Christian Bale is the man. Many of you know this, while others are just now learning the fact. Aside from his much talked about transformation into Calista Flockhart for The Machinist (and his subsequent gorging to get back to Batman levels of buff), he’s just simply a really cool guy; the type you could see yourself just hanging with while sipping on some brews and shooting the breeze. He’s quiet, focused, a bit snarky, and just genuinely a pleasure to talk to. With stuff like Batman, Terrence Malick’s The New World, and Dave Ayer’s shot-on-a-dime Harsh Times, Bale’s keeping his filmography as fresh as any good thesp could hope for. The kid who once floored us all in Spielberg’s criminally underrated Empire of the Sun has come a long way. Kudos to him. He deserves it.
Batman Begins opens nationwide in theaters and IMAX tomorrow, June 15.
Q: What weight are you right now?
Bale: I’ve got no idea. I’m going to be doing a Werner Herzog movie and I kind of have to lose a bit of weight for that. Just a little but, so I’m just starting to diet now. I’m usually about 185.
Q: Speaking of weight, you said when you lost a lot of weight for The Machinist you were very serene and calm. Once you started eating food you got a little more antagonistic. How was your mood on this film when you started bulking up?
Bale: You do get a lot of nervous energy. I think putting weight on, unfortunately I had to put it on pretty fast, and it’s not very healthy doing that. That was when I felt bad. I did actually start to feel I was putting my body under too much pressure because I put on 100 pounds in five months. You get big mood swings, but not such a bad thing when you’re playing this darker version of Batman.
Q: But he doesn’t seem as brooding, he can be light-hearted.
Bale: I think because he channels his rage so much into the Batman character and creating that as a creature and a kind of monster that in a way its demonic therapy. His negative emotions can go into that character so that he is able to function in his everyday life. He’s a good actor. He performs most of the time. The only person who knows who he really is is Alfred. With everybody else he’s got some kind of façade and a wall that he’s putting up whether it be as the wastrel playboy character or the angry young man, but he’s never really letting anybody inside at all. I like very much the relationship with Alfred and him. It has it’s 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. I think it’s one of the most important parts of the movie.
Q: What was it like to work with so many giants of acting?
Bale: It was great as confirmation that this was a good way that we were going with the Batman story, that they were attracted to being involved in it and to working with Chris Nolan. 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.
Q: Do you want to see a darker, funnier sequel?
Bale: In times of extreme tragedy you always get incredible humor. With human beings, that’s just the case. The sequel, if it was to happen obviously people would have said yes we like the way you played Batman and we liked the style in which the movie adopts so as 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. There’s no limit to it and there’s so much material you can reference in all of the graphic novels. It’s kind of limitless what can be brought up, but that’s something you’d have to speak more about with hopefully Chris Nolan he’s kind of keeping tight-lipped about if he’d be interested in doing a second one.
Q: You have a reputation for being very prepared for a role. How difficult is it to get out of the dark places that this character goes to?
Bale: It ain’t so tricky. I think it’s just a matter of once you get your head in 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 Batman suit so much and walking 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 especially because I’m more accustomed to making movies in eight weeks. This movie took seven months to shoot, so you’re just gonna 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.
Q: How was it to move on to Terrence Malick’s The New World?
Bale: So good. That was so perfect. I love the transition from that. Terrence Malick is such an unconventional moviemaker and it was one of the best acting experiences I’ve ever had and he’s also such an intriguing man himself. I loved going on to that and then right after that I did another movie which was no money for anybody and the director put up his own budget and shot the whole thing in 24 days. It’s nice to mix up and try all of these different variants of moviemaking.
Q: Have you read the Batman vs. Superman script? Would that be something you would be interested in doing?
Bale: I think that would be a ways down track. I haven’t read it. There is, I believe, a comic book or graphic novel specifically about that. I haven’t read that one either. If it was something good, but I think that would be something way down track if that was ever to happen.
Q: Is there a particular moment you connected with genuinely and another one that was substantial imaginatively for you?
Bale: I’m trying to get my head around that question. It’s been a long day. I think that 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 I can relate to. What was the next bit? His only real superpower is his wealth 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, born with a silver spoon and just incapable of ever understanding desperation or need or any of that.
Q: What makes you angry and what do you fear?
Bale: Oh man. I wish much less things made me angry. My dad always just kinda said fear was inborn. I don’t have any specific phobias or anything like bats like Bruce Wayne has. In fact, I liked the bats. I would go in the cages with the bats on the set.
Q: Can you talk about the scene with the bats?
If I remember correctly there were absolutely no bats. 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. I think it worked fantastically, when you see him finally facing
his fear. It’s a real cathartic moment for him and understanding. This
is the moment where he comes to capture his future persona. I like the
scene a great deal, but I believe I was just by myself.
Q: Was there anything you had to do stepping into a role that’s been played by so many different actors recently to make it your own?
Bale: I think that just the script by itself is. You can’t do anything but make it your own. 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 shown before. He’s a severe character. All I had to do was just ignore everything that’s been done before. We were gonna be coming up with something new and original regardless. The last thing that I ever wanted to be doing was to be stealing from anybody else.
Q: When you first saw your toy, what did you think?
Bale: It was such a long process because we had to get in these computerized outfits and look really stupid in these flesh stockings for them to get all of the 3-D imagery and everything like that. It was still a kick seeing it. Kind of bizarre. I never thought I would 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. Hopefully something my daughter will one day be able to enjoy. Sinking it in the pool or blowing it up.
Q: Do you have any of them at home?
Bale: I got a couple of little things, but I’ve kind of been overloaded with Batman. I’ll be able to enjoy it once all of this is over a little bit more.
Q: Was it a decision you had to weigh to take on this role because it’s a franchise?
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, alright there was 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 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 notion of the
consequences of making that choice.