LADY-KILLER: AN INTERVIEW WITH ACTOR CHRISTIAN BALE
To his legion of devoted fans a.k.a. “Baleheads” he is simply Christian, the cyber-hot, animal-loving, vegetarian star of films like Velvet Goldmine, Portrait Of A Lady, and Metroland. To others, he’ll always be Jim Graham, the precocious 11-year-old from Empire of the Sun, or Laurie, the touching, sensitive lad who falls for Winona Ryder in 1994’s Little Women. If you sleep in either of these camps, perhaps it’s best you don’t see American Psycho, a pitch black “comedy” guaranteed to shatter Christian Bale’s image as a cinematic shrinking violet.
The 26-year-old Welsh actor goes postal as Patrick Bateman, a wealthy commodities broker whose material fetishism is matched by his lust for blood. (Imagine Robin Leach meets Hannibal Lector.) “Patrick Bateman is by very superficial standards, the perfect guy,” says Bale. “He’s an executive on Wall Street, good-looking, and rich. Scratch the surface, however, and you get this anal retentive narcissistic jerk with a secret – he’s a serial killer. I found the script to be a great spoof about materialism and narcissism.” Unfortunately, not everyone found it funny. The film, a period piece based on Bret Easton Ellis’ graphically violent and controversial novel, has already caused quite a bit of Hollywood hand-wringing. Ironically, the problem wasn’t the film’s violence, but rather a menage à trois scene between Bale and two actresses. In order to ensure an “R” rating, the scene has since been cut.
To become the cosmetically obsessed Bateman, Bale prepared for months, transforming himself by dieting and pumping iron, as well as straightening his teeth, and working with a voice coach to perfect a preppy Wall Street accent. Does he pull it off? Let’s put it this way, once you get a glimpse of a nude, blood-covered Bateman chasing a prostitute with a chainsaw, you’ll never look at Christian Bale the same way ever again.
drDrew.com got together with “The Most Downloaded Man on the Internet” for a little Psycho talk.
How do you turn a character like Bateman off at the end of the day? You must have come home from the set still feeling pretty wired.
I was still wired, but it’s a character that you can play without any emotional attachments, so he didn’t really linger. I only felt myself becoming him when I put on his clothes and applied the hairspray, that kind of thing. I did keep the accent up the whole time, and often found it amusing to be Bateman-esque with the other actors. When we finished the movie, it was actually the quickest character that I’ve ever been able to turn off.
Bateman’s world revolves around materialistic things. What would you say is your most prized possession?
I guess it would be my wedding ring. That’s the only thing I take with me everywhere.
How did your wife react to some of the film’s more graphic scenes?
She loved it. She doesn’t understand why people find it so controversial.
Do you think Americans find it more controversial than Europeans?
It seems so. In Europe, there was no concern about cutting the film to get a certain rating, and there has been here. I think [the MPAA] couldn’t resist. They saw that it’s a film with a certain amount of notoriety, and they had to be seen doing something. Why can’t we be grownups and allow ourselves to make intelligent movies? I think it’s very typically American that they picked the sex scene to object to.
So Americans are sexually uptight?
Well, if you go to Europe, you find that everyone is aware of violence and dislikes it, but loves sex. In America, however, it seems that everybody loves violence and hates sex. It’s a funny thing.
Are there any parallels between Christian Bale and Patrick Bateman?
I hope not [laughs]. However, I did think there are quite a lot of similarities between the vanity and backstabbing of Bateman’s cronies and the Hollywood scene of today.
How hard was it to get in shape for the role?
It was bloody hard. I’m English, and in England, we don’t have many gyms around. We’d rather go to a pub instead. I’ve never been to a gym in my life, so I thought, “Well, I have to do this. You can’t play Bateman unless you have a six-pack. He has to look like a fitness freak.” When I first went to gym, I had no idea what I was doing–I was aimlessly working out and wondering why I couldn’t see any results. I wanted my body to change in about a week [laughs]. But eventually, I got a trainer who taught me about dieting. He was really strict, and I worked with him for about six weeks straight. Then during filming, I stuck with a mostly protein diet.
So did you keep it going once filming stopped?
Oh no. The first thing I did was go straight to the pub for a pint of Guinness [laughs].
By Michael Moses.