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Christian Slater talks about playing a father in Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac'

On March 13, 2014 Examiner Dorri Olds had the opportunity to sit down with Christian Slater who plays a loving father to Joe in Lars von Trier's "Nymphomaniac."

Stacy Martin and Christian Slater
Stacy Martin and Christian Slater
Dorri Olds

Dorri Olds: How did you land this role?

Christian Slater: My agent Darren Boghosian was doing some kind of agenty-lecture thing in Denmark. He drove out to Lars’s studio and met with them. He threw my name out there and people said, “Oh, that’s definitely not a name we would’ve thought of to play the father but that’s interesting.” Then they wanted to see what I look like now and see if I looked old enough to play a father. So I did use a little trick. I used my wife’s makeup, put dark circles under my eyes and sent them a photo and they said, “Oh, yeah. He looks sickly enough. We can do this.”

Did they send flowers too?

[Laughs] Yeah and they said, “We better get him now before he…” And that was it. I was very, very happy. Thrilled that my name was thrown into it because it’s definitely not the kind of part people had seen me in and wouldn’t necessarily think of me in but I thought it was a special part and I was thrilled. I was really happy and very surprised. To get the opportunity to work with somebody like Lars was equally exciting and I was scared and trepidacious

Would you have automatically said yes to any part Lars wanted you to play?

I really somehow was so excited about working with him I said yes when all I knew was that I was going to play Joe’s father. And then I got the script and it was very daunting and dense and I thought, okay, now I’m in this and I have to learn about trees and I wondering how it was going to work and then, my goodness, there’s the hospital scene.

Was it intimidating meeting him?

The first time I met Lars was in Cologne, Germany where we shot some of it. He invited me to dinner and it was just the two of us and we had a great conversation and he was just so phenomenally down to earth and I felt immediately safe and comfortable with him. I just thought I’d do anything for this guy.

Was there any adlibbing?

I wouldn’t say there was so much adlibbing but in the script there would be a line, “Father falls out of the bed.” We were given a lot of freedom, a lot of room to create. One of the wonderful things I remember is I had this speech about trees and I think being an actor in Hollywood it’s just about let’s get the day and you go, oh boy, we’ve got a big speech. Let’s get the day and all the pages that we’re supposed to get. That is what it tends to be about. But this was about getting the moments. It was wonderful for me to get to shift gears and be told to slow down, take it easy, we’re not going anywhere. Nobody else wants to be anywhere else and there’s nothing else that we’re doing right now. There’s no other party we need to be at so we can just allow ourselves to be in the moment and not feel rushed and just take our time and get it.

Click here for Part II