“I’ve got a lot of stuff I want to talk about now,” says the ordinarily interview-shy Christian Bale, stirring a double scotch. “When you do a lot of interviews, you find yourself telling the same stories over and over. After you do it for a whole day, you say, ‘Christ, I’ve said this five times today.’ It gets fun when you get so bored you start making it all up. I was reading an interview today that I did over a year ago – it must have been one of those occasions where I just got bored. I was talking about bowels and keeping the bowels open. It came from a conversation with my grandfather one time, where he said, ‘It’s good to keep your bowels open, Christian.’ I asked him, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ And he said, ‘If you want to have a good, healthy lifestyle, and you want to live longer and feel better, you have to keep your bowels open.’ Then it finished with me making the comment, ‘I licked the right tit,’ meaning, I did the right thing. ‘I licked the right tit – I quite like the phrase.”
“It’s like a dog having a litter of pups – the strongest pup from the litter obviously licked the right tit,” I suggest.
Christian laughs, “And as long as he keeps his bowels open, he’s going to have a good life, isn’t he?”
Christian Bale must have followed his grandfather’s advice. He’s got a handful of films due out in the following months: “Metroland’, ‘All the Little Animals’, William Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, and ‘Velvet Goldmine’, which is slated for a November release by Miramax Films. Co-written with James Lyons and directed by Todd Haynes (‘Safe’), Goldmine is a love story set in London’s glam rock scene. The year is 1984, and Bale portrays a reporter writing a story about the sudden disappearance of ’70s mythical rock god Brian Slade (Jonathan Ryss (SIC) Meyer). He journeys back into Slade’s past, delving deep into the glittered rock world of excessive drugs and and the bisexual revolution, defining the glam lifestyle through Slade; his wife, Mandy (Toni Collette); and American rock star Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor).
Bale eyes a couch at the less-crowded end of the cafe aulait-colored room and falls onto its center cushion, grasping an icy glass of Belvedere from the table during his descent. He sighs and nervously clinks the swizzle stick against the glass’s walls.
JIM TURNER: What interested you in ‘Velvet Goldmine’?
CHRISTIAN BALE: A change. I’ve done a lot of costume period films, and quite frankly, I’m very sick of them. No more top hats and tails – which I did in ‘Little Women’ and ‘Portrait of a Lady’ – that stiff-collar stuff. I liked how a lot of people couldn’t fathom this script at all when they read it. I thought it was brilliant. I’d seen Todd’s film ‘Safe’ a couple of days before I got the script, so he was on my mind. It’s one of the best scripts I’ve read–it touches on so many different levels. It’s smart without being pretentious.
JT: Many actors would be afraid of the film’s roles.
CB: I always like that. Whenever there’s a project where everyone’s going, ‘Oooooh, it’s a bit dodgy,’ I always like it. If you actually look at it, there tends not to be anything risky at all. Why did I start acting in the first place? I didn’t do it to be mediocre or to please everybody all the time.
JT: It’s really a love story first, rock story second.
CB: I think it was interesting to stick it in the glam rock period because the story could be put into many different places. Glam provides the background–and it was a fascinating time. So many people, primarily in England, have said to me that they were my character, and that this bubble-gum music, or pop music, can change someone’s life.
JT: I was too young to be into glam, so I learned quite a bit …
CB: I was born in 1974, so I wasn’t aware of it either, but I’ve read shitloads of books about it. I know the music because I just do. People like Brian Eno and David Bowie were well ahead of their time with their music. Glam was the antithesis to free love, but it didn’t really incorporate everybody. I think it was a book called “Please Kill Me”, that said that if the ’60s were about free love, then the ’70s were about S&M.
JT: You grew up in London?
CB: I was born in Wales, but grew up in different places all over England. I moved an awful lot – by the time I was 15, I’d lived in 15 different towns.
JT: And you live in Los Angeles now?
CB: No, but I spend a fair bit of time here. I don’t really live anywhere. I break up my time between here and London. When I’m in London, I don’t want to spend any time in L.A., and when I’m here, I actually enjoy it.
JT: What do you do when you’re not working – aside from hanging out at the L’Hermitage’s bar?
CB: I swear I’ve never been here before (laughs). Lately, even if I’m not actually working, I am. I’m lazy. I like to sleep a lot. It’s not easy to spend time doing nothing, and I do it extremely well. I think it’s actually good for an actor to do that sometimes. I’m someone who can spend days by myself and enjoy it. It’s great for the imagination. I’m not someone who has any routine whatsoever in my life. I don’t have hobbies and never have.
JT: You’re not the typical young Hollywood actor; you don’t even have a publicist.
CB: I’ve got this whole thing with this film called ‘American Psycho’ that has made me more aware that I want to get a bit of a higher profile at the moment. I’m doing that in conjunction with ‘Velvet Goldmine’, so fine, I feel good about it. A lot of it was due to the fact that I always said ‘no’ to any interviews because I didn’t want to do them. I never really got a kick out of seeing myself in magazines.
JT: Do you read your interviews?
CB: Yeah. In most of them lately, I’m fine. I won’t get drawn into something I don’t want to talk about really. I had this film when I was 13, and did a lot of press after that, which ruined it for me. I suddenly became this young celebrity in my hometown, and there were all these fistfights and shit going on. I just couldn’t stand it, and that was sort of my reasoning for always wanting to steer clear of cameras.
JT: Have you ever considered going on a television talk show like Letterman?
CB: No, I haven’t. I did a show called ‘Woven’ in England once, which has disappeared now. The host was this sort of cheesy, corny, Irish guy who told bad jokes. I did that when I was 13, too. It’s a cheesy game, and you can get drawn into these cheesy things. You sit and watch talk shows, and you wonder how these guys do it every night, five days a week. You see these shows, and you see them exactly for what they are – a great big advertisement. Somebody comes on, tells his little anecdotes, blah, blah, blah, says, ‘go and watch it,’ and it seems somehow desperate.
JT: You have two more films, too.
CB: Yeah, ‘All the Little Animals’ and ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
JT: Did you say “Midsummer Night’s Scream?”
CB: It’s a sequel to ‘Scream’ (laughs). It’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’. It looks like the ‘American Psycho’ is going to happen. The book was written in 1991, and I first came onto it just over a year ago. I’m not jumping to any conclusions. You know, I feel like neither of us are mad talkers, and we’d both rather be somewhere else, talking about something else. Wanna go outside and have a smoke?
JT: Okay, but I quit three weeks ago.
CB: And you’re doing just great.
By Jim Turner.