Izvestia (February 16th, 2004)

I WILL BE BATMAN, BUT BOND? WE SHALL SEE …

“The Machinist”, Spanish-American paranoid thriller was shown recently at the Berlin film festival. In “The Machinist” Christian Bale played the leading role of a person who suffers from insomnia for a year and then realizes that the entire world is in plot against him and tries to dement him.

“Izvestia” movie critic Jury Gladilshchikov talked with one of the most promising movie stars of our time and new Batman (shooting of “Batman-5” soon will begin).

Looking at you now, I understand, that you had lost very, very much weight for the role in ‘The Machinist’. Your machinist Trevor looks like the prisoner of a concentration camp. How can you lose weight and then to bulk again?

Mind you, it’s much more easy to gain weight back (laughs). But I really lost sixty pounds (about twenty five kgs. – “Izvestia”). The beginning was the most difficult thing. In fact you can’t hide from an external world for the period of starvation (it continued four months). Your body demands habitual meals, and you are in habitual domestic conditions, and you know where the refrigerator is. You continue to live a social life which is always connected to meal, drink, binge, and you should refuse these things. Feeling restaurant smells at that time… And you start to weigh constantly, and the weight doesn’t go down for some reason, and you are nervous: “Oh, my God, come on!” And, on the contrary, sometimes you approach a mirror in the morning and you think: really am I still capable to breathe? It is very important not to be angry and to show impatience in this situation. I will think very much before to repeat similar experience. Only the very special script or film which is worth the sacrifice will induce me to do such an extreme step. But you know, how strong my wife’s admiration to me now as the courageous person?

Your machinist who suffers from insomnia looks on the screen fatally tired. How did you play weariness?

I tried to not to sleep – not for long, certainly, a couple of nights, I couldn’t sustain more. Or I slept a few hours, and the rest of the night I was just sitting on a bed, staring at the wall. Surprisingly, but when you feel very tired, something occurs in your brain, and the weariness even attracts. Even because in a condition of weariness it is easier to feel itself as another person, that’s actually to act.

Machinist Trevor reads Dostoevsky‘s “Idiot” at the nights. Did you mean something special when you brought this element?

I haven’t read “Idiot”, but I have read “The Crime and the Punishment” and I see much in common between my character and Raskolnikov. They both feel the fault all the time. Besides I read “Double” and I understand, that a theme of doubles in “The Machinist” inspired by Dostoevsky in many respects. By the way, in the script the double of my character Trevor, by name Ivan, was externally similar to him. It seems to me very successful idea to make Ivan absolutely another person who looks absurdity not like Trevor and even the Afro-American because it confuses the audience and strengthens an element of a thriller. Back to Dostoevsky, I see in film two more references to him. First, obviously it is not normal, that many characters have Russian names: Maria, Ivan, Nicolas. And second, my character lives in the imagined world which seems to him is the only real one. In addition Nicolas has epilepsy like the character of “Idiot”… Look, how many similarities!

Weren’t you afraid that after “American psycho” you will be confused with your character, Yuppie in a bloody intoxication (this is the film about how good Yuppie fly into a rage from correctness, wish to consume the world without restrictions, have internal bent to violence – “Izvestia”)? Didn’t you think it can really do you harm in the modern world?

I was asked in interview many times: “Do you have much in common with you and your psycho”? Some people confused the character with the movie and they said the film was immoral and dangerous because it brings more violence in that cruel world. In fact this film is satirical, it derides a society of extreme consumption. But I am not afraid of charges.

The name of your “American psycho” was Bateman that means “Furious” and parodies name Batman. Now you will be precisely Batman, you will become the fourth recent Batman after Michael Keaton (who has been played in two first films directed by Tim Burton), Val Kilmer and George Clooney. Which film from the previous ones is your favorite?

I can’t tell I like one more than other. But I like the visual style of “Batman”, even his artistic graphic stuff, and I like the character. He isn’t only positive, he has the mystery and the dark side which he has to overcome. He is the hero suffering from duality. His millionaire parents were killed in front of his eyes and that will be one of the main reasons for his actions.

Other lead actors of “Batman 5” are already known?

Anyway, Michael Caine and Katie Holmes will be in the film.

Don’t you confuse that after playing roles in art house movies (like “The Machinist”, which is a horror film but the creative work as well ) you are becoming a sort of commercial movie star?

I don’t think “Batman” movies are nothing but commercial ones. I always felt it is possible to make a very good movie about this character. When I have learned that Christopher Nolan (the creator of the well-known art house thriller “Memento” with Guy Pearce and “Insomnia” with Al Pacino and Robin Williams which is also famous among film fans. – “Izvestia”) will direct the film my last doubts had been gone. Nolan is one of the directors who is absolutely unpredictable. I feel great respect for him. As far as I know, he is going to use the style of the earliest comics about Batman and the film will be about younger character than usual.

It is also known the lead actor of Bond series (Pierce Brosnan) will be soon changed again (as usual, with the purpose to make the character younger). You are the first among others whose name is mentioned as possible next James Bond. Does such perspective attract you?

I absolutely don’t understand, why people think it is necessary to have an actor of my generation (the age of thirty or about) to play Bond. For such a comic series the more senior actor is much more suitable, isn’t it? Bond should be forty years old or so. Because of his consciousness and movie’s ideology Bond is a kind of fuddy-duddy, and it make the film more hilarious.

In different films you use different accents. What actor’s method do you use? Maybe do you act using Stanislavsky system?

I don’t understand what “method” is. I just like to transform, to become another person. It isn’t too difficult to put on different accents – American, English, Greek. The accent is only a manipulation of the muscles of your mouth, and often it come natural when you understand, which is face of your character, which are his shape and personality.

We talked a lot about duality of your characters and about the fact they are people with the dark side in their soul. And are you the light or dark person?

I’m the person with propensity to black humour.

He doesn’t eat red meat and doesn’t play in bad movies. At the age of thirteen in 1987 Christian Bale became famous at the same time all over the world and in the distant USSR. His world fame came to him after playing a leading role in “Empire of the Sun” by Stephen Spielberg (he played the English boy who lived in China during the Japanese occupation). In our country the audience has remembered him as one of the child stars of “Mio, my Mio” directed by Vladimir Grammatikov. The leading magazine about world show business, Entertainment Weekly, called him one of eight main cult creative person of the nineties. The reasons for this acknowledgement was, on the one hand, his high reputation on the Internet (fans consider Bale the rare actor who along with Johnny Depp and Sean Penn didn’t play – literally – in crappy films) and, on the other hand, his role of the Yuppie maniac in the movie adaptation of the novel “American psycho” written by other cult creative figure Bret Easton Ellis (Leonardo Di Caprio also wanted to play this role but was afraid it might damage his positive reputation). Recent Bale movies released in Russia are”Detective Shaft”, “Captain Corelli’s Choice”, “Reign of Fire” and “Equilibrium”. The last one was appreciated by advanced movie fans more than “Matrix”. For the sake of a role in “The Machinist” Bale who is strong physically and tall (about 1.80 m) extremely lost the weight.

Bale was born on January, 30, 1974 in Wales. His grandfather was the stuntman and even doubled the great John Wayne in two films. Bale is known as excellent horse rider, surfer, snow-boarder and animal lover (he and his wife have two dogs and three cats). For the roles in two early films which have made him the idol of the Western teenagers (“Newsies” and “Swing Kids”) he was specially trained in dances and martial arts. He is subject to many progressive fashions (for example, he doesn’t eat red meat). He is the activist of some public organizations and welfare funds from “Green Peace” to School for homeless children in Rio de Janeiro. He doesn’t like to tell about his private life and emphasizes that he wants to know nothing about private life of other actors because only in this case he can trust the reality of his characters. His movies are actually of high quality and sometimes rather unexpected ones.

What we didn’t mention before. He began to act in his childhood at the West End in London and was the partner of the future Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson). At the age of 12 he played prince Alexey in the mini-series “Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna” (about ostensibly survived daughter of Nikolas II) which was well-known among the first our video fans. He also played Hamlet, or, to be precise, Amled, in “Prince of Jutland” (1994). This movie was based on sources which were used by Shakespeare; king and queen were played by Gabriel Byrne and Helen Mirren, and Ethel, that is Olefin, was Kate Beckinsale). At the end of the 90’s he was distinguished together with Ewan McGregor in cult film about a birth of glam rock, “Velvet Goldmine”.

By Jury Gladilshchikov | Translation by Irina and Mary Ellen DeCosta.