‘Little Women’ costars Christian Bale and Samantha Mathis talk about love in the ’60s – the 1860s – when women were women and men wore ruffles.
As the most digable guy in the entire cast and crew of the film ‘Little Women’, Christian Bale definitely knows what it’s like to be popular. But when I start talking (Okay, flirting) with the adorable British actor during our interview, he gets so bashful, he nearly bolts for the door. But then I’m no Samantha (‘Pump up the Volume’) Mathis. When she arrives at the photo studio in Los Angeles, Christian takes to her like butter to a baked potato. In fact, Christian and his gorgeous costar get along so well, that a few minutes later, as the two sit for hair and makeup for our cover shoot, I just have to ask: “Is this an act or what?”
“He wants me,” quips Samantha, who, despite a headful of enormous rollers, manages to shoot Christian a sexy sideways smile. “But in the movie, Christian wants all the Little Women. He wants to have his cake and eat it, too.”
For those of you who don’t have a tattered copy of Louisa May Alcott’s novel stuffed under your bed, Christian’s character, Laurie, is a young, tortured type who falls hopelessly in love with Jo (Winona Ryder), only to get dumped and wind up years later in the arms of her sister Amy (Samantha). “It was really quite fun,” says 20-year-old Christian. “I go from this innocent, very likable boy who can’t quite deal with it when Jo rejects him. He then becomes this debauched character who does a lot of drinking and smoking. It was quite nice.”
The protocol of courting in the 1860s, however, wasn’t so easy for these modern romantics to pull off, despite a deportment class on the set. “It was a bit of a leap for us,” admits Christian, who has had hearts pounding from Pittsburgh to Portland since his movie debut in ‘Empire of the Sun’. “Kissing was very delicately done back then,” he adds, demonstrating on the back of his hand. With a gleeful smirk he turns to Samantha, “We rehearsed our scene quite a lot didn’t we?”
The two burst into laughter. “I’ll tell you another time we laughed hysterically,” says Samantha, 23. “Well, Christian was laughing, but I wasn’t, because I was deeply embarrassed. We have this one really romantic scene. I’m in this beautiful gown and I take off running up a hill because I’m so mad at him. And… I fall flat on my face!” So much for the deportment classes.
Victorian coyness can be a bit maddening. “There were all these things that girls did with their gloves,” says Christian, who, by the way, is still dating his childhood sweetheart. “The way she dropped a glove actually meant whether she hated me or loved me.” But Samantha rather liked the old-fashioned stuff. “I liked the formality of it,” says Samantha, who, while single now, has been romantically linked to past costars Christian Slater and River Phoenix. “I like how long it took for people to get to know each other. There’s something to be said for establishing a romantic bond before you dive into the whole sexual thing.”
For her next project, Sam will be reunited with Winona in ‘How to Make an American Quilt’, a film that has little to do with sewing. Meanwhile, Christian is awaiting the release of the period piece ‘The Prince of Jutland’. When asked to describe his role, he seems almost embarrassed by his answer. “I play the prince. But he’s a very basic prince.”
By Melissa Thompson.