"There was a rebellious part of me that wanted to show I just didn't care," Christian Slater tells Esquire from his home in Manhattan. The actor is not talking about his well-documented path from Eighties/Nineties breakout star (Heathers, True Romance) to Hollywood exile — more on which later — but fashion: "I look back on all those Hawaiian shirts and T-shirts with dumb stuff written on them now and just think, 'Oh, man…' I guess I wanted to show I didn't take clothes seriously but, of course, that was making a ridiculous statement in itself."
These days, the 46-year-old takes far more care over things, whether it's getting dressed or the acting career he almost lost. After going through the classic "hell-raiser" phase in his twenties, Slater spent the first decade of the new millennium struggling for quality roles and making straight-to-video films. Then, in 2015, along came Mr Robot.
The Amazon Prime original drama follows a socially awkward cyber-security engineer who is recruited by Slater's eponymous character into a group of digital anarchists plotting to wipe out the planet's debt. As well as portraying the world of hacking in a way that isn't embarrassing for the first time in history — quite the opposite, Mr Robot has been lauded for its accuracy, and plot lines have proven eerily prescient more than once — the show earned Slater a Golden Globe, the final seal on his professional comeback.
"He's great fun to play," Slater says of the diatribe-prone rebel who has drawn more than one comparison with Brad Pitt's character in Fight Club (minus, sadly, the red leather jacket). "But the best bit is that people have really identified with the show. The internet is a wonderful thing, but in the wrong hands it can become a dangerous weapon. Snowden… the Sony leaks… issues of online security are in the public consciousness now. When it's something mentioned in the president's State of the Union address you know you're onto something."
Having completed his version of the great Hollywood rehabilitation, Slater is enjoying life but with the strict caveat he no longer takes anything for granted. "So far, so good," is how he describes his approach at the moment, before mentioning his personal mantra.
"I have this ring that I wear all the time that I twirl around on my fingers if I ever feel uncomfortable," he says. "It has 'This too will pass' inscribed on it. That's a very powerful statement to me. It means if you're having a good moment enjoy it, because it won't last. And if you're in a bad moment hang in there, because it won't last, either."
MR. ROBOT is a USA Network original series.