I promise I’ll soon move on to non-Christan Bale related matters, but in honor of this week’s cover story, I wanted to revisit the first interview I ever did with Bale, back in Nov. 2004. (There’s one online from “The Prestige” already.) I had just returned from my first Toronto Film Festival, where the first movie I saw was “The Machinist” and I was blown away by Bale’s haunted performance. And it’s not just about the weight loss (63 pounds, for the record) but about how the actor portrayed a man literally wasting away both physically and mentally.
REAL SLIM SHADY! CHRISTIAN BALE FOR “THE MACHINIST” Talk about weight gain for fitting a role, Christian Bale did just the opposite – losing about 60 pounds for the 2004 movie “The Machinist”. The secret to his weight loss should come with a statutory warning!
Christian survived on an apple and a cup of coffee a day! The actor had to look like he didn’t sleep for a year. Seeing the movie, we can say that he did achieve this goal. Christian wanted to lose another 20 pounds but his producers stopped him. “I was intrigued by a perverse nature of mine just to see I could push the limits,” said Bale.
Check out more makeover on ‘The Times Of India’ website.
Edward Egan of Fangoria wrote a really nice review of ‘The Machinist’. Here are some parts:
As we are introduced to the pitiful Trevor and his lonely existence, we witness his growing fear that others are tormenting him for some reason he cannot fathom. With every character he meets, all of Trevor’s relationships become plagued with an unreasonable distrust, as he constantly wonders who is out to get him and why. As Trevor’s paranoia grows, it is a taunting game of hangman that he plays with an unknown antagonist that furthers his downward spiral, ultimately resulting in a surprising and painful twist.
These signs lead to a series of frightening visions, which Trevor fears may be memories. Increasingly doubtful of the people and the world around him, and exacerbated by his yearlong battle with insomnia, Trevor’s suspicions begin to turn inward, tormented by thoughts and fears of what he may have done.
Unlike most horror films that rely heavily on grisly makeup or CGI for scares, the single greatest special effect in THE MACHINIST is Bale’s disturbing appearance, the result of the most chilling physical transformation ever committed to film.
The unique visual style of THE MACHINIST comes complete with weird imagery, tilted camera angles and uncomfortable close-ups that often give the production a somewhat retro quality, akin to a classic TWILIGHT ZONE episode. The creepy violin strains of Roque Banos’ eerie music, the dark yet intimate cinematography by Xani Gimenez and the crisp writing by Scott Kosar combine to brilliantly convey Trevor’s bleak, lonely and nightmarish world.
Throughout THE MACHINIST, two characters spout the same line to Trevor: “If you were any thinner, you wouldn’t exist…” After the film is over and the viewer begins to process the work completely, it’s interesting to realize how key this line really is to Trevor’s actual goal. When looking back on his dramatic weight loss, it appears that in an effort to pay for his crime, Trevor’s subconscious wish was to get thinner and thinner, so that he will no longer exist and have to face the nightmare of what he has done.
Full review here.
Anna Massey, the award-winning British actor who played innocent victim for both Alfred Hitchcock and Michael Powell, has died from cancer at the age of 73. The news was confirmed in a brief statement from her agent: “Anna Massey CBE passed away peacefully on Sunday 3rd July, with her husband and son by her side.”
The daughter of the Hollywood actor Raymond Massey, Anna Massey began her career on stage, picking up a Tony nomination for her turn in The Reluctant Debutante at the age of 18. She made her screen debut in the 1958 crime drama Gideon’s Day, directed by her godfather John Ford, and co-starred with Laurence Olivier on the cult 60s thriller Bunny Lake is Missing.
Yet Massey looks set to be best remembered for her roles in two of the most controversial pictures of post-war British cinema. In 1960 she played Helen, the sweet-natured friend of a serial killer in Michael Powell’s notorious Peeping Tom. In 1972, she was cast as sacrificial barmaid Babs Milligan in Hitchcock’s grubby, London-set thriller Frenzy. Peeping Tom found itself reviled by contemporary critics as “perverted” and “beastly”, while Frenzy remains the only Hitchcock film to receive a prohibitive X-certificate in the UK. Today, both films are widely regarded as classics.
In later years Massey acted alongside Christian Bale on The Machinist, Gwyneth Paltrow on Possession and Colin Firth in The Importance of Being Earnest. But her greatest roles arrived via the small screen, where she became a mainstay of the British costume drama. Massey’s TV credits include Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Anna Karenina, The Cherry Orchard and Oliver Twist. She won a Bafta for her role as a lonely novelist in the BBC’s 1986 adaptation of Hotel du Lac.
Massey is survived by her husband, Uri Andres, and her son, David, from an earlier marriage to the actor Jeremy Brett. She was made a CBE in the 2004 New Year Honours List and published her autobiography, Telling Some Tales, in 2006. The book was frank in documenting her breakup with Brett and her subsequent struggles with stage fright and anorexia. Life, she admitted, became happier when she met her second husband in the 1980s. “I don’t want any dramas in my life,” she told an interviewer in 2006. “If I’m in a drama, I want to be paid for it.”
Massey is believed to have continued working through recent illness and made her final appearance in the 2010 TV series Moving On, scripted by Jimmy McGovern. “I think however old and blind and prune-like one may look, the spirit inside stays young and flirtacious,” she once said.
I recently revisited this interview because I wanted to bring up some of the things Bale said in it now that he’s a big, fat, sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated movie star. Like about how it would “mortify” him if he ever ended up the center of a scandal and how he was “in denial” about his impending “Batman” stardom. Also, there’s a nice bit about how he would probably never lose extreme weight for a role again. I’m not posting this to show he’s contradictory or accusing him of going back on his word–I love that actors are ephemeral and can change their mind and are constantly open to challenges. I just thought it was an interesting snapshot of an artist at a time just before his world changed.
Oh, one other thing…due to some snafu I don’t totally understand, the interview isn’t online, so I’m just posting it directly here in the blog after the jump. Which means there may be some wonky formatting (back then, we used italics instead of quotation marks for titles and referred to oursevles as BSW) and, alas, no pictures. Which is actually okay because at the time, Bale had in hair extensions for “The New World” and insisted on wearing a trucker’s cap and I thought my photographer was going to cry. So as a bonus, I uploaded some of the high-res images from our recent shoot.
Building an Empire
The Machinist star Christian Bale weighs in on fame, his craft, and becoming Batman.
by Jenelle Riley
At the age of 13, Christian Bale did what most actors spend their lives hoping to achieve: He won the lead in a Steven Spielberg film. Although the film, the World War II drama Empire of the Sun, was only a moderate success at the time, praise poured in for the young actor’s preternatural talent and charisma. Even now, 17 years later, one is astonished at the gravitas Bale maintains in scenes even opposite seasoned co-stars like John Malkovich and Miranda Richardson.
Following his breakthrough performance, Bale’s career could have gone a million different ways. He could have left acting altogether—something he considered at one point. He could have signed up for countless teen comedies and sealed his heartthrob status. (Even without pursuing this route, Bale was at one time the most downloaded male celebrity on the Internet, something that seems to baffle and embarrass him.) Instead, Bale sought out smaller, quirkier roles: Winona Ryder’s suitor in Little Women, serial killer Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, and a resentful son in Laurel Canyon among them. His versatility was astonishing, playing everything from Psycho killer to Jesus (the TV movie Mary, Mother of Jesus), a dragonslayer (Reign of Fire) to a reporter investigating a 1970s glamrock band (Velvet Goldmine).
In his new film, The Machinist, Bale mesmerizes as a sleep-deprived industrial worker named Trevor Reznik who begins to question his own sanity. A tense thriller from Session 9 director Brad Anderson, The Machinist combines elements of the supernatural and surreal to take the viewers on Trevor’s descent. Much has been made of the fact that Bale lost one-third of his body weight (63 pounds) to play the character, but his performance transcends physical trickery. “I think a lot of actors are willing to lose a little weight or transform themselves somewhat for a part,” observes Anderson. “But I just knew his level of commitment in terms of really immersing himself into this part and becoming this guy because I’d seen him in films like American Psycho, for instance. He could just become the character.”
Happily, Bale looks far more fit as he strides down the hall of the Four Seasons Hotel in October. Tall and muscular in a black T-shirt, wearing hair extensions for a new film, it’s hard to believe this is the same actor last seen wasting away in front of our eyes. The weight gain is a result of his role as the Caped Crusader in Batman Begins, a new telling of the legend from Memento director Christopher Nolan, due out in 2005. Another side effect of playing The Dark Knight: An American accent that the Welsh Bale rarely slips out of. “I’m going to be doing something coming up that where I’m American again and I find that if I completely go back to my English, it takes awhile to really relax back to American completely,” Bale explains. “So I just decided that for awhile, and since The Machinist is an American character, I’ll just stay American for now. I’ve been speaking this way since January, so I don’t even really think about it.”
Bale clearly takes his craft seriously, yet it’s interesting to consider he has never had a formal acting lesson. “I’ve always been given all these books with the Meisner Technique things and I’ve never opened them,” he says, somewhat sheepishly. Still, there is clearly a method (or madness) at work, as evidenced by his Machinist weight loss. “It was a fun film to make,” he says, noting he was exhausted most of the time. “I had no energy to smile, but I was smiling internally.”
BSW: When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
Bale: I was messing around with it when I was like 8 years old. I would write comedy sketches with my friend. But that was more just a way to fill up lunchtime and get to do stupid things without teachers telling you stop it.
I kind of followed my sister, really. It was in the family a little bit. Not blatantly so. My great-uncle was an actor, but I only met him when I was really young. He was a huge guy, like 6’6”, so he was always playing the heavy. My granddad, at one point, was living in Africa and, just by chance, he was a big guy who looked like John Wayne. While John Wayne was down there filming a movie, he ended up being his double. My granddad on my mom’s side was a horse jockey and a boxer, but he was also a children’s entertainer. Like a ventriloquist and a magician. And my mom was in the circus for a short while. She was a dancer. She always kind of kicks me when I tell people that and says, “Christian, I was in the circus for a season! Why do you keep mentioning it?” But I was six years old at the time, so it was a very memorable event for me.
One of my sisters got very involved in music and she would perform recitals. And then the other one started doing dancing and some acting, just local stuff. I would be hanging around waiting for her to finish and some people said, “Do you want to join in?” I was forever saying I wasn’t interested, but eventually started playing a couple parts. And eventually found myself from doing school plays suddenly getting asked to go and audition for actual, professional plays. And amazingly, I got a couple of them.
BSW: Is there any part of you that wishes you hadn’t made a film like Empire of the Sun at such a young age?
Bale: I did wish that for a long time. There was a lot of times that I felt it really became more of a burden than anything else. I thank God that it wasn’t more successful than it was. You know, a lot of people think I was the little bald, Chinese kid in The Last Emperor. That’s quite nice, because it means I avoided that recognition thing that I don’t think is enjoyable at that age at all. I don’t know if you enjoy it at any age, but you learn and understand more about it as you get older.
I did always think it was a very good movie. I found it very difficult to watch it for many years, just because of the changes it brought about in my life. But now, yes, I can watch it. Time passes and you can do anything. I think it’s a wonderful movie.
BSW: Were you concerned that after starring in a Steven Spielberg movie at age nine, there was nowhere to go but down?
Bale: I didn’t even think I was going anywhere, really. In all honestly, I didn’t’ really care if the movie ever got released or not. I just liked getting to travel to China and to Spain and doing this acting thing. It was great fun and I really did enjoy it whilst making it. Literally, I never was even thinking anybody was going to see it and I certainly was never thinking, “Oh, what do I do next?” It was just, to me, a one-off experience. Who knew if I was going to keep working? Afterwards, I remembering thinking to myself I didn’t even want to work. I was kind of done with it and thought I would go to college or something. But I don’t know, the college thing never really attracted me that much, so I decided to keep on working.
I thought about leaving, I was always in and out: Liking it, loathing it, thinking it was pointless. But ultimately, I liked it a great deal, really. I never seriously considered anything else. Even if I wasn’t working, I found it consumed me a great deal. I liked thinking about it and I naturally have a personality that enjoys being empathetic and trying to put myself in people’s shoes. I do that during anything, even watching the news, I just think it makes life much more interesting. Inevitably, I would always come back to it. It was just something I think I just naturally liked to do.
I did become a little bit reclusive after Empire of the Sun because I didn’t really know how to deal with the attention I was getting. And I kind of bizarrely, where I hadn’t been shy before, became really introverted following making that movie. I started actually finding it very difficult myself to just socialize properly and get up in front of a group of movie just as myself. When I was playing a character, I didn’t really care and I enjoyed making a fool of myself because I genuinely didn’t think of it as me.
BSW: The statistics about child actors are not encouraging. Do you ever think, “I could have ended up an E! True Hollywood Story?”
Bale: It would mortify me. It mortifies me as it is, that you can’t control what people say about your life. You can do the best you can but still, you find yourself on occasion, being mentioned in connection with things that are appalling to you. I never would have dreamed that I would be on some stupid list or whatever. I can find it very funny and I can either really laugh and not give a shit and say “That’s life.” Or else I find myself getting very bloody depressed by it and thinking I don’t want to be a part of this anymore. I do dream of a day when interviews will never be necessary for movies. But I do have a great deal of loyalty to any project that I’ve done. Obviously, more so with a project that I really believe we’ve done very well. But actors are the pointmen, basically, for letting people know about movies. In a perfect world, an actor would be able to just do the movies and, that‘s it, you’d never know anything about them. So each time is like seeing a new actor, which is the most gratifying experience—seeing somebody you’ve never seen before doing a great performance. But there’s the reality you adjust to and you understand the director and other actors busted their ass on this and they’re asking me to be the one to go and talk about it all, and you accept that. I think there must be a certain kind of personality that definitely pursues such things as the E! Hollywood outlook on everything. I don’t really enjoy that, I’d be embarrassed to be on it, really.
But you know, I’ve been lucky. Empire of the Sun, it was a very nice character role, from the beginning. So instead of it being a kind of usual thing of this young teen actor doing young teen roles—well, I wasn’t. I tended to do very different kinds of roles and I also think, thank God, I’ve never really had a hit. It never really happened. I was never in anything that was really popular. To this day, it still hasn’t, and I think that’s wonderful. I’m far more comfortable, even though I’ve been doing this 20 years, of being thought of up and coming. Rather than already dead, because where do you go from there?
BSW: And yet you took on the role of Batman. Are you prepared for what that is going to do for your public profile?
Bale: No, I’m not at all prepared, really. I’m in great denial about any possible changes in my life that may come along from that. I sometimes literally wake up in the middle of the night thinking, “Is this the biggest mistake I’ve ever made?” And other times, I’m like, “Come on, get a grip, you asshole. Just do it like any other movie.” Most of the time, you find the anticipation is worse than the actual event. And with Batman, originally, it was going to be done as a much lower budget and darker film and then they decided to go back to a bigger budget. At which time I thought it would be more of the same, which I wasn’t interested in. But then hearing that Chris Nolan was directing, I thought, “Okay, they’re not going for more of the same, this is going to be something different.” We got along very well. So this was just one I really wanted to try and refused to let myself get scared off by the possible consequences. I generally like to approach movies as though no one’s ever going to see them. Otherwise, you get kind of self-conscious about how you’ll be perceived, instead of just doing it. It’s mass entertainment, obviously. But I think, hopefully, we’re going to be offering people a better quality of mass entertainment. And also I’m going to be able to get other movies made, if it does well, movies that wouldn’t be able to get made otherwise.
BSW: Do you mean more films like The Machinist, which is spectacular, but not necessarily mainstream?
Bale: I love it. To me, this is the kind of movie that I absolutely know I love doing. To me, a movie like Batman is an experiment to me. I like to experiment. I did this fantasy dragon picture called Reign of Fire, which I did because I liked Clash of the Titans as a kid. I tried some sci-fi stuff, I even did a musical one time. Some of them you definitely know, “Okay, I’m going to give this one a shot and it definitely could fall flat on its face or it could succeed. It may not even be exactly my cup of tea, but I want to try at least making it.” But with The Machinist, there were no doubts about it. There were no questions or considerations; this is the kind of movie that I love.
I hadn’t seen all of Brad’s movies, I had only seen Session 9, which I really thought was scary as hell and I hadn’t been scared by a movie for many years. Also, I hadn’t worked in a year and a half before Machinist and it was just the most interesting script that I read. I thought the writer had done a really incredible job with it and I looked at the character and thought, “Wow, that’s going to be a tricky one to do properly and really do justice to.” I believed I could just about manage to do it. It just seemed like the really, really right movie choice to make.
BSW: A lot has been made about your weight loss for the film. Why did you think it was so necessary for this character?
Bale: The extremity of being literally a year that he hasn’t slept, the state of mind that he’s in, he really should, I thought, look like he’s on the brink of death. There were some parts where his physicality doesn’t really matter, and others where I think it really does affect the character and the portrayal a great deal and is very important. I didn’t plan on going quite as far as I did, I just realized I was being a bit more successful than I’d imagined in losing the weight. So I just kept going and going and going until the day I got on the scale and there it was: 121. Which was actually the weight that had been written in the script. It put me in a great state of mind, because you’re so calm when you’re down to that kind of skinniness because you just have no energy to do anything but be calm. You can’t get riled up by anything. Also, the isolation that I had to induce on myself to keep away from temptations of food and drink, which also come with socializing, is very much in keeping with the way that Trevor was behaving.
I kind of had a mantra of doing nothing, unless it was on camera. I literally just sat completely silent and still, pretending I was listening to my Walkman, where I was actually listening to everybody the whole time with my eyes closed.
BSW: When you’re so extremely into a character like that, how do you leave it behind at the end of the day?
Bale: I left it very quickly. I disregarded all advice about putting on weight slowly which, to be honest, was very good advice. I was just too eager to stuff my face. It’s an interesting thing, you find how much your diet affects your moods. I came back but the irritability and moodiness came back at times, the ability to get pissed off and angry at people. The fact is, I’d much rather be like that, it’s human. But it was a very interesting place to be for awhile.
We finished Machinist at the end of July and started Batman in February. But I still did gain weight far too rapidly, just because I had to do a screen test for Batman. Chris called and knew how skinny I was and said, “I’m really not going to be able to convince the studio that you’re the guy if you’re that skinny.” I was far more appropriate to play The Scarecrow that part. So I put on 60 pounds in six weeks, which is just horrendously bad for your body. Then I had to get into the working out and preparation for it. But it all worked out.
BSW: So even with no formal training, you’re kind of a method actor. And I know you worked overtime to get in shape for American Psycho, as well.
Bale: I think again, that was one of the few characters where the physicality really is essential. I really have no idea, I don’t full know what my “method” is. So I wouldn’t be able to say if that’s what I do. I tend to find that I change with each and every character because I think each movie requires a different style of acting. There’s a kind of truthful style of acting you can do and there’s a kind of lying acting, which is also appropriate for other things. I think I just change all the time and I’ll choose to either be absolutely silent and not really communicate with anybody on the set if I feel that’s the best work for the movie. Or other times I’ll be completely social.
I think there is so much to be said for basic hair, clothing, and body language changes. I find it difficult to really notice because I don’t tend to do these things very speedily. I tend to slowly slip into them. I like to do a lot of my own personal form of research, which may not always be incredibly useful, but it’s mainly about keeping my brain thinking over casually about the character so when I’m not thinking about it, you get nice ideas and you can walk around pretending to be them and slowly slipping into it. I don’t really think, “Oh, here’s the difference from this character to this character.” It’s more gradual.
BSW: Is there anything you wouldn’t do for a role?
Bale: I’m sure there are, nothing comes to mind immediately. I seriously doubt I would do what I did for The Machinist ever again. Certainly not to that degree. I would lose weight for a part but I wouldn’t take it that far again because I think I would be really asking for trouble. I think a second time would also be less of a challenge, because I know I can do it. There was that challenge of, “Am I actually able to do this?” Now I’ve answered that question. And I would be worried if I did it a second time it would turn into a gimmicky thing, people would say, “Oh, he’s the guy that likes to lose a lot of weight for movies.” I can’t envision there being an awful lot of other parts where it would be so essential. You know, on The Machinist, my wife did get to witness what my ass is going to look like when I’m 90. Not a pretty sight.
Christian Bale’s performance as Trevor Reznik in director Brad Anderson’s “The Machinist” (2004) is nothing short of spectacular. Bale, proving to be more than just another Hollywood action star, shows the depth of his acting talent in this enticing movie, to play the part in which he lost 40lbs.
Trevor Reznik, an industrial worker plagued with insomnia for over a year, begins to fall deep into an abyss of delusion, as nonsensical situations play out in his daily life. On the crossroads of looking for answers to his insanity while trying to avoid the possible outcome of being beaten by his year-long alcohol and cigarette binge, tied with no sleep, the sickly looking Reznik is a powerful, yet pitiful character. Bale captures the role perfectly, leaving the viewer lost in the inner-conflicts and highly imaginative scenarios Reznik faces.
Besides Bale’s incredible portrayal of Reznik, “The Machinist” is well written, well shot, and well-directed. The scenario perfectly gives the viewer butterflies in the stomach with its dark vibes, eerie silences, and bad weather, all of which hit at the perfect times in the industrial town where the action takes place. With a setting and plot, more or less, uncomfortable, the characters in the film leave you questioning their importance, their meaning, and whether or not they exist or are just a part of Reznik’s repressed delusions.
Nevertheless, the greatest part about this film is its portrayal of insanity, which is something that several other films try to depict and fail miserably. It lacks pretentiousness, and makes no subtle attempts at being “artsy.” Instead, this film doesn’t “try,” which is a mistake many other psychological thrillers have done in the past, “The Machinist” “does.” And what it does is slowly, steadily, and very appropriately letting the realities and sanity slip away. The film doesn’t jump at you with an epic twist of an ending that “the whole thing was in his head the whole time,” as many other films have done. Instead, it leaves you with Reznik, a sickly yet relatable working class man, as his reality becomes more like a funhouse, making the insanity in itself questionable. It should be said that watching Reznik fall to the delusions is as painful as watching a small animal die in agony. You witness that insanity is not something that only happens to the typical, high-end, impressive character, much like Bale’s role as Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho,” but to just about anyone.
The most grievous part about the falling of the character is how undeniably eerie the whole situation is. The plot is filled with twists and turns through tunnels that can leave even the most intelligent movie fan dumbfounded as to the truth of the situation. In this movie, everything is questionable, nothing is set in stone, and to get the full effect, it should most definitely be watched more than once.
All in all, “The Machinist” was underrated and underappreciated for its time. Although Bale was only on the verge of Hollywood stardom, as it did come out previous to his groundbreaking Batman role in Christopher Nolan’s franchise, he was incredible in this film. As a result, “The Machinist” is a definite must see.