Joblo.com (October 20th, 2004)

JOBLO.COM GETS THE SKINNY ABOUT THE MACHINIST FROM CHRISTIAN BALE

Though he’s garnered acclaim for performances in a variety of roles, Christian Bale is best known for his role in a film that hasn’t even come out yet. The Welsh actor is next in line to don the cape and cowl in BATMAN BEGINS, the forthcoming re-envisioning of the fabled film franchise, due out next summer. Before he flexes his muscles as the Dark Knight, however, he’ll show off his ribcage as an emaciated factory worker in THE MACHINIST opening this Friday. Having gone over a year without sleeping, Bale’s character sports a physique that makes Iggy Pop look like Oprah. As he attempts to unravel the mystery of a series of bizarre events that defy no explanation, he finds his own psyche growing ever more unstable.

To prepare for the part, Bale lost a mind-boggling 63 pounds. And people say Charlize Theron was courageous for gaining a few when she made MONSTER. It doesn’t compare to Bale’s effort – the guy looks downright creepy in this flick. Thankfully, Bale looked great when I stopped by the Four Seasons last week to talk about THE MACHINIST. He also talked a little about BATMAN BEGINS. Check it out.

Did you have any medical assistance with your weight loss?

Just a nutritionist who I visited one time, just to inquire what she thought I would probably become deficient in, in terms of vitamins and minerals and everything. So I got those pills, and after that I just kind of was my own guide about how I felt. I just figured that as long as I was feeling okay, then I must be okay.

Were you ever concerned you might do some lasting damage?

I had what could be called a kind of stupid feeling of invincibility, like, “Oh I can do it. I can manage it.” And I certainly did feel like if I was just going to do this the one time, that I could. I would be very cautious about doing it a second time – for anything – but also the novelty is gone, because for me there also was the challenge of, “Was I able to do that? Is it possible?” I managed it more so than had I expected, so I feel like “Okay, I proved that point to myself that I could do it.” But I didn’t actually feel bad until I started eating again. It was when I started putting the weight back on that I did it somewhat too rapidly and apparently I had the cholesterol levels of a ninety-year old man and I had to really start getting fit and eating right and proper, just because I gorged too much. I didn’t take the advice of everybody, which was “take it slow” in putting the weight back on. I just wanted to consume pizza and donuts.

Initially, the first thing, it was apples. That was what I really loved and that doesn’t sound like the most indulgent of foods that you would perhaps be craving after that amount of deprivation, but for some reason it was. I would literally dream about mountains of apples, all kinds of apples. There were great different kinds of Spanish apples and the crew would bring me different kinds of apples, and I was the apple man.

Was the sacrifice really worth it?

I feel that it was. As long as I don’t ever find that there’s been any permanent damage, which I would really kick myself for because at that point it would have just become stupidity. That certainly wouldn’t have been worth it, but I feel fine and so right now I do feel like it was worth it and I feel like it was an endeavor that I wanted to see for myself beyond the movie itself. I kind of just wanted to see if I could set myself a challenge and achieve it and have the mental discipline not to waver from it. And the way that I thought of it was just that this is actually only eight weeks of filming and I’ve done the preparation beforehand but I’ve had many six months of my life where I can almost remember nothing particularly that I did during that time, you know? It’s fairly unremarkable.

So I felt well this is just six months; why not really do something that defines that time? And it would have been ridiculous if it had been for a movie that I didn’t think was worth it, but I do feel it was essential for playing this part and I do think it’s turned out exactly as I really hoped it would. I think that everybody involved did a fantastic job with it and I understand, a number of people said to me, “Well, you know this ain’t gonna be a mainstream movie. You’re not going to get that many people going to see it, so why did you do it?” Well, you know, it’s not for that. To me, a movie does not become better just because a lot of people go see it, at all. And my primary satisfaction for making movies is actually in the making of the movie. So in those temrs, absolutely, I feel like it was worth it.

Would you ever consider doing it again?

I would be very cautious about doing it again, firstly because I got no plans on being the guy that loves losing a lot of weight. I would never do it to that extreme because I just can’t imagine something that would be necessary to do it to that extreme again, and also I would feel by that point that I was very aware of not wanting to try and make it into a gimmick. And you do it for a second time and it can’t help but be seen as kind of a gimmick. But some parts do require a physical transformation. Some don’t whatsoever and they’re just as great parts, but this one really did, but I wouldn’t want to do it any time soon, certainly. And I think the second time around I would be much more cautious about any bodily damage I may be inflicting on myself.

How much research did you do into sleep deprivation?

I got a number of videos and looked at insomnia whilst I was still here in Los Angeles. I just stayed up for as many nights as I could just to see what it would make me do and start thinking.

How many days was that?

Not a whole lot. I decided I loved my sleep. (laughs) I went like two nights. But you get a slight sense of it. It actually became a very different thing after losing the weight because I found that even though I was in a state of almost being on the verge of sleep throughout the day, that actually falling asleep was very difficult. I just couldn’t really do it. I would lay there for hours with my eyes closed or open just staring at the ceiling, and that was how I kind of rested. But many nights, I would sleep no more than two hours whilst we were shooting. I would sit there in bed, but I just couldn’t sleep, so I’d just sit there staring at the wall or reading a book or something.

I didn’t need a whole lot to keep me entertained at the time. I could virtually just sit for hours doing nothing, and that was often what I did during the nighttime. But, except for some scenes which I really detested having to do where I had to run in the movie, it was okay that I looked exhausted the next day. But I kind of just hit a constant level of energy – or rather lack of energy. There really wasn’t any ups or downs. It was just a constant level of “I’m here and I’ll do it in my own time. Thank you very much. When I’m there, I’ll be there.” And that’s it. So it wasn’t like I was really doing tremendously tiring endeavors during the day to make me need to collapse into bed at the end of the day.

What would you like the audience to know coming into this movie?

Ideally I’d like them to know nothing because I love going to movies when I know absolutely nothing about them whatsoever, to be completely surprised. I understand that obviously we have to try to entice an interest, but for me, I don’t know if this means anything to anybody else, but from my experience it’s quite rare that you get a group of filmmakers who absolutely are making a movie solely for their own viewing pleasure. This is something that we all want to watch, but without it being some kind of masturbatory exercise, the indulgence. You know, genuinely, this is how we went to work. This is what we want to see.

And thankfully, working with a production company that absolutely put no demands on that or myself or anybody whatsoever. They just said, “You guys make the movie that you want to make.” And that doesn’t happen that often – to varying degrees. You usually have some outside influence you may have to bow to because of agreements you made beforehand, and that could have happened here with The Machinist ’cause we were offered financing by other companies. But they all had demands about changes that must be made to the script.

For instance?

I think just the dark and what some may see as the hopeless tone of it. And just the traditional, “Hey, we want a kind of pick-me-up somewhere along the line.” But I think for me the pick-me-up was there, is already present because I find it very humorous as well, this movie. I know that not everybody necessarily would share my sense of humor, but I know that Brad did. I know that there are a number of scenes – and just the extremity to which this character is going, the ridiculous lengths he has gone to. I can’t help but smile at the same time that I’m watching him go through this wretched period of his life.

You’ve been acting since you were a young kid. Have you been able to maintain a sense of anonymity?

I think I was struck by losing it very quickly in a very small scale just in terms of being in school. Suddenly you become “that guy.” I didn’t enjoy that, but it dictated very much that I knew I wished to try to avoid it. However, I do kind of dream of a day when it may be possible that movies can be made and no interviews be necessary whatsoever, purely because of that wonderful feeling when you see an actor you’ve never seen before in a movie. And so you can believe in nothing but their character. I understand of course, that we don’t make the movie to be put away on a shelf and get dusty. We want people to go see it and I feel a great loyalty to the filmmakers that I’m working with that generally the actor becomes the point man when it comes to the publicity for the movie. I’m getting more accustomed to it, but I can’t say that I have a lot of trepidation about any potential changes to my life with Batman coming up. I’ll kick and scream against it if it indeed does change it in any way because I…that’s not a life I would want to lead at all.

With Batman Begins, can audiences expect a more character-driven comic book movie, like Spider-Man 2?

Right, I haven’t seen that, but yes. We’re doing the prequel really, and so it’s very much looking at Bruce Wayne and how he came to invent and create this character and how he got to be this nutcase that runs around dressed as a bat.

What was it like to wear the cape and cowl?

The first couple of times it was great, because it really helps you to “get” how to play it, because to me, I always had a question about I always found it kind of laughable: the guy thinks he’s going to be scary by walking around dressed as a bat? I’d laugh at him. I’d look at him and go, “What kind of nutcase are you? Get out of my face.” And so I really thought, okay, how can he really take that to a point where he has to sincerely have this rage and this focus on this despising of criminals and this promise that he makes to rid the city of them? And in a way, what I saw it as was it’s really difficult in life to make a promise to yourself and then really keep that clarity of thought that you may have had at that lucid moment of making the promise and keeping that, maintaining that intensity.

And then actually adopting this different persona helps him to maintain that kind of intensity. And in donning the suit and everything, I also felt that he couldn’t be anything else but a creature. That I no longer wanted to present this as Bruce Wayne dressed as a bat, that he becomes a different creature not himself – partly out of necessity of disguise, but also out of his own necessity of an attempt to keep himself sane in his own life. So it really helped with me. I just felt that once I put that on, it’s like if I don’t play it this one certain way, then I’m just going to feel like an idiot standing in a bat suit the whole time.

So you feel like you brought something fresh to the character?

I do. So often you hear actors saying that and you’re like, “Oh, I’m going to check that out.” And you look at it and you go, “What did you really do? Is there anything different there?” So I do feel that, and we’re going to have to wait and see if I managed it. If I didn’t then there’ll be someone else in there for number two if it ever happens.

Brad Anderson mentioned you were very zen on set w/ your headphones. What sort of music did you listen to?

Half the time I wasn’t listening to anything. Half the time I’d pretend to listen (to music) and I’d just listen to what everybody else was saying, nodding my head, pretending I couldn’t hear.

Any projects lined up for after ‘Batman’?

I’m doing a movie right now called THE NEW WORLD, which is with one of my favorite directors ever, Terrence Malick. And then I have something planned for December if Terrence manages to finish his movie on time for that, which is a fantastic script that I read a couple years back. I met with the writer and the director, which at that time, it was pretty much said it was impossible to be made with me, which now is possible. (It’s) going to be like a $1 million budget, most likely shot on digital and done in 20 days.

I just love coming off of Batman, which was several months and however much the budget was – it was something mind-boggling – but just as a really interesting piece. I very much, what I really want to avoid is doing a movie like Batman and then feeling like you have to continue doing big movies, like somehow that’s the mark of “Oh, your career’s so darn well.” I want to use it to be able to make small movies that wouldn’t usually be able to get made or see the light of day, that hopefully, because I don’t know. People get excited about a lot of movies. Who knows? Batman just might bomb like crazy and I can’t get anything made. But hopefully if things go well I will be able to get other things made that would never have happened before.

By Thomas Leupp.