HARSH TIMES – CHRISTIAN BALE INTERVIEW
Christian Bale talks about playing another unhinged sociopath in Harsh Times as well as re-teaming with Batman director Christopher Nolan and life in LA…
Q: How did Harsh Times come about?
A: I read it back in 2002. I met with Dave [Ayer] and we sat for about five hours – lots of Bloody Marys were drunk! At the time I think it was with a studio, and he was being told who he could cast and I wasn’t on that list. So that was how it was left, and then I was making Batman and I’d always kept Harsh Times on my radar, wanting to know if it picked up again.
Dave had been – I don’t want to put words in his mouth – disillusioned by the experience with the studio and had taken it away. He always planned on making it but he realised he had to do it himself and be the boss. I just gave him a call while I was doing Batman, and said: “What’s going on with it?” I was thinking that maybe if it was now with a studio they’d give the nod for me. I didn’t have to worry about that, because Dave was doing it independently…
Q: Was the intimacy of Harsh Times, compared to something likeBatman Begins, one of the main attractions?
A: I wanted to do Harsh Times way before Batman, but it was the antithesis of filming Batman. It was just right in that moment.
Q: Do you see any relationships to Harsh Times and David’s earlier filmTraining Day?
A: I can’t remember the whole time-line but of course there’s a relationship there… I think he wrote Harsh Times first and had always kept in his pocket as something he wanted to save for himself later. I think that while the backdrop of LA, the two-hander structure and it being set on the move, is all similar, for myself – though I loved Training Day – Harsh Times somehow hooked me more. Like Dave said: “Harsh Times is like a piece of his soul.”
Q: Did David Ayer have many similar experiences to those shown inHarsh Times?
A: Yeah, it’s based upon his own experiences. I started with Jim as being Dave, and then took it to another place myself. But that was always the foundation – Dave himself. It was pretty nice having the research material right there directing you!
Q: Do you see the similarity of Harsh Times to John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men – notably with the ending?
A: Absolutely, yeah. Though it wasn’t something Dave mentioned until I mentioned it. He had always known it, always thought it, but it was a little too literary for Dave to discuss! He’s much like Jim. There’s an awful lot underneath the surface there that he doesn’t often reveal. Part of that, in the atmosphere we were working in, discussing something as literary as Of Mice and Men just wasn’t really appropriate at the time.
Q: What do you think the film says about LA?
A: Well, LA is a hell of a city. It’s really just a lot of neighbourhoods that happen to be next to each other. So many different lifestyles all playing out right alongside each other. It’s not an LA that I see every day… well, that’s not true. You see it every day. I don’t live in it at all. But it’s right there…
Q: So how was your experience on The Prestige, given it’s by Chris Nolan, your director on Batman Begins?
A: Chris didn’t want anything to be the same as Batman. He wanted to be able to spin on a dime with The Prestige. To have that feeling in the movie, and in the way that we made it. Making a movie like Batman is like being the captain of a tanker, an ocean liner. It’s got incredible force, but you try turning that bugger around and it takes hours to do so! And it’s nice working with people that you know well. It really cuts time down.
Q: You’re also in Todd Haynes’ Bob Dylan film, I’m Not There… Do you have more fun than your character did in Velvet Goldmine?
A: Well, it’s a Todd Haynes movie… I don’t really know what I’m going to be doing.
Q: Are you a Dylan fan?
A: I’ve found through starting to put pieces together on this project… I’ve found that I am. I never really was. I never really looked or listened too much. It was always there – a foundation of modern music. For me, Dylan, The Beatles… too many people said I should listen, I should like. And it makes you go ‘Forget it’ but I’m definitely finding that I am.
By Jack Foley.