DETAILS: After a couple of failed shows, you're returning to television in the FOX comedy Breaking In. Is the third time the charm?
Christian Slater: That's what we hope. [Laughs] I like to work. I'm like the Michael Caine of this side of the pond. I like feeling useful and productive. Hopefully it's a passable script. Jobs are few and far between these days, so I'm just grateful for the opportunities. I have children and responsibilities now.
DETAILS: Quitting drinking and drugs must have really changed your priorities.
Christian Slater: The last five years of my life have been great. Really different. I just celebrated five years of sobriety. I've been trying to take time for myself and to be with my kids. I went to Africa and ended up building schools there. I went on a USO tour to Bahrain and Djibouti. I went to Walter Reed hospital. These aren't things I ever considered doing.
DETAILS: No, these are not things people associate with Christian Slater.
Christian Slater: Look, I could spend a lot of time kicking the shit out of myself for the choices I made. I was dealing with alcoholism and addiction, and there was a lot to take on without much life experience. Addiction is not pretty, and you don't fully understand it unless you're dealing with it head-on. That's why when I see other kids struggling, I will sometimes reach out to them—a call or an e-mail.
DETAILS: Really? Did you reach out to Lindsay Lohan?
Christian Slater: Sure, of course. I appreciated the people who reached out to me. It's a brutal position to be in. You feel alone and confused over where your life went and how you got yourself in this situation.
DETAILS: On Breaking In, you lead a team of young hackers. What kind of relationship do you have with kids on the show? Have you ever sat them down and said, "Okay, this is how things are going to play out"?
Christian Slater: No, no, no. I don't meddle. I mean, if there was a problem, and I needed to sit somebody down and say, "Hey, dude, look: Maybe try going down this path as opposed to that one . . ." But I haven't had that experience.
DETAILS: In 1997, you were convicted of assaulting your girlfriend and a cop. What was jail like?
Christian Slater: Honestly, not so bad. Jail was a result of me not taking time for myself. So I was forced to take some time for myself. [Laughs ] It was necessary for me. When you're going down that path, you either kill yourself or you're forced to take time out.
DETAILS: In the nineties, you and River Phoenix were friends and seemed to be on the same path. Do you ever wonder why he didn't make it and you did?
Christian Slater : All the time. I've had a couple of close calls, actually. The Crow, the Brandon Lee movie, was on my radar. A lot of people I've loved have died. A lot have been misunderstood, misdiagnosed, mistreated. Chris Farley. River Phoenix. Addiction is a killer. And it takes so much to recognize the problem.
DETAILS: What was your rock bottom?
Christian Slater: It wasn't a specific thing. Probably one of those crazy nights when you wake up on the floor, your mother is standing over you, and she has to take you to the hospital. It's humiliating. Or when you have to talk to your children through thick glass. I did One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest on stage twice, and the first time I was a lunatic. I hit that wall, and in the back of my mind I knew I was doomed. Thankfully, I was able to do the play again once I got sober.
DETAILS: Was there a spiritual aspect to your recovery?
Christian Slater: I'm not a religious person by any means. But I certainly believe in some kind of a higher power and something looking out for me. I've definitely had angels that have either guided me or helped me through moments in my life, without a doubt.
DETAILS: Was it tough to cut ties with the people who fueled your lifestyle?
Christian Slater: No. All you're doing is escaping together.
DETAILS: You come from a showbiz family and started acting when you were 7, when your mom suggested you for a role on the soap opera One Life to Live. Do you regret starting so early?
Christian Slater: No. My dad was a theater actor, so I would follow him backstage. And my mom was a casting director. The moment I heard the applause and realized it would get me out of school, I was hooked. I did regret not graduating high school, but I made a point of going back and getting my GED later. It was important for my kids. Then I got involved with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and their program to encourage graduation. Now I'm an ambassador for education. [Laughs]
DETAILS: You've done a bunch of great movies and a bunch of bad ones. Can you tell if they're good or bad when you're doing them?
Christian Slater: Did I have any idea that Heathers would be a good movie? No. Pump Up the Volume? Yeah, I had an idea. I like that one.
DETAILS: There was a Heathers musical staged last year in New York. Did they approach you?
Christian Slater: The producer wanted me to come to the read-through, but I missed it. I heard it was really, really good. They're thinking of doing something on Broadway. I don't think I'd be in it. It'd be some kid playing me.
DETAILS: Are you in contact with Winona Ryder at all? Did you see her in Black Swan?
Christian Slater: No, not yet. I've always loved her, and I always wanted to work with her again. It's great she's doing well. Agents were sometimes like, "Oh, she's crazy" or whatever, but I'm like, "What?" I worked with her. She's great.
DETAILS: Back in the day, you had a reputation for dating some of the hottest women in town—Samantha Mathis, Christy Turlington, Winona.
Christian Slater: I don't know what to say about that. Shit, I don't know what to say about that. It's a crazy town, and actors are nuts. It falls under the category of addictive behavior. I was just transferring that to women. Now I transfer it to Nicorette gum—I've been chewing that for six years.