CHRISTIAN TAKES ON SEX, VIOLENCE, UNDERWEAR AND HORSE MANURE
From Ted: So, how does it feel to be the most downloaded man on the Internet? How does it feel to be adored like that?
Is that true? I didn’t know this. It always feels really remote from my own life–if everyone really knew what a jerk I am in real life, I wouldn’t be so adored in the slightest. I consider it very flattering, but I don’t dwell on it too much.
From Ted: Do you check in much with your fans, known as the Baleheads?
I’m very behind with computers. I have a computer, but it’s been sitting in a box for years, so I don’t actually go on the Net. Occasionally, I do go on just to take a look and see what is happening, but it’s the same as TV and magazines; if I look at it too much, it makes me self-conscious, and that’s the enemy of being an actor. So, I don’t expose myself to that very much.
From Ted: What made you decide to take on American Psycho?
It was unlike anything I had ever done before, and also I think that I had an idea about the novel. I hadn’t read it–but I was aware of American Psycho because of the controversy surrounding the novel. It just turned out to be that I was completely mistaken. I believed it was some sort of misogynistic, dark thriller analyzing the mind of a serial killer, but, in the novel, the focus always seemed to be on this extreme violence. That detracted from the real wit and satire, which, hopefully, we really brought out in the movie.
From Ted: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
That’s not a word I would throw around. I certainly believe in absolute equality. But I wouldn’t say this is a feminist movie–that would be taking it a little bit too far, in my opinion. I do believe it’s an antimale movie in many ways. The lines get blurred when people look at a piece about hatred.
From KG: What finally made you take on this project? Will you continue to take risky roles like this in the future?
I wanted to do this project right after I read it and found it to be one of the most effective screenplays I’d ever read. There was a real challenge in the role in that it could go very wrong very easily. It took a long time to get made, but that had nothing to do with my doubts about the piece–that had to do with the financiers’ doubts about putting me in the movie. The director always wanted me in it, and she got her way. As to the risk, I think it’s always good to take risks, but I certainly didn’t take this for the shock value, and I don’t intend to always play roles like Bateman. That would be career suicide, but as far as taking risks, I hope to always do that.
From Paul-_Charlotte: Hey, Christian, are you an avid reader?
I love W. Somerset Maugham. I also had an obsession with Watership Down when I was younger-I read it, like, eight times in row. I don’t know why. I’ve always been a real animal lover, and it was all about rabbits, so I found it really fascinating.
From Steve: Are you concerned that everyone will pick up on American Psycho’s violence and miss the obvious humor?
That was something [director] Mary Harron wanted to avoid. Most of the time when people mention the book, they refer to the extremely graphic scenes. To focus too much on the violence is to ignore the intelligence of the movie. It’s not just a slasher movie, and we wanted to make sure the movie didn’t become that. In fact, some people have complained that it’s not violent. The film is violent, but in the tone. The physical violence is often off camera or insinuated. I think it’s more effective in movies to leave that to the imagination of the viewer.
From Amy: I really liked the film Velvet Goldmine. How do you prepare yourself for your characters, especially the dark ones?
It varies with whatever seems to be required for each piece. With Bateman, he was really different because he really doesn’t have any emotions at all. Normally, you try to create some sort of history for the character, but with Bateman, I never viewed him as being a real character. I never considered what happened to him when he was younger that made him into this monster.
There’s a stylization I felt was necessary, because he’s almost inhuman. He refers to himself as an abstraction, so that is how I approached him. I sort of know nothing about him other than what you see in the movie. For Bateman, surfaces and vanity and aesthetics are important – you know, the clothes really make the man. His body is important, so I had to work out a lot. I had to get my teeth straightened. (I have typically British teeth.) Primarily, with each character, it’s just allowing that person to sit in your head, and you come up with ideas over time.
From Laura: What was the last dream you had that you remember? Did American Psycho give you nightmares?
The movie didn’t actually make me have any dreams–a lot of people asked me that. But actually, I slept very well. But the nature of Bateman – he’s so much in his head instead of his heart, so I didn’t really bring him home with me.
Afterwards, I played Jesus, and that provoked an awful lot of dreams and nightmares like I haven’t had since I was 10 years old. They involved blood dripping from the ceiling into my palms, and I was waking up covered in sweat. I was dreaming about crucifixion.
From Ted: Which was more difficult, playing Jesus or a serial killer?
Playing Jesus, absolutely. I mean, how can you play Jesus? I wouldn’t call myself particularly religious, but I find him a fascinating person. It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not; in the West, you’re affected by Jesus in some way whether you consider him the Son of God or not. So, it’s a daunting thing to be asked to play him. The only way I could come to grips with playing him was to think of him as a man who was incredibly passionate and essentially a social revolutionist.
From Denise: How do you feel this role will change how your peers and fans see you as an actor?
Hopefully, it just expands the variety. It certainly opened up a different array of roles that I am considered for now. I hope I don’t become predictable now. Most directors like to see that you’ve already done a version of what they want, so you really expand in increments rather than going 360 degrees to something new. I’ve done a fair amount of costume dramas – Laurie in Little Women, you know, the boy-next-door thing. Then suddenly Mary Harron said she was going to cast me as Bateman, and now, suddenly, I’m getting offers to play the bad guy, and I’m sure that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
From Sabrina: How responsible do you feel violent movies are for the ongoing violence in schools and society?
Me, personally? I feel like it’s a question that comes up again and again. I think people have to allow movies, books and music to grow up and be adult. I have a question about the ratings system in the States. In the U.K., it’s very simple: We have a 15 and an 18-so, for example, American Psycho has an 18, so no one under 18 can get in to see that movie. There’s no stigma about it-every theater will show it, every newspaper will advertise it.
In the States, American Psycho was given an NC-17 rating, ironically because of a sex scene and not because of the violence. So, what that meant is that there was a stigma, and it’s almost like a pornographic movie. Now we have an R rating. But that means a 20-year-old can take a 10-year-old to see the movie, which they shouldn’t do. It wasn’t made for that age. What’s ironic is that there are many mainstream movies that are much more violent than American Psycho, but no one seems to question that in the slightest.
From larrigirl: How difficult are sex scenes with cameras and people right in front of you?
It’s bizarre, but if you’re an actor, there have to be times when you’re ready to step up to the plate and make a fool of yourself and possibly embarrass yourself. But I find that with sex scenes, they always become quite funny and the opposite of sexy. A movie set is really not an intimate place at all. Everyone knows you’re going to be taking your clothes off, so it’s surprising how easy it becomes. There’s more nervousness before–the sort of anticipation–as opposed to when you’re actually doing it.
From Ted: How does your wife feel about such sex scenes?
She thinks they’re great–hilarious, even. Her favorite scene is me running naked, covered in blood, down a corridor with a chain saw in my hand. She doesn’t really understand why everyone finds it so controversial.
From Sarah: What was it like working with Reese Witherspoon?
It was excellent. Filming American Psycho was actually quite a lonely experience. All the other actors just came in and out for a few days. And it was the same with Reese–she was getting quite heavily pregnant, and her clothes kept having to be let out during the filming. But she’s a great actress, and she was perfect for the role. She plays Bateman’s fiancée, Evelyn, and as much as he is a bastard, she is a bitch, and therefore, she is sort of his match.
From Jennifer: Who is your wife? How did she get you? Do you realize there are millions of disappointed gals out there?
She’s just an incredible woman. I don’t really like to talk too much about my private life. Actually, it’s important for an actor not to talk about his life in order to convincingly portray other characters. Her name is Sibi. She’s Yugoslavian. I met her, and I’m just smitten with her. She’s produced a few films, but she has taken some time off to travel with me. Sorry, I can’t feel guilty about all those disappointed fans. I have to get on with my life. I’m not settling down, just getting married.
From Erin_and_Lucy: How did preparing for your role as Jesus affect your view of Christianity?
I always pictured Jesus as Neil Diamond when I was younger. My upbringing was not a religious one, but an inquisitive one. My father was best friends with the bishop and fascinated by religion. I would come back from church, and my dad would put on Neil Diamond. So, I would always picture Neil Diamond with a big white beard, standing in a tunic and preaching to masses of people, so I was extremely disappointed when I finally saw a picture of Neil Diamond. I didn’t want to believe that was him. I do go to church on occasion, but I don’t adhere to any particular religion. His [Jesus’] basic message of encompassing all people was a great one.
From Christia: What is your ultimate dream role?
I don’t really have a dream role. Somebody once said every actor should play Jim Hawkins, Hitler and Jesus. So, I guess I just have Hitler left to complete. Acting is an essentially passive role, in that you can’t dictate what role you’ll play. It’s passive until you get the part and can then dictate something. I have ideas that I could someday write and direct. I guess my dream role would be acting, writing and directing a project. It’s all just an idea, no project right now–it remains to be seen.
From Smooth: How do you like Hollywood?
My first ever experience was away from Hollywood, in Empire of the Sun. Now, when you say Hollywood, I’m not just thinking of the place, but the whole business. I really felt like I was bitten by it, and I wanted to get the hell away from it–that was because I was very young and not ready for any level of fame and found that I disliked it. I was 13, an age when you really should be anonymous. You don’t know who you are. You should be making mistakes then. I felt like I was letting people down if I acted like a 13-year-old. That, I felt, was very unhealthy.
From Ted: What did you think about Haley Joel Osment getting nominated?
I think it’s much the same. He has to have strong support around him, with that being his family or whatever situation he’s in–in order to still be a kid. And he really should. He should go goof off and get into trouble and not try to be excessively mature. Most actors are not particularly mature people, so why assume–I think he’s only 11-why assume he has to be [mature]?
From Ted: Now you’re exceedingly mature?
Exceedingly mature. I’m very, very serious. But, at least, I think 26 is an age when I feel ready for some sort of recognition.
From Ted: Well, I think you’re about to get it. Are you prepared?
Well, I believe so.
From Natalie: Have you personally received any hate mail for choosing to take on this role?
No, none. There was a lot in the press about being protested for the movie in Toronto while we were making the movie. And that seemed to be exhaustingly exaggerated as well. Because I remember reading about it in the papers and then looking around me and saying, “Well, where is it?” I never witnessed it personally. I found that many protesters never read the book. That’s pretty irresponsible and unfair of people.
From Melissa: Is there any movie in your filmography you wish you could take off?
You know, there really isn’t. There’s a couple of films I’m not proud of, whether it was my doing or the film. I see them as learning experiences from screwing up. I feel too loyal to mention any by name.
From Jenni: What is your favorite time of the day?
That would be nighttime. For fun? I love sleeping. I’m a very lazy person. I love doing nothing. In England, there’s a strong tradition of going to the pub and drinking until you projectile vomit, but you come to Los Angeles and you really can’t do that any longer. I just love to sleep.
From Bale99: Tell me something you don’t want other people to know about you.
Why would I tell you that? I’m not a personality, I’m an actor. I shouldn’t do that, and I have no desire to, anyway.
From August: What would you have done with your life if you hadn’t gone into acting?
It would have to involve traveling. I was brought up moving around a lot–not internationally–so I get restless if I am in one place for very long. I have acted since I was 10. I’ve had romantic ideas, like being a war journalist. My family lived in Portugal when I was 11, and I really wanted to stay there and work in the stables. Manure! Horseshit! But hopefully, not in my work.
From Henele: Congrats on your recent marriage. Besides actors, are there any favorite people in your life who have an influence on your work?
I never particularly had any heroes. But my biggest influences would have to be my father and my family. We moved around an awful lot, so I found you had to form a tight unit or you’d be incredibly lonely. Because I was always moving on from one place to the next, I didn’t have friends for years like most people do, so I relied much more on my family.
From Ted: Do you find acting a lonely profession?
I don’t know to compare it to anything else. I don’t know if it’s more lonely than anything else. It’s a great way of meeting new people because you sort of speed up relationships–it’s like being thrown into a room with someone else. You find out very quickly if you like that person or not by working on a movie with them. It is nomadic, and you have to get accustomed to some sort of isolation, which is often important in preparing for a role. But I’ve always been a bit of a loner. I can entertain myself for hours on end.
From Catherine: Are you afraid of being typecast now that you have taken on this dark role?
Yeah, if that was to happen, that really would be career suicide. But there really aren’t many characters like Patrick Bateman. I would be afraid of being typecast in continuing to play roles like Laurie in LIttle Women or Alfred in Velvet Goldmine. I’m not more concerned about Bateman than any other role I’ve played.
From Chrissie: When you were filming some of the more grotesque scenes, did you ever find yourself thinking, I can’t believe I’m doing this?
I find I can’t believe I’m doing this many times when I’m acting. That’s the enjoyment of it–you find yourself doing things you never would’ve dreamed. Bateman goes from one extreme to another–from absolute composure to complete confusion and despair. Even when you’re acting, you have to maintain some sense of control. Otherwise Jared would’ve gotten an axe in the back of his head. So it’s important to never absolutely lose control.
From Ted: Were any of your friends or family members concerned about your taking this role?
My mother was concerned, but she saw the movie and she was crying with laughter. It was great.
From Sandra: What day-to-day, simple, little things make you smile? Laugh? Grin?
I guess the same as everybody else: eating, drinking and sleeping.
From Emily: Tell us something that you haven’t mentioned in another interview.
I’ll tell you nothing scandalous! I used to play on a rugby team. Interesting, huh? I’m sure I’ve never said that before, because why would I? I don’t play sports now on a regular basis. I have a dirt bike, I run-away from people. I would like to play more football-er, soccer.
From Sideshow: Do you live in England or Los Angeles?
Both, though I would like to spend more time back in London. But for work, I am always being asked to come back to L.A. I’m not particularly patriotic. Right now I actually prefer the States. I still visit London, but for now, I’m mostly here.
From Jessica: Do you still keep in touch with the guys from Newsies?
No. I haven’t seen anyone for some time. I try to keep in touch with people I work with, but often you live in different places, so it’s not easy.
From Rebecca: Was it cool working with Winona Ryder in Little Women?
It was very good. She apparently had casting approval, and she asked that I play Laurie. I’m grateful to her for requesting me. I really enjoyed it.
From Ali: Are you embarrassed to do love scenes, or do you enjoy them?
I enjoy acting–and any scene where things are going well, I enjoy. If it’s not going well, I don’t enjoy it at all. Love scenes tend to end in laughter. I can’t say I’ve ever been really embarrassed in a love scene. Everyone else on the set tends to get more uncomfortable than the actors, because they don’t know where to look. On Velvet Goldmine, Todd [Haynes, the director] made it fun. He’d say “cut” so quietly each time, you wouldn’t know–you might just keep on going, and then you’d peer around to the camera and see everyone clap.
From Ted: Is there any difference between a gay love scene and a straight one?
Well, yeah, because he was behind me. You know, position. It’s just basic biology.
From Akeda: Christian, you’re so gorgeous-does that help or hinder you in getting roles?
When Mary asked me to play Bateman–he’s extremely vain, so, of course, looks helped for that part. But at the time, I was playing a character [in All the Little Animals] called Bobby, who was a 24-year-old with the mental age of 12. He was very soft around the edges and kind of chubby and really not gorgeous in the slightest. I don’t think it has hindered me at all. I’m not pretty. I hate being called pretty. Take that back!
From tawnyfirl: Do you have sexy underwear?
Right now–at the moment? Sexiness is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? I haven’t bought any sexy underwear. Some people may find it sexy, even though I don’t intend to buy them for that. Why am I talking about what underwear I wear?
From Peder: Have you had any encounters or experiences with fans that you can share?
I had a strange meeting with someone when I was younger. I was sitting with some friends in a café. A couple of girls sat down with us, and one of them told us she was dating Christian Bale, which was sort of bizarre. So, I listened to her, and we were saying things like, “Oh, wow, he must be horrible. I’d hate to be him.” Then I said, “You idiot, that’s me!” and she sort of ran from the coffee shop.
From Candice: If you had to live on a remote island, and you had to take one thing besides your wife, what would you take?
Horseshit! [Laughing.] I love the smell of it.
From Ted: Okay, so let’s do a little Barbara Walters: If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
Does she really ask that question? The thing I think of immediately, being an actor–something that is brought out and dressed up like a Christmas tree. Probably a fake Christmas tree. That’s what I would be. Isn’t that the most bizarre answer you’ve ever heard?
From Jane: What are the best things about being an actor? And the worst?
The best is working with other talented people; the worst is working with really untalented people. Oh, and being asked questions about what underwear you wear!
From Girly_girl: : Are you like Bateman in any way? Which of your characters do you most identify with?
No, I really hope I’m not like Bateman in any way whatsoever, and I don’t think I am. I don’t really feel any more attachment to one of my characters than the other. But my sister told me that in Metroland, she thought the character I played was much more like me than any of the other characters she’d seen. I don’t aspire to play roles that are like myself. It’s great to play characters that remove one from oneself. It’s more challenging.
From Atechin: What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received?
Well, maybe it shows I’m not a good listener, because I can’t think of any good or bad advice. It’s quite possibly yours-that I should get used to being asked about my underwear!