CHRISTIAN BAILS ON HIS FEELINGS
Christian Bale has spent the past five hours blowing away the same nine people, over and over again. “Repetition,” he sighs, “seems to be my job.” That and gun maintenance. Admittedly, Bale (‘American Psycho’) has had a few problems with his weapon jamming on ‘Equilibrium’s Berlin set, where the production has transformed an abandoned concert venue, built during the Nazi era, into a film-studio complex. “The last one seemed to have, like, an elephant load in it. When I fired, the whole bloody gun fell apart.”
Directed by Kurt Wimmer (who co-wrote the screenplay for 1999’s ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’), ‘Equilibrium’ posits a totalitarian future society where emotions of any kind are outlawed, suppressed by a daily dose of a state-controlled drug called Prozium. Anyone who doesn’t comply is executed, and Bale’s character, Preston, is responsible for policing offenders. “Emotions are sacrificed for the greater good,” explains Taye Diggs (‘The Way of the Gun’), who costars as Bale’s partner. “The downside is that everything else that comes from passion – artwork, sports, pets – gets sacrificed, too.” When Preston falls in love with a member of the emotional resistance (‘Angela’s Ashes” Emily Watson), he stops his dosage and joins the revolt. “I go from bad guy to good guy in five days,” says Bale, who signed after Dougray Scott (‘M:I-2’) passed. “I’m feeling everything for the first time. It’s been quite confusing, really, and the character is quite confusing himself for half of it.”
Although the plot echoes such dystopian literary classics as ‘Brave New World’, ‘1984’, and ‘Fahrenheit 451’ – and even Japanese samurai films – producer Lucas Foster makes a far different comparison. “I would liken it, in a strange way, to ‘Field of Dreams’,” he says. “It’s a movie about getting in touch with oneself.” Set in the fictional nation of Libria, the sci-fi action film allowed Bale, who’s often associated with period dramas (‘Little Women’, ‘The Portrait of a Lady’), the chance to engage in gunplay as well as kendo and samurai swordplay. But it was the casting of Watson, his costar in 1998’s ‘Metroland’, that sold him on the project – even though Dimension Films (a division of Miramax) wasn’t too keen on her initially. “It took some convincing,” Foster notes, “but after a time they saw the wisdom of it. Emily told me ‘I don’t know why everybody always offers me these serious movies. I want to say “warp speed” on ‘Star Trek’.’ We lucked out because this had some of that crash-bang-wallop but was also about something.”
What that something is, exactly, is still somewhat unclear, since Wimmer – who, Foster says, originally wrote the film for producer Jan De Bont to direct – refuses to speak to the press. “Look, he’s not familiar with this part of the process and needs to be worked on,” insists Foster of his director’s Kubrickean stance. Considering that the marketing-mind Miramax is bankrolling the $20 million-plus project, it’s an attitude that might not go down well with the Messieurs Weinstein. “I think he will do an interview,” Foster muses, “when he gets back to the world and calms down.” If not, there’s always Equium.
By Mark Salisbury.