Sunday Mail (June 5th, 2005)

I’M THE BAT OUT OF HELL

Christian Bale on how he’s turned the Caped Crusader into a dark monster

Christian Bale grins as he reveals that he wants to become the scariest Batman ever.

The 31-year-old star is already more than halfway there, thanks to his moody and powerful portrayal of the Caped Crusader in Batman Begins.

‘I wanted to make the Batman character as much of a beast as possible,’ he said.

‘I didn’t want him just to look like Bruce Wayne standing in aBat suit and being a little bit pissed.’

Now Christian hopes that this exploration of the darker side of the comic book hero is just the beginning and that the sequels, for which he has signed up, will become even more frightening.

Speaking to the Mail just before the film’s premiere in Los Angeles, he said: ‘If we don’t continue to push it further, then I don’t see any point in making a series.

‘I think it would be wonderful to do an 18certificate Batman. When I was cast, so many guys asked if I was going to make it mean.’

And he agrees that now that he has squeezed into that rubber costume, his aim would be to make this the scariest Batman.

‘That’s what I would like to achieve. We can take it further,’ said the smiling, bearded actor, who is casually dressed in an open-neck blue shirt and jeans.

Christian reckons that the graphic novels that have inspired this latest Batman movie are more powerful than anything previously seen in the movies about the superhero.

‘If you were to put a lot of those images from the graphic novels on to a film, it would have to be 18-rated because the graphic novels get maniacal and scary.’

While he would love Batman to become more terrifying, Christian doesn’t want to see youngsters banned from going to Batman movies. So he has a plan.

He said: ‘I don’t want to exclude children in any way. They have a great enjoyment and love of superheroes.

‘But I think it would be interesting to attempt doing one movie that had two versions. You could do two different cuts – PG and 18-rated.’

Christian believes that Batman was never intended to become the camp and comic figure that appeared in TV and movies. He insists the character created in 1939 by Bob Kane for DC Comics was more chilling

He said: ‘Bob Kane meant it to be a dark and terrifying character. I spoke with his wife and apparently he was appalled by the TV series.

‘He asked, ‘Why are they spoofing my Batman?’ ‘So hopefully, this one is bringing it back to what it was originally meant to be.’

Although he has landed one of the juiciest roles in Hollywood, Christian – whose many movies include Empire Of The Sun, American Psycho, Reign Of Fire and the remake of Shaft – admits that as a youngster, he was never batty about Batman.

He said: ‘I didn’t read comic books. I was aware of the TV series and I had seen some movies but I wasn’t affected by them.’

He only got interested after a friend lent him the graphic novel Arkham Asylum.

‘I had been saying, ‘I don’t really get that crap.’ ‘Then I read Arkham Asylum and was surprised by it and enjoyed it.’ From then on, he actually pursued the notion of playing Batman on screen.

He said: ‘I started calling my agent, saying, ‘Is there any possibility that they are going to make a different Batman, because I’m seeing something here that’s never been done before and this would make a fantastic movie if they want to do it this way.’ The timing for inviting Christian to put on the cape and cowl couldn’t have been worse because he’d just slimmed down to a threadbare eight stones for The Machinist.

And he admits that Chris Nolan, the director of Batman Begins, was worried that he couldn’t beef up for the role.

Christian said: ‘While I was shooting The Machinist, Chris asked how I was looking and I said, ‘Well, quite frankly, I’m not looking too hot.’ ‘So I ate like crazy to fill out for the Batman screen test. The after they cast me, they said I had to get strong and fit.’ Intially, that looked like mission impossible.

‘They sent me along to the trainer and I couldn’t doa single push-up. It took a long time. But I just managed to get into the right shape by the time we started filming.’

Apart from becoming muscular, Christian’s other concern was that he didn’t look ridiculous in the Bat suit. He said: ‘But the first time that I put on the suit, I realised there wasn’t going to be that problem because I wanted to make him look like a beast.

‘If I hadn’t done that, I would have felt an idiot because it’s not intimidating seeing a man in a rubber suit.

‘He’s off to some S&M club. He’s not going to scare any tough thugs.

‘But a man who looks like he probably has a screw loose and believes he is some animal … that’s disturbing.’

Being encased in the Bat suit for hours on end couldn’t have been pleasant but Christian refuses to moan. ‘It wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it was going to be. But if I stood in it for too long, I’d have puddles of sweat leaking out of my boots.’

The star who is married to film producer Sibi Blazic, became a father in March and, he reckons his daughter will soon be amused by the action figure that’s been modelled in his image.

He joked: ‘One day, my daughter might rip the head off the doll and chuck it in the pool and drown it.

‘Whatever she feels like doing with it, I look forward to it.

By John Millar.