Splash News and Pictures Agency (1999)

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTIAN BALE

This is Britain’s hunky answer to Titanic heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio. Velvet Goldmine star Christian Bale has the same smoldering good looks and intense gaze as Leo that sends female fans wild. But while Hollywood actor Leo demands $25 million a picture, Welsh-born Christian will happily star in a movie for a fraction of the price. Critics have already compared the 25 year-old actor on the same megastar level of Keanu Reeves, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. And Christian is also bigger than Leo on the Internet.

“On America Online, Bale is more famous than Leonardo DiCaprio, Ethan Hawke and Christian Slater put together,” said the Globe and Mail Canadian newspaper. And USA TODAY said: “Christian Bale is in the ranks of megastars Keanu Reeves and Brad Pitt.” Trendy Spin magazine added: “He is way ahead of Tom Cruise and Christian Slater.” Yet Christian has remained faithful to small budget movies, with his latest All The Little Animals costing less than half of DiCaprio’s asking price for movies. And it is Christian’s dedication to low budget indie films that won him back the leading role in the controversial movie American Psycho from under Leo’s nose. Christian is obviously delighted at having the chance to play ‘one of the best roles of my career’. But the comparisons to the Titanic hunk following the highly publicised battle over American Psycho, have left the indie star amused. He has been hailed as the new Leo because of the movie but the similarities don’t end there. The pair have the same build, the same floppy hair and mesmerising gaze and are just a year apart in age. Christian said: “People keep making all these comparisons to Leo because of the American Psycho thing. I don’t mind being called a sex symbol or being toted as one of Hollywood’s Top Ten Hunks alongside Leo, if it helps sell the film. Actually to be honest, I bloody love being called a sex symbol! It’s great when girls think I’m cute! But the comparisons to Leo are getting boring. If it helps gets publicity for the film, fine. But I’d rather people judge me on my acting and talent than whether I look or even act like Leo.”

Christian, 25, had already been promised the part of sadistic and twisted killer Patrick Bateman in the movie version of the cult novel by Brett Easton Ellis. He was ready to play against type as a schizoid yuppie who tortures his prey with power drills, pliers and starving rodents. But then Leo, 24, decided he wanted the part – even though his salary was double the entire film’s budget. So Christian was dropped from the movie by financiers much to the disgust of director Mary Harron, who had handpicked him for the role.

But the talented Brit won back the role after Leo got cold feet and will be the to be seen soon showing off his butchering skills. Christian said: “It is a controversial role but it was wonderful when Mary first offered it to me back in August. It got written up in Variety and I had people call up and say: ‘This is career suicide’. And I just thought: ‘Excellent!’ That’s great’. Mary was quite turned on by that as well – by other people thinking that it was going to ruin our careers.”

But even though the part required Christian to do some downright disgusting things, he saw the role as a challenge and as a satire rather than a horror film. He added: “It’s my trajectory to become possibly the most hated actor of the year. I’m already getting calls from people asking: ‘You wanna play Satan?’ I was committed to go all the way, which is one of the reasons Mary says she cast me. I wasn’t afraid of being a despicable character from beginning to end. A lot of actors wanted to do it with a nudge and wink: ‘I’m really a great guy’. It’s a brilliant book and a brilliant script. I’ve never met anyone who had as much faith in me as Mary. It’s obviously unlike any character I’ve ever done and it’s really nice to meet a director who doesn’t just look at your past work and do versions of what you’ve already done. It was wonderful having her recognise that, yes, I can do the part and really fighting for me.”

And it’s not only Harron that has faith in Christian- the rising star has recently been tagged as one of Hollywood’s Hottest Young Men and he is the biggest star on the Internet. But ask Christian about his overwhelming popularity with fans and he just shrugs. While Leo has been named one of the world’s 50 most beautiful people, Christian is crowned King of the Internet World! Devoted fans spend hours logged in to chat about Christian, making him Internet’s top web dream. He has 14 sites devoted to him, with hundreds of thousands of people taking a look every week, beating other actors including Leo and Keanu Reeves. Christian said: “I have logged onto the site but I try not to get involved. It’s weird, you get all these people talking about me and my movies, it can be unnerving. But at the same time, it’s nice to know these people like my work.”

Christian became an overnight sensation when at the age of 12 he starred in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun. Many thought his that would be the best role of his career but several critically acclaimed roles followed, including his latest movie to be released. Titled All The Little Animals, the film opens in the UK on July 9 and also stars British acting legend John Hurt. The movie, directed by award winning producer Jeremy Thomas, tells the tale of friendship between a lonely roadsweeper and a mentally challenged man trying to escape an abusive home. Christian said: “Empire of the Sun was my first film, so since then I’ve always wanted to do roles that challenge me. I’m sure if Home Alone had been my first film, I might have gone down a different path and might well be doing big budget movies. But I choose scripts that interest me and I feel are a risk and mean a lot to me. That’s why I chose to do All The Little Animals with John Hurt. I admire John greatly, we had a wonderful time filming in Cornwall and on the Isle of Mann. I had just one week to prepare for the part as I’d just finished Velvet Goldmine. The script for Animals just won me over. A lot of it had to do with the theme and my upbringing of animal rights. My dad was always taking us to Greenpeace rallies when we were kids, which people thought was a bit mad at that time, although it’s accepted these days. John plays a guy who clears away the roadkill and my character befriends him. It’s a story about friendship, human nature and the way society treats those that are slightly different.”

Christian, who is usually very interview shy, says he has learned to understand and handle fame over the years. He burst onto the big screen at the tender age of 12 after appearing in just one stage play and a TV series. But he grew up in a cultured and art-orientated family and was happy putting on shows for others.

His mum Jenny was a circus performer when Christian was six years old and it was from there he caught the showbiz bug. He fondly remembers: “I’d be in a caravan with these beautiful women who would walk around naked except for fishnets and peacock headdresses. It was enough to make any young boy want to be in showbiz! I remember I had my first kiss at the circus, it was with a Polish trapeze artist and it will always be with me! My mum was a dancer, as was one of my three sisters and for a time my mum worked with the circus, being a clown, a performer and riding the elephants. To a six year old that world was amazing and my fascination just grew from there. I would then put on plays with friends and would write them as well. I did a stage play called The Nerd with Rowan Atkinson and was then cast in Anastasia with Amy Irving, who was then Spielberg’s wife. And right after that I was picked for Empire of the Sun.”

That film thrust him into the media spotlight and he admits the pressure took its toll. During interviews for the film, based on the true story of a young boy who became a World War II prisoner, Christian became so overwhelmed he ran away. Christian said: “It was great making the film but I had no idea at that time that I wouldn’t enjoy the rest of it. They packed me off on this publicity tour and I just hated it. Every 15 minutes an interviewer coming through. By the end of the second day I had a knife and I was just stabbing this orange while all these interviewers were talking to me and I wasn’t saying anything except: ‘Yes. No. I’ve answered that one 20 times today, ask any of the other journalists out there’. So when the next journalist turned up, I excused myself, ran up theChamps Elyseesand disappeared.”

But Christian managed to overcome that awful ordeal to take roles in several highly acclaimed movies. He appeared alongside Kenneth Branagh in Henry V, then Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon in Little Woman and reteamed with Empire co-star John Malkovich for Portrait Of A Lady which also starred Nicole Kidman. Then recently there was A Midsummer’s Night Dream with a stellar cast including Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Calista Flockhart and Stanley Tucci. In the past year he has been working solidly, with three movies being released, even though he admits to being a ‘lazy bastard’. He only chooses scripts that he finds challenging and admits big action thrillers hold no interest for him. Christian will admit though to wanting to work with some of theHollywood’s best known directors, including Martin Scorsese.

He added: “I want to work with all the obvious people like Scorsese and, of course, Kubrick, if he were still alive. Then there are many directors and actors who are only just starting out that I think are perfect for certain scripts. I’m looking at several projects right now but as nothing has been finalised I don’t want to jinx them by talking about them. I do realise I’ve got to stop being a lazy bastard and start doing more work. Maybe I should do one of those big action films, make a lot of money, buy a big house and just relax.”