Now (August 21st, 2002)

WHY I CHOSE TO ELOPE

Christian Bale is talking for the first time about the whirlwind romance which led to marriage to beautiful film producer Sibi Blazic, who he met on a Californian beach.

They married, on a whim, on 29 January 2000 – one day before Christian’s 26th birthday. ‘It’s easier to remember our anniversary that way,’ he jokes to Now. ‘It was impulsive. We eloped and didn’t tell anyone. We went to Las Vegas, searching for an Elvis Presley lookalike to marry us, but we couldn’t find one.

‘Since then, we’ve had a kind of rootless existence. I’ve worked constantly for two years and we’d literally get in a car and drive around looking for places to stay.

‘We finally got a house in Los Angeles at the end of last year. My wife’s family is there, so it’s become my base in the past six months. But I don’t feel as if I really belong there.’

His wife also sounds as if she has a distinctive attitude towards Hollywood. ‘Sibi kind of hates the whole profession,’ he says. ‘She’s produced a couple of short movies and was even a model for a time. ‘But she despised that, too, and doesn’t like to talk about it. She’s very bright and has a business degree. Sibi’s good at the things I’m bad at, so it all works well.’

Christian, now 28, who became a child star in 1987 in Steven Spielberg’s World War II epic Empire Of The Sun, has kept a remarkably low profile during a highly successful career. He’s taken on cult status over the past two years since starring as the psychopathic yuppie serial killer in American Psycho.

Now, thanks to another exceptional film Reign Of Fire, which opens in cinemas here from next week, Christian has opened up. It’s a movie that sounds ludicrous, but delivers remarkably well on screen.

An enormous fire-breathing dragon is woken from thousands of years of slumber in present-day London. More than 20 years later, much of the world is in ruins after being attacked by the beast and its offspring, who’ve taken over the planet.

Christian’s heroic character has managed to keep a small community alive in the north of England as they attempt to survive the dragons’ attacks.

Van Zan, an American hotshot soldier (Matthew McConaughey), arrives with an aggressive group of men and helicopter pilot Alex (former Bond girl Izabella Scorupco), claiming he can kill the beasts. After much death and destruction, the dragons are at last given a roasting themselves.

It’s a fast-moving, exciting film with spectacular special effects. Christian, who, as Mandras, was the best thing in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, is on top form as an action-man saviour.

‘This film’s making me nervous, because I haven’t done so much talking since I was in Empire Of The Sun,’ he says. ‘And what happened back then? I ended up being kicked and punched and mocked at school.’

Christian, brought up in Bournemouth after being born in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, is now a rugged 6ft 2in, unlikely to be attacked by anyone.

‘I think it might have been a bit different, had I lived in America,’ he says. ‘They always say: “You must have been the most popular kid in the school, making a movie so young.” That wasn’t the case with me.’

He’s since done most of his talking through his website.

‘It was suggested to me when I was about 19 or 20,’ he says. ‘I’d stopped giving interviews and it was put forward as a useful alternative.

‘I don’t actually look at people’s comments on the website. If I’m going to read and believe good comments, I’ll also have to believe the bad ones. I have the same attitude with reviews.’

But Christian has no doubt that the success of American Psycho proved a turning point.

‘That seems to be the reason that many directors have offered me movies since,’ he says. ‘Otherwise I’d probably be doing a lot of costume dramas, which, although fine as far as they go, aren’t really what I want to do.’

Yet there had been a struggle to get the role. He was hired, only to be told that the film studio wanted Leonardo DiCaprio. The director Mary Harron began a fight to get him reinstated.

‘It was maddening, but very much a wake-up call to me,’ he says. I’d always taken a laid-back approach to acting, as things had always come my way.

‘Suddenly, I was forced to make a decision. I thought: “Do I just let this pass – or do I really want to fight for it?” I decided to fight and make it my own.

‘When I finally got the part for a second time, I was determined to make the most of it. It was very satisfying and the success of the film justified Mary’s attitude and my determination.’

Of Reign Of Fire, he says: I didn’t want it to be a monster movie. We thought it would be better if the characters took their situation seriously, instead of being tongue-in-cheek. It’s my first action man role, too, so I wanted to see if I could deliver.’

He has delivered handsomely and is now spending time with Sibi, waiting for his next role. I enjoy not knowing what’s next,’ he smiles. ‘Uncertainty’s a great part of life.’

By Garth Pearce.