Cosmopolitan (February 2001)

WHY WE’RE PSYCHO FOR CHRISTIAN BALE

The American Psycho star tells his tactic for avoiding the press (we caught him!), his favorite thing about his true love, and the sexy celeb he wishes would call.

Christian Bale has slipped so convincingly into his movie roles that it’s a safe bet you’ve seen him in more films than you realize. The young thespian in 1987’s Empire of the Sun? Bale, at 13. Winona Ryder’s elegant suitor (her personal pick) in 1994’s Little Women? Bale. Edward to Nicole Kidman’s Isabel in 1996’s Portrait of a Lady? The reporter in the 1998 glam-rock saga Velvet Goldmine? You got it – Bale.

But with the arrival of American Psycho last spring, there was no overlooking Christian Bale. Every moviegoing young woman with a pulse salivated over the hunky actor with perfectly sculpted pecs, abs, and glutes. No matter that he was playing an ax-and-chainsaw-wielding Wall Street serial killer.

That volatile role was one of the most buzzed-about gigs of the year. But the star turn presented one major problem for the shy Welsh-horn actor who’s infamously private: Now he’d have to deal with sudden notoriety.

PRESSURE OF THE PRESS

Bale grew up in England, Portugal, and California with his three older sisters, his entrepreneur father, David (who recently married women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem), and his mother, Jane. (Bale’s parents divorced when he was young.) His mother had a brief stint as a circus performer, and Bale jokes, “It’s the job I love to remind her of, My mum was a clown, and I was taught to walk the tightrope by a Polish trapeze artist.”

Bale spent his teen years working steadily on the London stage and made his film debut in the WWII epic Empire of the Sun – Steven Spielberg handpicked Bale out of 4,000 kids to star in the film. While his acting was bailed as “one of the best juvenile performances ever captured on film,” his encounters with adult reporters made him tremendously anxious. When unnerved, Bale used to excuse himself from interviews to go to the bathroom and would then simply leave the building.

“Reporters started saying things like ‘You should know better,'” he says. “And then people my own age started treating me like a freak because of all the attention I got.”

Even now, Bale still has an evasive interview style. He feels that when an actor reveals too much about himself, it diminishes thc quality of his work. He reasons that, “so often, the obsession with gossip and things can just lessen the enjoyment of the movie.”

As much as he tries to avoid the spotlight, public interest in Bale increased big-time because of Psycho’s prefilming fireworks: Bale was originally picked for the lead role, then dropped by the studio when Leonardo DiCaprio decided to take the part, and then hired again when Leo bailed, Then, during filming, the controversy over the movie’s gory content mushroomed. Ironically, it was the sex scenes – particularly one bawdy three-way set to Phil Collins’ 1985 pop hit “Sussudio” – that garnered the film an NC-17 rating. (The film was re-edited to secure a more commercially lucrative R rating.) “I thought it was because they found ‘Sussudio’ offensive,” Bale deadpanned at the time. “I had it all wrong.”

SEX SCENES AND SILENT CUES

Psycho may have been Bale’s first major media-frenzied film, but he’s no stranger to risque story lines. In Velvet Goldmine, he played Ewan McGregor’s love interest. The two shared a sex scene, which lasted a little too long. The director whispered “cut” instead of customarily shouting it, so the fellas, oblivious, kept at it.

“I couldn’t hear,” Bale recalled later. “We were going at it for ages. Then Ewan turned his head and said, ‘Hey, the camera’s not f—ing on us!”‘ As for Ewan’s abilities in the sack, Bale joked, “He was tender; very caring. He hugged me afterward. But he never writes, he never calls. Goddamn him!”

Don’t be fooled by the way Bale lets it all hang out onscreen; offscreen, he stays true to his strong, silent guy reputation. He struggles to answer personal-life queries in a polite manner but manages to be elusive. Like when we ask him how he got that fab physique in American Psycho… “Steroids,” he says, laughing. Bale has an appealingly dry sense of humor, obviously.

Bale is currently filming the sci-fi thriller Equilibrium costarring Emily Watson, and when he calls from his trailer on theBerlinset, his voice is deep, with a hint of an English accent. This make-do home away from home is devoid of any personal touches since the only object that he consistently brings with him to every location is his wedding ring. “There’s nothing else that I always have with inc.”

Bale married his wife, Sandra, a freelance film producer, in January of last year in Las Vegas. When pressed to name his wife’s finest attributes, he says, “She’s very strong-minded – I would say that is her most attractive quality.”

CHRISTIAN THE CHAMELEON

As for seeing more of Bale’s attractive qualities, he is currently involved in a trio of incredibly disparate projects. One is an adventure titled Reign of Fire, costarring Matthew McConaughey. Then there’s Equilibrium and also Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which comes out this spring and costars Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz.

With a schedule this packed, Bale has no choice but to lead a nomadic life, despite having pads in L.A. and London. “It suits me fine,” he says cheerfully. No doubt, the constant movement makes it easier to avoid being caught in the spotlight.

By Jancee Dunn.