Interview: Christian Bale
Posted: Tuesday June 14th, 2005 6:33PM
Author: Garth Franklin
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Not known for being the cheeriest person on Earth, Christian Bale has nevertheless proven himself amongst the most 'driven' of actors to be loyal to his craft. Ever since his debut as the child star of Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun" back in 1987, he has shown himself a strong talent with many acclaimed performances ranging from indie fair like "Velvet Goldmine" and "Metroland" to more mainstream studio pictures such as "Shaft", "Reign of Fire", "Little Women" and the upcoming "The New World".
His commitment to the work though has also yielded headlines. In 1999 the averagely built Bale spent months in training to yield a perfectly sculpted muscular body for the acclaimed and controversial adaptation of "American Psycho." Those muscles stayed in place for a few years until last year's "The Machinist" when the actor lost over 60 pounds to star as a skeletally thin 120 pound insomniac mechanic in "The Machinist". It was after that wrapped that he was announced as the new "Batman" and in the space of five months, stacked on almost 100 pounds (much of that muscle) to play the latest, darkest and most accurate adaptation yet of the Caped Crusader.
Question: What weight are you at right now, just out of curiosity? You look a little smaller.
Christian Bale: I've got no idea, yeah. I'm going to be doin' a Werner Herzog movie and I kinda have to lose a bit of weight for that, just a little bit, so I'm just starting to diet now. But I'm usually about 185 or something like that
Question: Speaking of weight, on Machinist, when you lost a lot of weight, you said you were very serene and calm--
Christian Bale: Yeah, yeah.
Question: And once you started eating meat and stuff like that, or just food again, you got a little bit more antagonistic.
Christian Bale: Oh yeah.
Question: How was it on this film? How was your mood, when you started bulking up?
Christian Bale: Yeah, no, you do get a lot of nervous energy. I think that putting weight on--unfortunately, I had to put it on pretty fast, and it's not very healthy doin' that. That was when I felt bad...I did actually start to feel like I was putting my body under too much pressure because I put on 100 pounds in, like, five months or something. And, yeah, you get your moods back; you get big mood swings and everything with it, but not such a bad thing when you're playing this darker version of Batman.
Question: But he doesn't seem as brooding as other Batmans. He can be light-hearted.
Christian Bale: I think that because he channels his rage and everything so much into the Batman character and in creating that as a creature, as a kind of monster, that in a way, it's kind of demonic therapy--that his negative emotions can go into that character so that he is able to function in his everyday life, y'know? And then also he's a good actor; he performs most of the time. The only person who actually knows who he really is is Alfred. With everybody else, he's got some kind of fa�ade, and a wall that he's putting up, whether it be as the kind of wastrel playboy character, or you have the--obviously, the angry young man, but he's never really letting anybody inside at all. And I like very much the relationship with Alfred and him, because it has this duality because he's his servant, he's his butler, but also he's the closest thing he has to a father figure, and the only person who truly knows him. And I think it's one of the most important parts of the movie.
Question: What was it like to work with so many giants of the big-screen movies?
Christian Bale: It was great as just kind of confirmation that this was a good way that we were goin' with the Batman story, that they were attracted to being involved in it. And to working with Chris Nolan. And it's just--you work with good actors, and you find that the scenes go much easier. It makes working much easier. You become a better actor. I know everybody says it--it's true.
Question: In San Francisco, you said that--at WonderCon, you said that Bruce Wayne was the mask, not Batman.
Christian Bale: Yeah.
Question: And I think you were right on on that. And you also said that Batman's not supposed to be funny, but things around him could be.
Christian Bale: Yeah.
Question: The sequel--do you want to see it darker, funnier? What would you like to see in the sequel?
Christian Bale: You know, you could--'cause I think in times of extreme tragedy, you always get incredible humor, you know? I mean, with human beings, that's just the case. The sequel--I would, you know--if it was to happen, obviously people would have said, "Yes, we like the way that you've played Batman, and we like the style that the movie adopts. So a continuation--you can push it further. There's a lot of room for embellishing this character, for new sides and new stories with him. You know, I mean, there's kind of no limit to it. There's also so much material you can reference in all of the different graphic novels that it's kind of limitless what can be brought up. But that's somethin'that you'd have to speak more about with, hopefully, Chris Nolan--you know, he's kinda keeping tight-lipped about if he'd be interested in doing a second one--but whoever was to end up directing that.
Question: You've earned a reputation for being a very--to prepare and invest very intensely in your roles. For a role like this that is very intense already, how difficult is it to sort of release the emotional--to get out of the dark places that this character has to go to?
Christian Bale: You know, it ain't--it ain't--it ain't so tricky. You know what I mean? I think it's just a matter of: once you get your head into a place where you understand exactly what you're going to do, then you can really relax. It's just in getting there that you don't want to find yourself starting work and being in a scene and just not knowing what the hell you're doing. But once you feel it and you understand it, and putting on the Batsuit so much, and walkin' around in that and understanding it and feeling how I wanted to play it, you can pretty much relax right after that. And you have to, actually, because especially--I mean, I'm more accustomed to making movies in eight weeks or something. This movie took seven months to shoot, you know? So you're just gonna just lose all energy and focus and expire pretty damn fast if you don't manage to pace yourself somewhat for a whole seven-month schedule.
Question: How is it to move on to something like Terence Malick--?
Christian Bale: So good. That was so perfect. I loved the transition from that. Terence Malick is such a unconventional movie-maker, and it was one of the...best acting experiences I've ever had. And he's also just such a intriguing man, himself. So I loved going on to that. And then right after that, you know, I did another movie, which was no money for anybody, and just the director put up his own budget, and we shot the whole thing in twenty-four days. It's nice to mix up, and try all of these different variants of movie-making.
Question: Chuck Roven said that the Batman vs. Superman script was a very good script. Have you read it, and--?
Christian Bale: No.
Question: Would that be something that you'd be interested in doing?
Christian Bale: You know, I think that would be a ways down track. I haven't read it. There is a, I believe, a comic-book or a graphic novel, which is specifically about that. I haven't read that one, either. Y'know: I mean, if it was something good, but I think that would be something way down track, if that was ever to happen. G: Christian, you've talked about the suspension of disbelief required to play the character and also the psychological landscape of the character. Was there a particular moment that you thought you connected with most genuinely, psychologically, and another one that was a really substantial imaginative leap for you?
Christian Bale: Ummm--. I'm trying to get my head around that question. G: Sorry.
Christian Bale: Right now, I'm--. (Smiles.) It's been a long day. I think that--. (Pause.) I think that just the general notion of trying to attempt to use negative emotions--anger, resentment, whatever the hell it is that everybody feels--and trying to turn it into something positive is something that, you know, yeah, I can relate to. And what was the next bit? G: Was there something that was really difficult to imagine for you?
Christian Bale: I guess just the--the thing is that his only real superpower is his wealth, y'know? And that's a pretty phenomenal thing to try to understand: growing up in that fashion. Having such access and such power is something that is quite unimaginable to almost anybody who's just never experienced that in their life. But then also very interesting to me that it actually became something that made him feel completely impotent at the end of the day, that he was kind of this little prince, y'know? Born with a silver spoon and just incapable of ever understanding desperation or need or any of that. G: And what makes you angry and what do you fear?
Christian Bale: Oh, man. (Blows through his lips.) I dunno. I wish [many] less things made me angry. And what I fear: I don't know, man. I mean, my dad always just kind of said, "Oh, fear being born." Y'know, that that's the big thing to fear. I don't have any specific phobias or anything, like bats or whatever, like Bruce Wayne has. In fact, I liked the bats. I would go into the cages with the bats on the set.
Question: Was it a decision that you had to weigh to take on this role, because you are known for smaller, independent movies, and this is a franchise?
Christian Bale: It was a consideration of mine that it could be such a monster of a movie that I wouldn't really know how to deal with the actual making of it, but I think that the saving grace there was that Chris comes from more independent movies, as well, and so he just--alright, there [were] more resources, but he wanted to make the actual day-to-day interaction very similar to making a more independent movie. So there was no problem with the communication there, or any sense of it becoming impersonal whatsoever. I just didn't want to be scared off of making a movie. I believed it would be a movie that I would very much want to be a part of, very much want to see, a really great story with fantastic potential, and I didn't want to be scared off by any notions of the consequences of making that choice.
Question: Was there anything you had to do stepping into a role that's been played by so many actors recently, to make it your own?
Christian Bale: I think that just the script by itself is--you can't do anything but making it your own, you know? Because, like I said, I don't feel like it's been defined before....I just don't feel like it's ever been satisfactorily played. There's a lot of room for what is so good about this character that just has never been showed before. You know, he's a severe character. And so all I had to do was just ignore everything that has been done before. We were going to be comin' up with something new and original regardless. And the last thing that I ever wanted to be doing was to be stealing from anybody else.
Question: When you first saw your action figure, your toy, was that kind of like "Wow, I've got an action figure of myself now"?
Christian Bale: It was such a long process, you know? Because we kind of had to get into these computerized outfits and look really stupid in these, like, flesh stockings (laughs) and stuff like that for them to get all of the 3-D imagery and everything like that. It was still a kick seeing it. Kinda bizarre. I never really thought I'd be in a movie where they would make a doll out of me. That's a bit of a trippy one. But not something I've dwelled on too much, you know? I mean, something hopefully my daughter will one day be able to enjoy: you know, sinking it in the pool or something. Blowing it up or whatever she does to it--.
Question: Do you have a few at home?
Christian Bale: A few of the figures?
Christian Bale: I got a couple of little things. I got sent some different things. But you know what? I've kind of been overloaded with Batman, so I've kind of left it in a box right now. I'll kind of be able to enjoy it once all of this is over a little bit more.
Question: Can you talk about the bat scene--about the scene with the bats? How was the scene done?
Christian Bale: The one with the bats swarming around?
Christian Bale: Well, that particular scene--ummmm--if I remember correctly there were, uh, eh--absolutely no bats. (All laugh.)
Christian Bale: We did have scenes where--yes, we did have bats flying around all over the place. Maybe I'm getting it wrong. Maybe there were a few of them, around there. But I think it works fantastically, when you look at it, when you kind of see him finally facing his fear, and you know--it's a real cathartic moment for him. And understanding that this is the moment where he comes to capture his future persona. And I like the scene a great deal, but I believe I was just by myself. G: What are some Batsuit no-nos? What can you not do in the suit?
Christian Bale: I could do a lot more than most people could. You can't raise your arms up (demonstrates) particularly high. You also, uh, (in hushed tones) need help when on the toilet.
Question: Where did you get the voice for Batman, anyways? That kind of guttural--?
Christian Bale: Just, just putting it on. When I first put the suit on, it was--I just started practicing around with it and thinking, "Right."...Okay, thank you very much.
The story of how Bruce Wayne became what he was, destined to be Batman. A new restart of the "Batman" franchise under the helm of "Memento" Director Chris Nolan and more in tone with the early "Batman: Year One" style comics. As a boy a young Bruce Wayne watched in horror as his millionaire parents were slain in front of his eyes, a trauma which led him to become obsessed with revenge but his chance is cruelly taken away from him by fate. After disappearing to the East where he seeks counsel with the dangerous but honorable ninja cult leader known as Ra's Al-Ghul, he returns to his now decaying Gotham City overrun by organised crime and dangerous individuals manipulating the system whilst the company he inherited is slowly being pulled out from under him. The discovery of a cave under his mansion, and a prototype armoured suit leads him to take on a new persona, one which will strike fear into the hearts of men who do wrong - he becomes, Batman. In the new guise, and with the help of rising cop Jim Gordon, Batman sets out to take down the various nefarious schemes in motion by individuals such as mafia don Falcone, the twisted doctor/drug dealer Jonathan 'The Scarecrow' Crane, and a mysterious third party that is quite familiar with Wayne and waiting to strike when the time is right.