Born into a show business family -- father Michael Hawkins is a stage actor and mother Mary Jo Slater is a casting director -- Christian Slater made his acting debut at age eight after his mother cast him in the television soap opera One Life to Live on a lark. The following year Slater was on Broadway starring opposite Dick Van Dyke in The Music Man. Slater would remain on Broadway for at least two more productions. As a youth, Slater attended Manhattan's Professional Children's School. He made his television debut in the movie Living Proof: The Hank Williams Junior Story (1983) and his film debut two years later when he was only 16 in The Legend of Billy Jean. Slater earned some of his first favorable notice starring opposite Sean Connery in The Name of the Rose (1986). He next appeared in Tucker, a Man and His Dream (1988), and more films followed after that, but Slater did not become a star until he co-starred opposite Winona Ryder in the darkly satirical Heathers in which he played an anarchic sociopath. His maniacal over-the-top performance led to comparisons with Jack Nicholson. After Heathers, it looked as if Slater was destined to be typecast into playing lunatic villains or seriously troubled youths. In the latter regard, life seemed to mirror his art.
In 1989, he was arrested in West Hollywood for leading the police on a drunken car chase that ended when Slater crashed his car into a telephone pole. While trying to escape the car, he kicked a cop with his cowboy boot and then attempted to flee over a fence. In 1994, he was arrested for taking a gun aboard a plane. In 1997, Slater was arrested for attacking his lover and biting a police officer in the belly while drinking heavily; he was sentenced to spend 90 days in a suburban jail in early 1998, all this just one day after his newest film, Hard Rain, premiered. Shortly after sentencing, Slater admitted that he had also been taking cocaine and heroin at the time. As part of his sentence, he had to serve post-jail time in a drug/alcohol rehab program and attend a year-long program on preventing domestic violence.