Slater and Marisa Tomei share the screen in this brooding little love story.
1993: In one of his most authentic performances, Slater plays Clarence Worley in "True Romance." Worley is a comic book buff who falls in love with a call girl and murders her pimp. They run off to California, chased by drug-dealers, and everything ends in a gun battle. Quentin Tarantino's script shows Slater at his finest: youthful, headstrong, slightly nerdy, and completely out of control.
1994: Slater is arrested for trying to board a plane with a firearm.
1994: Slater co-stars in "Interview With the Vampire" -- not as a heartthrob or action hero, but as the chain-smoking journalist who interviews Brad Pitt. The role is originally given to River Phoenix, a close friend of Slater's, but Slater substitutes in the wake of Phoenix's suicide.
1997: Slater is arrested for assault on his girlfriend and on a police officer. He is sentenced to three months in prison and undergoes extended treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.
2000: Slater marries journalist and producer Ryan Haddon. After five years and two children, Haddon and Slater separate.
2002: What begins as a role on "Alias" becomes an entire side career in TV. While Slater's recent movie career has been a rollercoaster of small successes, big failures and meager cameos, the actor has appeared in all kinds of TV series. The small-screen renaissance gives him a full range of roles: a determined Navy officer in "The West Wing," a washed-up stoner in "My Name Is Earl" and, well, himself in "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
2007: In an awkward turn, Slater plays a disturbed office worker in "He Was a Quiet Man." Balding, bespectacled and completely anti-social, Slater's character dreams of killing his co-workers in an act of mass murder. Like many of his recent films ("Hollow Man 2," "Dolan's Cadillac"), "He Was a Quiet Man" goes mostly unnoticed, though many critics hail him for his uncharacteristic performance.
2007: Slater announces that he is still in love with Winona Ryder, ever since they shared the screen in "Heathers."
2008: Slater finally earns a solid lead role, in "My Own Worst Enemy," about a man with two warring identities (nice-guy consultant, superagent with a license to kill). The fun premise doesn't win audiences, and "Enemy" is canceled after one season.
2009: The same goes for "The Forgotten," an ABC series about vigilante crime solvers trying to track down missing people. "The Forgotten" is quickly shelved.
2011: Pranksters on Twitter try to convince the world that Slater was tragically killed in a snowboarding accident. The hoax causes mass confusion, and Slater must officially announce that he is still alive.
2011: Slater stars in "Breaking In," billed as his first comedy series. The role of Oz is, in a way, perfect for the 42-year-old star: a reptilian manager who oversees a bunch of genius computer hackers. No longer the young romantic lead, Slater eases comfortably into middle-age. He may not be the show's main character, but he is the boss.
"Breaking In" premieres Wednesday, April 6, at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.
Robert Isenberg is a writer and actor. His book, "The Archipelago," was released in January.