The Brilliant Mister BaleThe charming Christian Bale talks Harsh Times and The Dark Knight in our exclusive interview
Christian Bale was, until last year, best known as Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. Since then he has played a number of intense characters including, most famously, Bruce Wayne, and now Jim, unhappy Gulf War veteran in Harsh Times. Ironically, Christian comes across as cheerful, witty, funny and intelligent; so much for type casting.
Ok, Future Movies must admit that we have had a crush on Bale since, at 19, he played Laurie in Little Women; that we respect him immensely as an actor; that we wanted to ask him about his skin care regime, but ran out of time, an that, frankly, as far as he's concerned we are a gushing fangirl, hands shaking as we pose our first, very excited, but uber-professional, question. He'll never know...
FM: Did you not fancy playing a more cheery role?
Christian Bale: Well, I wanted to do something that wasn't a big juggernaut of a movie, and this was one that I'd wanted to do for a few years. I'd met Dave - I can't remember exactly when but it might have been as early as 2001 and we met at a bar and ended up being there something like five hours, arguing about things. He's an engaging guy, he doesn't mince his words, and I just loved the character, the momentum of the whole thing. At the time it was a studio piece, and nobody wanted me to do it, but with Batman, I thought, maybe now, they'll cast me.
But you know, it would be nice to do a light-hearted piece. I did do a piece after Harsh Times where the character is very light-hearted, in this Werner Hertzog movie.
FM: (as incredulity momentarily faces awe down): A light-hearted character in a Werner Hertzog movie?
Christian Bale: (laughs) Yeah, but to me the most light-hearted man I've ever come across. You'd be surprised at Werner himself. He's in turn the saint and the devil.
At this point your friendly neighbourhood critic suggests that the great director might have been taking the piss out of Timothy Treadwell in Grizzly Man. Mr Bale does not agree.
Christian Bale: Well, you know – that depends on your take on it, whether you think he's taking the piss or not. (Christian speaks from first hand knowledge, he watched the film in the company of the director himself.)
FM: Well, a little bit? Maybe?
Christian Bale: Well, I think you'd be surprised, if you meet the man, he doesn't always have the reactions that you would expect.
FM (suddenly remembering that she is arguing with Bateman/Batman; scared): OK... fair enough...
Christian Bale: Though it is funny.
FM: (relieved) It is funny.
Christian Bale: Though when I was sitting there watching it with Werner, a lot of times I was laughing and he was looking at me, going 'what are you laughing at?'.
FM: So maybe we just have different senses of humour? (Changing the subject.) So would you say that Batman has changed your ability to get projects greenlit?
Christian Bale: Yeah. No doubt that. Both of those; Harsh Times and Rescue Dawn, I don't think it was any coincidence that I was able to get those off the ground after Batman.
FM: Was it an interesting contrast working on Harsh Times after working on such a big, effects heavy film?
Christian Bale: Yeah, we filmed Batman for seven months, and I was there for eight, nine months so this thing, its like a pregnancy for a woman. That length of time, you forget about any life you have outside of it, and then Harsh Times, we did in 24 days.
FM: So did that feel almost like a holiday in comparison?
Christian Bale: Straight. Well, no, no.. when you're working that fast, its very intense at the same time, but I like that momentum, its a whole different feel, and obviously you can't do a movie like Batman in 24 days, it would be a shambles, but its nice to mix up the actual movie making experience a little bit. You know we'll be jumping in again next year, giving birth to Number 2...
FM: (Squeals with excitement, then covers by asking sensible question): How did you go about finding the character of Jim, locking into that anger, that psychosis?
Christian Bale: Well, you know, I just saw that straightaway when I read the script, and then that five hour meeting with Dave was very good research material as well (laughs). Jim is a guy who is valued for one thing, and that is for violence, for being the guy who will go that much further than anybody else, and I think that everybody likes to be good at something, to be recognised for something, and you're going to cling onto that; if you give that up, you have nothing.
FM: So his talent is being violent?
Christian Bale: Well, that's his meal ticket. This is the thing that he's found. He's gone from being a street punk, who's gone from being the white boy in East LA, who had a tougher time because of that, who had to be be the slightly psycho guy just to survive, to finding that what he's put in jail for on the street makes him incredibly successful in the army.
FM: The film makes an interesting comment on the treatment of 'human resources'; once Jim has served his purpose he very much becomes a tool of the army.
Christian Bale: Well, absolutely, and it was interesting to me at the time, doing the research, reading magazines, websites and news articles about returning servicemen, and there was a very high count of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
Unfortunately at this point FM has to relinquish the speaking stick to a representative of another online journal, but as we were allowed to listen in, here are some of the highlights.
On The Dark Knight: (Batman 2)I just love that title. I like, very much, that it doesn't have 'Batman' written in the title. This take on Batman of mine and Chris' is very different from any of the others and everything else always had Batman in the title. I think this is kind-of distancing it even further and saying, 'Hey, this is a whole different creature from what has come before.'
Q: On casting Heath 'I'm a mumblin' cowboy' Ledger as the Joker:
Heath is very much into what Chris had done with the first one and he's very passionate about the role. And he's a really good actor so we're going to see something very special from him."
Q: Any inside information?
You know what, you're going to get people coming out and shooting you in the head any second if you keep asking anymore Batman questions," Bale joked. (FM hopes.) I'm learning about it right now; Chris and I have only just finished working on The Prestige (Bale AND Wolverine. My cup runneth over) together and I have another project before we start on Batman. I know I'm in very good hands and Chris is keeping me informed about what's going on. But more than that and I'll be whisked away in a loony van, you know, off to Arkham Asylum!
Q: On the lovely Christopher Nolan:
Chris is the director I've worked with more than anyone else and what's nice, when you do come to understand each other, is you do get this common language so you really don't have to speak a whole lot; often too much talking just kind of ruins everything. And it's nice when you know the way someone works anyway and you don't have to break the ice at all. It was a very lucky thing for me when I met Chris and became part of his circle of filmmaking.
Christian Bale. Not at all scary.