Collegiate Monthly 101 (June 1999)

NOBODY’S COOLER THAN CHRISTIAN

They call themselves Baleheads, and they’re everywhere. Conquering Hollywood and the internet, these die-hard worshipers of English actor Christian Bale want only the best for the object of their affection. In doing this, they go so far as to write to the movie studios, campaigning for Christian to get a role, until they succeed or it’s cast otherwise. If the studios make the mistake of doing the latter, Baleheads get angry with full force, and the internet becomes the forum for their fury.

“How do you think I feel? Are you mad? I love it,” says Bale with a laugh when asked about the hoards of female admirers. “The reality of it is that it doesn’t actually come into my everyday life. I don’t have these girls saying whatever they say on the internet actually saying it to my face. So, it’s slightly a removed part of me.”

Removed or unremoved, Christian has built up a huge fan base. Thousands of women swoon at the sight of him. Millions of movie goers watch his miraculous performances with envy and awe. Who can blame them? He’s perfect! He’s creative, charismatic, funny, talented beyond belief, handsome, and extremely intelligent. His charming English accent makes everything sound extra-interesting.

On top of this, he’s got several wonderful movies in the spotlight, bringing him fame and success. With All The Little Animals starring Bale and John Hurt (to be released August 27), the video release of Velvet Goldmine with Ewan McGregor, the currently in theaters A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Michelle Pfeiffer, and the upcoming controversial American Psycho, Bale is one busy body. And, good news Baleheads, he’s here to stay.

With a career dating back to when he was 12, with his amazing performance in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, Christian has proved himself over and over again as one of the most talented young actors to come out of Hollywood (without selling out). He has grown considerably through the years as an actor and a person, and in the movies is where he wants to be. “There have been times when I thought I’d stop acting, and when that happens, I come up with these vague romantic notions of traveling around the world not knowing what I want to do.”

Who is this guy, and why isn’t he as big as Leonardo? Christian is one of the most publicity-shy people in the world. When he was doing Empire of the Sun, he didn’t fathom the monstrosity of the production (“People would say, ‘Kid, how’s it carrying a Spielberg movie?’, and I’d say, ‘Good. How’s about a game of ping-pong?'”)

When he started doing press, he was overwhelmed. Ever since then, he’s remained out of the spotlight, preferring actually “getting publicity for the film, than for myself.” This would make him seem unapproachable to a tiny interviewer like myself, but Christian turned out to be one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met.

Born January 30, 1974, Bale grew up in England, Portugal, and California (where he now resides with two dogs, Mojo and Ramone, and three cats). He’s an avid animal activist, as well as a vegetarian. He has three siblings. His father helps manage his career, but he was once a commercial pilot. His mother was a dancer and circus clown. Both his grandfathers were actors… one even did stand-in work for John Wayne. Christian considers himself to be “extremely lazy. I spend hours sitting, doing absolutely nothing.” He hangs out with people like Winona Ryder, and has been rumored to have dated a few costars now and then. He enjoys reading and dirt-biking in California. When asked what other hobbies has, Bale replied, “What’s a hobby? Something you do regularly and enjoy? Well… I was going to be crude, but it’s too early. You can use your imagination.”

If acting is what he wants to do, then by all means, do it. After all, he’s amazing. Who can watch Empire of the Sun without crying? Who can’t sit through Little Women and not become enamored by Laurie’s charms? Bale has the ability to bring each one of us into his deep emotional characters, and we love the journey with him. Detour magazine recently said that “Christian never has given less than a solid and touching performance and has never gotten a bad review.” How does that make him feel, and what’s his secret? “Well, that’s quite a good track record, isn’t it? One of the most important things for any actor is that you have to able to make a fool of yourself. When I do get self-conscious or embarrassed, and everyone’s staring at you, you get an acute perception of what the hell you’re doing. You go, ‘Oh my God. They see straight through me.’ So, I just pretend that nobody’s going to see this film except myself, and it helps.”

Easier said than done. Nevertheless, Bale seems to have acting under control. He has never had training (“There’s something instinctive about acting, and getting too academic ruins it. There’s nothing more boring then hearing an actor talking about bloody motivation. But hey, I heard Al Pacino still has a teacher”), has mostly done period pieces (including Shakespeare twice!) which are the hardest around (“Once you start, they keep casting you. People assume because I’m English, that I know all about Shakespeare. They couldn’t be further from the truth”), and takes on roles that most actors would be afraid to touch with a ten-foot pole (“I can’t keep playing Laurie from Little Women one hundred times over”).

In All The Little Animals, which Christian describes as an “adult fairytale,” he plays Bobby, a 24-year-old man with a mental age of twelve who befriends an old recluse. “Most of the film is about myself and Mr. Summers (Hurt) who is an eccentric idealist. It goes from quite extremes. There is quite brutal violence which arises from this Utopian summer for Bobby and Mr. Summers.” One of the reasons Bale did this film is because of it’s stand on animals.

He’s a huge animal activist, donating to charities, adopting pets, and finding beauty in all his little animals. “My family always had animals around, picking up strays. The philosophy of Mr. Summers is that animals are no lesser a form of life than humans, except they don’t have any sort of deception about them.” Doing this film included scenes of Mr. Summers and Bobby burying roadkill from the side of the road. Bale says, “When I was tiny, my dad would stop and clear anv dead animal off the road, ’cause he hated seeing it lying there. It’s something I continue to do, as long as its not completely worn into the tarmac. I find myself going to the set, seeing a dead hedgehog, picking it up, and then handing it to props.

Even harder than seeing so many dead animals, Christian had the tough job of getting into the role of Bobby. “The director wanted me to go watch twelve-year-old boys for awhile, but then I thought I’d get arrested!”

Perhaps one of Bale’s most bizarre and unusual roles was a glam rocker turned journalist in Todd Haynes’ Velvet Goldmine (executive produced by REM singer Michael Stipe). Velvet Goldmine included plenty of sex (even bisexuality for Christian and Ewan McGregor), drugs, and wild clothing. “It was totally unexpected for audiences. I think they expected some kind of a thriller, but then were like ‘EH? What’s this?” It’s a look at glam rock in the ’70s and how it gave people the courage to change their lives.”

Bale can identify with this a lot. “When I think about years, I can’t remember what I was doing unless I think of what film I was working on or what music I listened to… Adam and the Ants, Madness, New Order… they’re sort of markers.” All-in-all, however, the box office take on Velvet Goldmine was very disappointing for Christian. “I really thought there was a lot of excitement on it. But friends of mine would call me up to say, ‘I can’t wait for it to come out,’ and I’d say, ‘It’s out already!’ People didn’t even know it was out! You can’t help but feel disappointed when you put so much work into it, and people haven’t even been informed that it’s in the theaters.”

So, what’s next for Christian? American Psycho will be released in 2000. Besides that, there’s a couple offers here and there, but nothing’s set in stone. He’s sick of being lazy and wants to get to work soon. This could include the one job that Christian would die for: Anakin Skywalker. Rumor has it that Christian’s in the running for the next installment of Star Wars, but according to Christian, “So is DiCaprio and everyone else!”

How did he feel about The Phantom Menace? “I agree with everybody. I want to shoot Jar Jar Binks!”

By Matthew Cole Weiss.