Interview: Christian Bale "The Prestige"

Interview: Christian Bale
"The Prestige"
Posted: Monday, October 16th 2006 2:42AM
Author: Paul Fischer
Location: Pasadena, CA

Christian Bale's career may well have been given a kick start with last year's Batman Begins, but his career is going full steam ahead with or without the caped crusader. In The Prestige, directed by his Batman helmer Christopher Nolan, Bale plays a turn of the century magician obsessed by rival Hugh Jackman. Bale will also be seen in Harsh Times, a gripping, Indie thriller which he helped produce. Bale talked to Paul Fischer.

Question: So when Chris Nolan wants you to do something, is your curiosity automatically peaked?

Bale: Inevitably yeah. If you work well with someone you want to try to strike gold again. Chris didn't actually come to me with this. I actually read the script and I called him up and said 'I want in. I like Borden. I can really nail this character.' You know the question was could he see me as anything other than Bruce Wayne? He said 'yeah go for it.' I do think he's one of the best around and I think you're in bloody good hands. It's nice to work with someone a number of times. You do get a nice little short hand between you and you can really hit the ground running much quicker. Chris was doing a ship shaping kind of thing in terms of his directing styles between the two movies.

Question: Why did you think you could nail this character?

Bale: He just was one that I was fascinated with throughout. The fact that this relies upon secrecy not only for his livelihood, but his for his very life and the fact that he was somebody who saw this as being so vital and such value for his life and pretty much the only thing he's valued for by anybody. That it came first. It was his first love regardless of other relationships, the secrecy was paramount and his obsession which you know is absolutely necessary for achieve the level of skill that he does. There were so many mysteries surrounding this one character that he was immediately the one I wanted to play.

Question: Chris Nolan was saying the magicians Ricky Jay and Michael Weber he consulted wouldn't show him the tricks, only the actors and that was only if it was absolutely necessary.

Bale: Barely. He barely showed us as well. If we needed to know for the shot, then yes he would show us. But, that was very seldom because for this movie as you know is not a movie about showing magic tricks. In the movie rightly I think Chris felt that with editing you can do anything you know. It's really not so impressive to watch magic tricks being performed on film. It's centered on the one particular trick that my character develops that just infuriates the hell out of my rival who can not understand how it's done. As for the rest of it, we needed to show some of their performances, but it was more of finishing up on tricks or starting on tricks. Just giving the impressions of the magicians of this day being the top entertainers. Being the top pull. I like this very much. It's kind of a take on the story that Chris changed somewhat from the book "The Prestige." This great kind of fascination and so much mystery about science itself. Obviously now a days we know everybody understands it, but at that time the likes of Telsa appeared liked wizards. How is this done? People did not know exactly what he was doing and how he managed it at all. So there was that ability to confuse audience members as a magician. Perhaps some people did posses some kind of power beyond which the rest of us are able to call on. So they truly were magnificent performers of the time. That's an era that can never be regained you know. We've gotten beyond it now. You can't strip that knowledge away.

Question: What was the hardest scene for you to do?

Bale: Well the trouble is, if I were to answer that I'd give away some things which we just can't give away for the movie.

Question: Are there any secrets that would stand between you and love?

Bale: Not secrets in the way that he has secrets. That's something which only his particular circumstances really meant that he had to hold onto those secrets. I mean I certainly agree in terms of if you're talking family and etc than no. I would necessarily call them secrets, I would just say maintaining some kind of keeping something for yourself. It's essential in all walks of life. Not giving everything away.

Question: Are you as obsessive as he is?

Bale: Listen I think that you know I get obsessive, but over shorter terms you know. Obviously a movie lasts a few months and then you're done with it. With him it's life long of this single obsession. This one particular trick that he knows will make him immortal. So I have an obsession, but it's a different kind of obsession. It's more kind of short term obsessions.

Question: Earlier you said you were afraid Chris Nolan wouldn't see you as anything other than Batman. Are you were concerned about that with other people as well?

Bale: I wasn't worried about that because my feeling has always been with anything like that it all depends on the following roles I take and just ability as well you know. If it turns out that you know what I'm just doing different variations of Bruce Wayne for the rest of my life than you know what who would want to keep hire me for anything so I wasn't that worried about that. Especially because of the way that we approached that of doing "Batman" and "Batman Begins." Although he's obviously larger than life, obviously we were referencing many of the graphic novels it's somewhat in my mind less of a character than he was represented in many of the other versions. I kind of watch it and believe him as a real character in this sort ridiculous animated personality. So I think that again, I was able to kind of stay under the radar a little bit more.

Question: Will there be more depth to Bruce Wayne in the next movie? Will the film get much further into his psychology?

Bale: I have no idea.

Question: You haven't seen the script?

Bale: No, I mean look. I've spoken to Chris about it. I haven't read anything yet. I trust him completely. I'm sure he's been coming up with something improved upon our first one. We also have the knowledge that everyone has confidence in what we're trying to do now because the first one worked. People embraced it. Beyond that, Chris is just a real solid foundation. You don't worry too much if he's going to come up with the goods. He is. To me also in the way that he adjusted the book to the movie. I just love what he did with it. The twists and turns that he's added. The take that he found interest in. He's one of the best around. I've got totally trust in him and I have no problem reading the script a week before we start. I'm actually pretty confident. I mean look of course, I'd love to be able to talk with you more and we will about the actual character and where we can take that and where we want to take him. But, beyond that I enjoy this kind of air of secrecy about it and I don't mind not being in right there in the inner circle until Chris decides ok you need to be there now. He's need me to know about it and he needs my input as well. So far that hasn't happened.

Question: This is one of the best detectives in the comic book world. Are you hoping they explore that side of Batman in the upcoming film?

Bale: You know what I have no clue. I have no clue what we're going to be doing and I haven't paid a lot of thought to it. I'll pay a lot of thought to it once Chris sits me down and tells me what he's trying to achieve for the next one. When I sit in the safety vault and read the script you know being monitored on all sides and then I'll know more. Then I'll move forward with it from there. But, before then I'm truly not thinking about it.

Question: Are you obsessive about your career and do you let that get in the way of your relationships like your character?

Bale: No you know look people understand that I enjoy one of the best things to me about this job is the level of commitment that you have to put into it otherwise it just ain't going to work at all. I enjoy that. I enjoy that obsession. Everybody around me, my family and my wife and little girl they get that. They understand it and they enjoy it too. They don't mind it.

Question: Do you choose roles now and be more selective because of your family?

Bale: You know I think there's not a single person whose life doesn't affect the decisions that they're making for any project. (There was another sentence here, but I couldn't hear what he was saying) Certainly I know there are scripts that maybe I don't find interest in right now, but two years ago I might do.

Question: Would you still do something like The Machinist?

Bale: I love The Machinist.

Question: You were endangered yourself?

Bale: I didn't feel like that. I felt invincible. I felt like I could do this. Everyone else is getting worried about me, but oh shut up.

Question: Have you seen Harsh Times yet? I saw it in Toronto.

Bale: That's coming out November 10th. We shot it in 24 days. I mean that's as independent as you can get. David [Ayer] paid for it out of his back pocket literally. It was all of his money. It's just something that the script stuck with me. I read it a few years back. I read it with Dave. Liked him and just the character is like a shark. He can not stop. I find him engaging, hilarious and you know as the piece is called incredibly harsh as well. I found it to be topical and timeless one at the same time. I liked the kind of raw beginner's attitude that they've had. He's achieved it magnificently. But, there was a definite lure from going to Batman where we shoot for seven to eight months straight to shooting a movie in 24 days.

Question: When you do start working out for Batman?

Bale: On man don't remind me for that.

Question: Did you do anything before Batman?

Bale: Yeah I just finished doing a Todd Hayes movie and I'm just started doing called "3:10 to Yuma."


Interview: Clint Eastwood "Flags Of Our Fathers"

Interview: Clint Eastwood
"Flags Of Our Fathers"
Posted: Monday, October 9th 2006 2:55AM
Author: Paul Fischer
Location: Los Angeles, CA

The tall, strident figure who enters the room is unmistakable. Age, as has been said, has not wearied him. Clint Eastwood still looks impressive at 76. No longer the Man with No Name or Dirty Harry, these days he's a formidable force behind the camera, an Oscar winning filmmaker known for his economy of scale. But Eastwood's latest film, the World War 2 drama Flags of Our Fathers, is an anomaly for Eastwood, a big-budget epic work that is in sharp contrast to the likes of his acclaimed Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby.

A film centered around the tragic Battle of Iwo Jima, one of the most crucial and bloodiest battles of the second world war, it culminated with what would become one of the most iconic images in history: five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi. The inspiring photo capturing that moment became a symbol of victory to a nation that had grown weary of war and made instant heroes of the six American soldiers at the base of the flag, some of whom would die soon after, never knowing that they had been immortalized. But the surviving flag raisers had no interest in being held up as symbols and did not consider themselves heroes; they wanted only to stay on the front with their brothers in arms who were fighting and dying without fanfare or glory.

'Flags of Our Fathers' is based on the best selling book by James Bradley with Ron Powers, which chronicled the battle of Iwo Jima and the fates of the flag raisers and some of their brothers in Easy Company. A book originally set to be filmed by Steven Spielberg, Eastwood, who picks projects that interest him on a personal level, says that he wanted to tell this particular war story "because there's never been a story on Iwo Jima, even though it was the biggest marine corps in marine corps history," says Eastwood. "What intrigued me about it was the book itself and the fact that it wasn't really a war story."

The director, who says he had been involved in a few war films as an actor, says he never set out to do a war movie per se, "but I liked this, because it was just a study of these people, and I've always been curious about families who find out things about their relatives much after the fact. The kind of people that have talked to me about this campaign and many other campaigns, seem to be the ones who have been the quietest about their activity. It's a sure thing that if you hear somebody being very braggadocio about all their experiences in combat, he was probably a clerk typist somewhere in the rear echelon, but there seems to be a commonality with these kind of people."

Much has been said of the parallels, if they exist, between World War 2 and contemporary events, but Eastwood denies making any kind of a contemporary parable, and the two wars represent vastly different ideologues. "World War 2 was a different time in history, of course. When the war was brought to us in Pearl Harbor, it became a reality that if we didn't fight this one out, we might be speaking another language today, so it was sort of simple. Most of the young men and women who went to war were about 19 years old. You figured they were probably all born in the late 20s early 30s, and they were over there, but they all had the spirit. So it was important to tell this story for that reason, as it told of a time in our history when there was a lot of spirit.

As for today -- I suppose war is war whenever you're in there. If you're in the front lines, there are always various problems you have to deal with that are hard for us to understand who are in a non-combat situation unfortunately. The country seemed much more unified than it is today, because the war we're in today -- excluding the Iraq War in the front lines -- is a different kind of war, incorporating Ideology and religion. There are a lot of factors coming in to it that may make the next war much more difficult, but World War 2 was much more cut and dried."

As Flags is, in many ways, an old fashioned, classic war story, for today's audiences, Eastwood hopes that through this film, "they get to know these people, and what they went through, as well as perhaps give the audience a feeling of what it was like in that time, what these people dedicated or donated their lives for." But also, he adds, he wants audiences to know more about what it has been defined as The Greatest Generation. "A lot of people talk about the greatest generation so it was fun to just try to visualize that. We now live in a time where it's different. We have an all voluntary military, the country's a lot more comfortable, economically and is in fact right now probably a lot more spoiled than we were then, so war is more of an inconvenience now where then it was an absolute necessity."

Like in much of Eastwood's recent work, his films offer a reflective comment on the humanity, coupled with a certain physicality, and this is particularly evident in Flags, that shows off the two sides to the director. Eastwood says that he has little difficulty in reconciling or balancing these two facets of his persona. "I just kind of go along. I think as I've matured -- which is in a way of saying aging -- I've reached out to different sides of different stories. I started out in movies with a lot of action and that sort of thing, but as I got to this stage in life now where I'm sort of retreating to the back side of the camera, I just felt that it's time to address a lot of different things that are closer to me than maybe fantasy characters that I might have been involved with."

In a career spanning half a century, Clint Eastwood can afford to pick and choose what he wants to do on either side of the camera. With little to prove, either to himself or audiences, the director still insists on pushing himself, and that includes shooting not one, but two films about Iwo Jima. Opening early next year is the Japanese perspective, Letters from Iwo Jima, and Eastwood does laugh when asked if these days, making two films back to back is his most serious challenge. "Sometimes I think I'll take some time off, and it goes in waves. I did "Mystic River," and I was going to take some time off after that project, then I read "Million Dollar Baby," and said, boy, I gotta do that, so I went right into that. I had tried to buy this book sometime earlier and DreamWorks at bought it and I ran into Steven Spielberg and he said why don't you come over and direct this film. I told him I liked the book very much, we shook hands and I said, yes, I'll do that. He didn't have a screenplay he was happy with so we had to kind of start from scratch."

It was part of the way into the research for Flags of our Fathers that he started getting interested in Lt. General Korubioshi the Japanese commander at Iwo Jima. "I was kind of wondering what kind of person he was to defend this island in a very clever way by tunneling the island and putting everything underground, doing it differently than most of the Japanese defenses were at that time. I sent to Japan and got a book about General Kuribayashi, which was a book of letters to his wife, daughter and son."

As Eastwood's films tells of a father and son, asked whether he would want his own children to depict his life on film, the ferociously private Eastwood smiles. "No, no. I don't feel my life is that interesting, which is maybe why I became an actor." In summing up his own life, Eastwood adopts the brevity that has often defined him. "I just feel like I do a job. I've been lucky enough to work in a profession where I enjoy it and still do. Obviously I'm doing it still and I don't seem to have any ambitions about retiring. If I do, I haven't kind of found out about them yet, so maybe I'm just waiting until they retire me."