London Free Press (January 24th, 2006)


Actor sheds his Bat cape for 17th century duds in the historical drama The New World.

LOS ANGELES — Christian Bale says trading in Bruce Wayne’s batsuit to play a 17th-century British tobacco farmer in Terrence Malick’s The New World wasn’t as difficult as you might expect.

Especially since Bale arrived on Malick’s Virginia set just days after wrapping Batman Begins to work for the reclusive Texas director.

The New World, which opened Friday, was eleventh at the weekend box office.

“It was a very nice contrast,” Bale, 31, said. “It was just a few days in between. Batman had been a long shoot, but a change is a rest, like my grandma says. I really loved going to work each day. I like not knowing what’s going to happen each and every day.”

It turns out the mercurial Malick’s involvement was the reason The New World appealed to the actor.

Bale has played everything from a yuppie psycho killer in 2000’s American Psycho to an emaciated insomniac in 2004’s The Machinist, a part for which he lost 31 kilograms.

“You don’t know how many movies he’s going to make,” says Bale, of the director who has helmed only four movies in 32 years. “I loved the idea of meeting him because he was such a mysterious figure. I had this image of him as some kind of rough, cowboy Texan-looking guy. He’s nothing like that at all. He’s a real gent. Very funny guy. And it was great. He really makes filming enjoyable because there’s no panic with him whatsoever. He’s just endlessly calm.”

Malick’s informal, relaxed, inclusive and improvisational nature of making movies — the cameras always seemed to be running and actors were never required to read exactly or even anything that was in the script — initially made Bale nervous.

The New World tells the love story between native North American Pocahontas and British seaman John Smith. Bale plays John Rolfe, who marries Pocahontas after she is abandoned by Smith.

“I went, ‘It’s 1607. How am I going to be able to improvise?’ So I started reading, going, ‘Oh, my God. All the other actors must have become so familiar with the language, the way of speaking.’ I was thinking, ‘I’m just going to be bringing every scene to a standstill because they didn’t say ‘Hey, like, you know,’ back in 1607.’ “

But then Bale, who by coincidence voiced John Smith’s sidekick in Disney’s 1995 animated film Pocahontas, got into the spirit of things.

He discovered that Malick “created a location in which he insisted on being able to rotate (the camera) 360 degrees at any given time. So it gave the actor complete freedom to move wherever he wanted as well, and it became quite fun.

“My only regret on this movie is that I wasn’t involved in it more. I really would have liked to have been there for many more weeks.”

By Jane Sevenson.