New! (March 14th, 2005)

I LOST A THIRD OF MY BODY WEIGHT

Christian Bale tells new how he trimmed down to a skeletal 8 1/2 st for his new movie The Machinist, and talks about his happy home life and being the new Batman…

Christian Bale is no stranger to physically transforming himself for a part. Five years ago, we saw him bulk up for his biggest adult role to date (as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho). But for his latest part, in psychological thriller The Machinist, the Welsh-born actor went the other way entirely.

Christian deprived himself of proper meals for weeks -consuming only apples, coffee and diet pills – to shrink his 6ft 2in frame to a skeletal 8st for his role as industrial worker Trevor Reznik, who suffers from life-threatening insomnia. But, by the time new! caught up with the 31-year-old who first made his name as a child star in Steven Spielberg’s Empire Of the Sun, he was a picture of health and back to his bulkier self.

“I had to get back into shape for Batman,” explains Christian, who will appear as the Caped Crusader in Batman Begins this summer. “You can’t be skinny and play Batman,” he laughs. As he settles down into an armchair in LA’s Four Seasons hotel, he tells us just how he managed to lose over a third of his body weight for his new film, and about falling in love with his wife of five years, film producer Sibi Blazic…

Your role in The Machinist is quite dark – what appealed to you about making this film?

I knew it’d be tough, but it was the best thing I’d read in a long time and I hadn’t worked in a year and a half. It was something I just needed to do for myself. Was the dramatic weight loss written into your contract? The director never asked me to do it, but I just felt the physical side was very important. After all, this guy is meant to look like he’s on the brink of death!

How much weight did you actually lose?

I’m normally around 185lb, and in the end I got all the way down to 120lb. So I lost over a third of my total body weight.

You must have amazing willpower to do that…

Once you hit a certain level, food just stops being that important. Your stomach shrinks. You actually don’t care any more – you’re just too weak [laughs].

Trevor’s an insomniac. Did you also refuse to sleep in real life to get into character?

[Laughs] Thank God, no – I slept really well!

What about booze? Was that also off limits?

No, I was drinking whisky every night. It sounds pretty bizarre, but it didn’t affect me at all – it did nothing. In fact, I didn’t start feeling the effects of it till I began putting the weight back on again.

Were you tempted to binge?

Yeah! Every time I smelled some great dish, I became this drooling beast that wanted to eat everything I could get my hands on! I just avoided going out for dinner.

Your poor wife…

I felt so bad for her – every time we sat down to any sort of meal, she felt terribly guilty if she enjoyed herself, while I sat there chewing on a crumb and sipping water.

Was she ever like, “Enough’s enough! Just eat something!”?

She did get pretty worried, but I promised her that if I ever felt like something bad might happen, I’d just quit. I never got to that stage, though.

So you never lost your mind, like your character, Trevor?

I became very calm, actually, because you’ve no energy to deal with anything else except the basic necessities of life. Nothing made me anxious or upset and you couldn’t get me angry at all. I felt like I was on some kind of spiritual mission.

You’re a self-proclaimed “grumpy b*****d”! How on earth does your wife cope?

She knows I can be a little moody sometimes… but then, can’t everyone? I get depressed when I’m out of work, so my wife has to put up with that [laughs]. It’s not a pretty sight, an out-of-work actor.

You met her through Winona Ryder (Sibi was Winona’s personal assistant). How did you know she was “the one”?

When I met her, it just hit me. It was right and we have so much fun together. I even used to hate going to weddings!

Do you miss her when you’re away on location?

She travels with me everywhere now, so we’re together all the time – which is just great.

Are there kids on the horizon?

Definitely, eventually.

What about your family in Wales – were any of them in showbiz?

I guess you could say that! One of my grandfathers was a stand-up comedian and the other was John Wayne’s stunt double. My mum was a dancer and one of my sisters is a theatre director and the other works in music. That’s about as showbiz as you can get!

Do you make it back to Britain much these days?

LA is my home base now, but I still feel very British. I’m the sort of person who can be happy where they end up – I don’t feel the need to stay in any one place. From the age of 13, my dad lived by himself and travelled all over the world, and I think I must have inherited his restless nature. Being a bit of a gypsy is great for acting, though, because you’ve always got to be ready to just uproot and move somewhere else.

You come across as very disciplined. You must have some vices, surely?

I love to smoke when I drink, but then I also love to go running like crazy and get my heart pounding. The two don’t tend to go well together!

Actors earn a fortune. Are you as controlling when it comes down to cash?

I’ve always been bad at handling all that, but until now I haven’t earned enough for it to be an issue [Christian did American Psycho for less money than the make-up girl]. Obviously, Batman will change all that.

Speaking of which, tell us about filling Batman’s shoes…

I really enjoyed it! It’s fun to put on the Batsuit and jump in the Batmobile and roar around. I’ve never been that much into cars, but you get in the Batmobile and you can’t help but love it. And it’s a fantastic cast, with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman.

Everyone seems to complain about the Batman costume. Was it a real pain?

It ain’t great, but I think they’ve honed it and refined it and mine was probably the most comfortable one yet by far – that’s not to say it was comfortable, though. It’s a pain to put on and I was in it for around seven months!

So, are there more Batman films in the pipeline?

I honestly don’t know at the moment. I had a great time, so we’ll see what happens. I like to keep doing different things and mixing things up.

The Machinist is in cinemas from March 18. Batman Begins is due to be released on June 24.