The first time you meet Christian Bale he will be wanking. The role of Arthur in Velvet Goldmine (Todd Haynes’ lavish love letter to ’70s glit-rock out next month) requires this. Overcome by his passion for glam, the boy from the ‘burbs relieves himself over his Brian Slade albums, flees home and finds fulfillment hanging in London’s Glam clubs. His portrayal of a fan-on-the-fringes also provides a way in to a movie which some might find too arthouse to sit through (plot like an onion, high leotard count, Orson Welles homage); “A lot of people who grew up in that era have said, ‘You were me. That was exactly what we went through.’ Which is lovely to hear. They also say, ‘Magnificent wanking scene. Ooh, he does a great wank scene.'”
Despite a career as a child star (in “The Nerd” opposite Rowan Atkinson aged 10; ‘Empire of the Sun’ aged 13) it’s Bale’s attitude to acting that seals your faith in him. During the shoot for ‘Metroland’ (in which he plays three ages of Suburban Man, out this month) co-star Emily Watson nicknamed him Tanty (he threw a tantrum when a journalist tried to interview him in his pyjamas). He curls his lip talking about Leonardo DiCaprio, too (currently toying with the part of Partick Bateman in ‘American Psycho’, a role which Bale spent six months bulking up for).
“I can’t stand gyms, I just made myself learn to love it,” he says through a mouthful of brie sandwich. “You do become obsessive looking at everyone else thinking, ‘Ooh their skin could do with a bit of tightening up.’ I did become the arsehole that I’ve always despised.” And yet that’s the very appealing thing about Christian Bale. He may have lived in Hollywood since he was a teenager, yet he’s managed to remain almost sane. He says through two uneven rows of distinctly un-Californian serrated-edge teeth: “I hate going shopping. I surf on occasion, but I almost drown…The Americanisation of me is that I’ve bought a shotgun. I go out shooting rollerbladers.”
By Sarah Bailey.