Premiere Portugal (May 2001)

HANDSOME AND PSYCHO

There are no doubts: the kid dazzled for aviation of The Empire Of The Sun, grew up. After participating in very esteemed movies, Christian Bale converted himself in the worst nightmare of the american dream in American Psycho and established himself as one of the best actors of his generation.

On the internet, Leonardo DiCaprio was winning the race as the most discussed and admired young actor by the internauts.

But on the screen, not even Leo could stop the young 26year old Welshman, who was handpicked by Steven Spielberg for The Empire Of The Sun. In the midst of the DiCaprio fever, Bale got the part earlier wanted by the Titanic star, becoming the new represantative of Evil with his performance in American Psycho. In reality, his life

is much more peaceful: he is married to Sibi Blazic, lives in London when his work allows, is unable to kill a fly and is a member of the Greenpeace, the Foundation for Preservation of Wild Life and the Doris Day League in favour of the animals. […] His filmography include titles as Newsies and Swing Kids in his adolescence; and Little Women, Portrait Of a Lady and The Secret Agent, as his epic period movies. Despite his large and prestigious curriculum, the truth is that the fans are more interested in knowing how he accomplished such imponent body musculature that he shows in his more recent films.

Christian Bale: The muscles took some time and a lot of training with a personal training. I spent an awful lot of time at the gym, running and eating tasteless food. The worst of all is that it took a long time to get that muscular physique and I lost it all in a second later on.

Premiere: Do you share the body cult that commands Hollywood?

 I’m English. I had never set a foot into a gym before in my life. Literally.

How did you see yourself with this changed body?

It gave me the feeling of power, of physical ability, that I had never felt before.

They say you became an unbearable person to work with…

A little. I couldn’t bear myself. I had to become obsessed with this part of my character, with that exercising program that I couldn’t stop doing. I looked at myself in the mirror constantly, I would contract my muscles and look at the ones around me to compare my physique with theirs, thinking that they should exercise more or questioning how they maintain their bodies. I think the most stupid ideas and questions about this subject passed through my mind that time, but I had to force myself into this attitude, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to lock me into the gym for thee hours a day. I would have gone insane!

Are you always that obsessive with your work?

No. The only thing that I’m obsessed with is sleeping and, actually, it is more than an obsession, it is a pleasure. I love sleeping so much that I could do it 12 hours a day if I didn’t have to turn on the alarm clock… and still, sometimes …

What about the material things, don’t they obsess you?

I don’t have so many possessions. My wedding ring is the only thing I carry with me wherever I go. I was raised having to travel from one place to another, that’s why it never seem like a good idea to me to collect and own many things…

This does not sound very “Hollywoodish”, taking into consideration how famous you are.

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time in Hollywood although also in New York and in London, but most of all in Los Angeles, where most of the work is.

You think American Psycho re-opened the door for this industry?

Who knows? But it’s a fact that when I made Shaft they told me that they had seen my work in American Psycho. The same happened with Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, that I had just filmed. Yes, I’m receiving more scripts than before, which is surprising since it was a low budget movie and that it was not meant to be seen by so many people.

How do you think the movie would have come out if it was starred by Leonardo DiCaprio?

I don’t wanna go into this subject, but I will only say that it was a wise decision not to convert American Psycho in a big production because it is not that type of film. It’s too much outside the norms.

What drove you into the project? Maybe the controversy?

Maybe, but I had not read the Brett Easton Ellis novel before and I had no idea what American Psycho was about. I thought, like many people thought, that it was a profound analysis of an assassin mind and the things that made him become a monster, but I’ve come across something completely different. This happened to most of the readers and they were more centred in the extreme violence of the narrative and weren’t able to understand the irony, the intelligence and the genious behind every word. The screenplay of Mary Harron made me laugh hysterically and I was actually shocked about what was making me laugh.

It seems the North American Cinema Society (?), responsible for the classification of the film, has not found anything funny about the movie, since its age classification was rated almost the same as a pornographic movie.

Well, that’s the way America is. At least, that is the generalized vision people have about America. Too rigorous about sex, but without any concern about violent themes. They actually ended up not cutting too much of the movie for the exhibition in the USA, but what went out was one of the best scenes of the movie, the one where Bateman looks at himself in the mirror while having sex because it is his own image that excites him.

What was Christian Bale seeing when he looked at himself in the mirror?

I was seeing a despicable character, without any chances of salvation. A ridiculous man, apart from everything and uncapable of feeling anything. Mary described him to me as a Marsian, that landed on Earth and tried to adapt to this other society using as model all those images that fill the magazine covers. With the same idiotic, empty smiles.

And how were the sex scenes in the movie?

Filming sex scenes is so terrifying for me as it is for anybody else. It is like jumping off a building…but once it’s done, it’s done. The director only told me to choreograph the different positions. So I drew some on a piece of paper and it was like to order sushi. She would say: Ok, let’s do this, one of these and two of those others. Besides, we were in a closed set, only with the essential people. And she herself was operating the camera. Now I have found out that sex scenes always end up in a gale of laughter.

Were you worried that after making Bateman you could fall into the “Bad Guy” stereotype?

People were saying that it would be an artistic suicide. In the best case, they would say that if I did get the part, that at least I should do something romantic or some comedy afterwards, something that would show my other face, that’s why I couldn’t say not when they offered me the part on the telefilm Mary, Mother Of Jesus, where I would play Jesus Christ. And I even had a perfect name for some puns.

Your intellect sounds pretty lucid and equilibrated for an actor that begun his career while still a child...

I believe it is, in part, because I wasn’t a really well-known child star, like Macaulay Culkin. The Empire Of The Sun was not a big box office hit like other Steven Spielberg movies and I am really grateful for that. Otherwise I could have had a career fill with adolescent movies and that would have marked me forever.

Are you still in contact with Spielberg?

He is a remarkable man. He always sends me something on Christmas or on my birthdays. There is always some kind of contact.

What are your memories about the filming of The Empire Of The Sun?

What I remember the most is that it was wonderful to work with Spielberg. It was like having another child on the set. It was kind of difficult to get over this experience.

Have you seen the film recently?

I’ve seen the Making-Of and there were things that I didn’t remember anymore. I realized that I had ruined a great scene, filled with planes and helicopters just because I posted myself in front of the camera. I suppose that the innocence that kids have when they are actors helped me. It’s that phase where you are still absolutely ignorant about what you are doing and that you would never get a job thinking if with it you will improve you career or completely ruined it.

Do you think about this today?

More than before. One of the things that most attracted me in Bateman was the fact that it didn’t look like anything that I had done before. It would bring more variety to my career. This was one of the reasons why I stepped back from the acting career for a while when I was younger, until Winona Ryder helped me, with Little Women, to bring back the confidence I had lost in my work. Thanks to her energy and her interest I realized that I too could be a good actor.

You have the reputation of preparing your roles really consciously, which drives us think that your coexistence with someone as unpleasant as Bateman, during the filming, had to be, obligatorily, obsessive.

Precisely, the fact that the character was something so different from me, allowed me to disconnect from it really easily. A lot of people thought that I would be converted into some stranger that would walk through the streets, mistreating cats, but it was a character to leave really easy behind on the hangers at the end of the day.

You are not part of Hollywood…

I don’t feel part of this world. I’m here for so many years and I know how it works, I feel this city like if it was my home. I even think about buying a house here, but I suppose that after being raised in a lot of different places, it won’t be awkward. Well, at any case, I don’t like to talk about myself. It does not please me what I see written down afterwards.

Are there any parallels between the world of American Psycho and Hollywood?

Yes, especially in the way of getting a table at a restaurant and the empty friendships. Here they are always ready to stab you in the back at any time. There is also the cult of Youth, themes in commons with Bateman’s world.

By Maria Bernal | Translation by Mrs. B.