CHRISTIAN BALE Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
October 4, 2004
The summer of 2005 will offer up a number of action-oriented blockbusters, and one of the most anticipated will no doubt be Batman Begins. The latest installment on the iconic superhero has cast yet another actor in the role of the Dark Knight, Christian Bale, and hopes to reinvent and reinvigorate the franchise that was virtually killed by critical embarrassments like Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. A prequel that examines the Caped Crusader's early crimefighting days, it sports a top-notch cast (Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Ken Watanabe, and Cillian Murphy, among others) and a darker, more serious story that seems to be getting things on the right track. The feature is directed by Christopher Nolan, who received wide acclaim for the unconventionally engaging Memento.
While fielding questions from the media in promotion of his harrowing psychological thriller The Machinist, Christian Bale was kind enough to also discuss his work on Batman Begins.
MEDIA: Is there a certain creative stifling in making Batman Begins given that so many people have pre-conceptions based on the previous films and the comics?
CHRISTIAN: I think that we're doing something different enough in the fact that it is a prequel. We don't have to adhere to anything that's already been laid down in the movies. We're certainly referencing a number of the graphic novels.
Do you have any favorite Batman stories?
Well, you got Frank Miller, Year One, but also the Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale work. I like The Long Halloween, Dark Victory. Those are the ones that I found the most intriguing because it seemed to me that in those books, they recognized that Batman is actually the most interesting character--that he's more interesting than most of the villains around. Yes, they're into great freaks and these interesting characters, but I had never seen Batman looked at in the way that he truly should. And that's what we've hopefully managed to do.
So this time around, does Batman have all "those wonderful toys"?
There's a lot of toys, yeah. And a lot of very good explanations about how he comes upon them as well.
In The Machinist, which you shot immediately before Batman Begins, you lost an astonishing one-third of your total weight. How long did you have to rehabilitate your body and get back into shape?
It was a fair amount of time, but I was in such terrible shape that it was really tortuous. It was only about six weeks between finishing The Machinist and doing the screentest for Batman, for which obviously Chris Nolan had asked me to try and put on as much weight as I could, because he would find it very difficult to convince the studio to cast me if I was a beanpole. And in doing so, I overdid it, because I also was just enjoying gorging. I was ignoring all advice about, "You should take it slowly, your stomach has shrunk, just go with soups." I was straight into pizza and ice cream and everything, and just eating five meals in a sitting. My stomach, it just expanded really quickly.
How sick did you get?
I got pretty sick during that time! [laughs] But I enjoyed getting sick, I didn't mind it at all. So in that short amount of time, I did actually go from 121 right back up to 180, which is way too fast obviously. And that resulted in some doctors visits to get things sorted out.
How did you get back into the routine of exercising?
They did want me to go with a trainer and everything. And it was very funny, the first time that I went along. I put on the weight. I was back up to 180, but I just had no muscle whatsoever. It was just destroyed. So the guy says, "Okay, give me twenty pushups." Thinking, "Okay, this is an easy first day," I go down. [makes a struggling sound] And that was it. I couldn't even do one. So the guy looked and went, "Oh Lordy, we're going to have a tough time here." And we had about three, four months of just like three hours every single day of very intense working out.
Is Batman's physique the same as that of your character in American Psycho?
No, because this is more a central thing that he needs to be able to do, so it's a genuine strength. American Psycho is a vanity driven body--it's all about keeping cut and everything rather than being strong and capable.
You mentioned that you had to change your style of acting when going from The Machinist to Batman Begins. Can you talk about those stylistic differences?
There are movies that require fantasy and slightly more fantastical acting. Lines that are good for certain movies, in real life circumstances, would be absolutely unbelievable things to really say, and you would look at these people like they're freaks for conversing that way. But somehow for certain styles of movies, it works, and it seems fine. And being as I'm somebody who loves movies like The Machinist, I also love going along to big mass entertainment movies. I get in the mood for all kinds of movies, and so I like to try each of them. But there is certainly a much more truthful kind of acting for some movies, and "verging on lying" kind of an acting for others, but which people accept because it's okay. And hopefully you can succeed in doing that style of acting well. It doesn't have to mean that there's no quality to it. You're creating a different world and the actor's job is to be able to convince the audience to enter into that world, whether it be actually something that you recognize from your own life or not.