Before playing a vengeful divorcee or the figment of someone's imagination, Christian Slater was the voice for angst-ridden Gen-X teens in 1990's Pump Up the Volume, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in August. Slater tells EW that his character, Mark, the loner pirate radio host, is his favorite role he's played in his career, and he even has a specific scene that encapsulates the very reason why.
"That's my favorite movie to this day. Look, I love the character. I think that there is a depth to that movie that still obviously resonates today," the Mr. Robot actor, who is currently starring on Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story, says.
Pump Up the Volume starred Slater as an Arizona high schooler alongside actors Scott Paulin, Ellen Greene, and Samantha Mathis. It was directed by Allan Moyle (1995's Empire Records). The story focuses on an outsider in society who begins to gain popularity after he starts a pirate radio broadcast in his parent's basement. (For those who are too young to have owned a radio, just imagine a live podcast or Twitch stream.)
Mark gets mail from listeners who want to go on air after his no-BS style of talking catches on. In one scene in particular, there's a kid named Malcolm who writes in desperate for advice. He's set on suicide. Mark, who now prides himself on speaking directly to the disaffected, calls him up.
"Maybe it's okay to be alone sometimes," Mark begins to say. "I sit alone every day sitting in the stairwell eating my lunch or reading a book."
Slater says the topic of suicide and mental health issues were rarely spoken of at the time of the film. Pump Up the Volume wanted to change that. "The way he responded with compassion to this kid who was really on the verge of suicide, at that particular moment, it wasn't being addressed or handled in any particular way," he remembers. Slater sees the compassion Mark had for Malcolm as a way of showing how to accept rather than ignore our mental health problems, especially if you're rewatching in a time like today. "The way the world is going, it's extraordinarily frustrating," Slater says.
Pump Up the Volume is currently available to rent, but it's nowhere to be found on a streamer. Slater says it's in part due to the soundtrack-heavy nature of the film, which featured songs like "Everybody Knows" by Leonard Cohen, "Heretic" by Soundgarden and "Titanium Exposé" by Sonic Youth.
"You can never really introduce that movie to the next generation because they were never able to saddle up on music rights," Slater says.
Slater followed up Pump Up the Volume with roles in Young Guns II and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.