Film Review (2004)

BEING BATMAN

We find out why the British actor is the perfect Bruce Wayne…

Just weeks before beginning work on Batman Begins, actor Christian Bale was a shell of his former self, hardly in any condition to play a superhero. Bale was in Barcelona, Spain, filming the psychological thriller The Machinist, a film in which Bale plays a insomnia-ravaged machinist whose body weakens with every passing minute. Bale, the prototypical method actor, shed 60 pounds for the role, going from 180 pounds to a frail 120 pounds. He was a walking skeleton. “It was just six weeks before I was to do my test for Batman Begins and I was only 120 pounds and felt very weak,” says Bale. “I didn’t have a doctor on The Machinist either – I just stopped eating completely because if you eat anything in that condition, you can get real puffy and this guy I played was literally wasting away. When I finished The Machinist, and I knew I had to turn my attention to Batman Begins, I just started eating everything and I got back to my normal weight in time for my test which was only six weeks later. I knew that director Christopher Nolan would have a hard time selling me to the studio if I’d looked like I’d looked in Spain. When I gained the weight back, I think I looked good, but I had no strength at all and I was sick all the time. I suppose I could’ve relied on CGI, for my work in The Machinist, but I felt I had to lose the weight to play that character, Trevor Reznik, and I had to gain the weight back to play Batman.”

Bale beat out legions of other actors to play Batman in Batman Begins, including Cillian Murphy who wound up playing Scarecrow in the film, but director Christopher Nolan chose Bale who, despite not being a box office draw or household name, was thought by the production team to be the perfect choice to create a new origin for Batman since, as the name suggests, it represents a new beginning in the film franchise, not another sequel. Bale is thrilled to be able to create a new Batman, right from the start. “I was a big fan of the comics and films, but the one thing I noticed about the films is that the villains tended to be more interesting than Batman,” says Bale. “Reading the comics, I’ve always felt that Batman was a very interesting character – at least as interesting as the villains – and I think this film gets back to that. This is an origin story, not a sequel, and the theme of the story is one of realism. We know that Batman doesn’t have superhuman powers, but you’ll see it in this film, and we find out how the Bat Cave works, where Batman gets his weapons and how the Batmobile really works. The biggest thing is that Batman’s the most interesting character in the film. Preparing for the film, I started reading all of the comics, and my favourite books were Year One and The Long Halloween. The villains in those stories were fascinating, but Batman was much more fascinating.”

By David Grove.