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Christian Slater explains how Val Kilmer inspired Allegash in 'Willow'
"I feel like Val projected something into the Allagash character."
From the moment Christian Slater was introduced at 2022's D23 Expo as a mysterious addition to the Willow series, now streaming on Disney+, the presumption was that he would be taking over the film role of Madmartigan, once played by Val Kilmer (who lost his voice due to complications from throat cancer). The reveal of whom Slater was really playing was a secret, though, locked down all the way to the airing of Episode 6, "Prisoners of Skellin," when the actor was revealed as Allagash, the quest-mate of Madmartigan and Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel) in their journey to find the legendary armor called the Kymerian Cuirass.
As it turns out, "Prisoners of Skellin" ended up being a one-shot for Slater as his character seemingly sacrificed himself to the trolls of Skellin so that Willow (Warwick Davis), Elora (Ellie Bamber), Kit (Ruby Cruz), and company could escape. This week, the Season 1 finale of Willow aired with no sign or mention of Allagash, so SYFY WIRE got Slater on a Zoom today to ask about his high fantasy adventure episode, a moment that brought the actor full circle with Val Kilmer's character, and even the odds of the recently canceled Netflix series Inside Job finding a new home.
Warning: There are spoilers below for Season 1 of Willow
Willow series creator Jon Kasdan said recently that he envisioned your character as someone who would have appeared in a never-made Madmartigan spin-off movie. Was that his direct pitch to you when he asked to you play Allagash?
Well, I know that he had a whole history for the characters. Allagash was a guy who was certainly unpredictable and a little outrageous. Val and I have a real history of performing together, so that was a nice aspect and element to it. I absolutely love and adore Val Kilmer. I think he's the greatest, so all of those aspects were a lot of fun. The Madmartigan character was so offbeat and so colorful that I think Allagash is the type of character that Madmartigan would have attracted into his universe. Just these two nuts running around causing havoc, finding treasures, and going off on all kinds of crazy adventures seemed great. And then you put a character like Allagash in a crow's cage for 10 years, and that's really going to drive him nuts and put him over the top. So, there was a lot of freedom there which was part of that pitch that Jon gave me. As an actor, I love the idea of getting to create a character from the ground up, certainly with a lot of freedom.
You were acting in George Lucas' orbit around the time Ron Howard and Lucas made Willow. Do you remember if your name was bandied about at all for a place in that film?
At the time, I believe I was in San Francisco and working on Tucker: A Man and His Dream. And that was Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas and just all these phenomenal people. I do remember they had a big screening of Willow and we all went, It was very exciting. Then we all went to Skywalker Ranch afterward. I was a 16-year-old kid wandering the hallways of George Lucas's mansion, and Skywalker Ranch, opening doors and seeing the props from Star Wars. I was looking at the chess table from the Millennium Falcon in his office. It was very hard to not have sticky fingers. [Laughs.]
What was your process once you were cast in the Willow series? Did a rewatch feel necessary?
I definitely watched the movie again. I just wanted to be reminded of the kind of energy that it had. It's so charming. And it did, by the end, make me think, "Oh, I'd like to know what happened with Elora Danan and see what would happen to Willow. And what's going on with Madmartigan? Can we have further adventures and introduce and create new characters?" It was a show about unexpected heroes, rising to the occasion and showing up and saving the day. Those are fun stories to get to be a part of and fun stories to tell.
Since Allagash was a Madmartigan guy on the road, how did you infuse some of his mentor's traits in your Allagash performance, but also make sure he was his own man?
Yeah, that was the idea. Obviously, no one is ever going to fill the shoes of Madmartigan or Val Kilmer, so that was something we immediately put aside. I liked the twist aspect of it, that you're not quite sure which direction we were gonna go. I know when certain people were watching the show, they were like, "Oh, he said he's Madmartigan. What did they do, recast?!" Of course, the story unfolds and we find out what's really going on. I thought that was handled in a very clever way.
But I definitely felt all throughout, certainly the episode I was involved with, that Val Kilmer's spirit was very, very prominent. There were even some things that happened organically. You know, like in the movie when Val Kimler has that great moment with the sword when he falls on his ass? It's an iconic moment. I feel like Val projected something into the Allagash character because when I'm skipping down the hallway, singing my song about, "I'm free," I had my slip and fell and fell on my ass. I'd like to say that was scripted, but it was not. The spirit of Val was jumping in and saying, "Okay, now you get to fall on your ass." [Laughs.]
Since Allagash's ending isn't definitive, was there a conversation with Jon about returning to tell more of his story?
We don't really know necessarily what happened at the end of my episode. I have ideas. You've always gotta have an escape route in some way. [Laughs.] Anything can happen. It's up to the Mouse.
I have to ask about the abrupt cancellation of Netflix's Inside Job, where you voiced conspiracy-obsessed Rand. Is there any talk about finding it a new home?
I don't know. I know Netflix has gone through a lot of stuff with their animation departments, which is horrible. And I knew there might be some issues there. Look, I had a great time making the show. It was certainly a lot of work. I think it was creative, and it was fun. She's amazing. But, I don't know. Again, that's another one that's sort of out there in the universe to see if it does have a continued life. So far, no idea.
Season 1 of Willow is available now on Disney+.
Looking for more fantasy adventures? Stream the Harry Potter films on Peacock.