(January 18th, 2006)


Los Angeles – Get Christian Bale talking about his “New World” director Terrence Malick and it’s very difficult for the 31-year-old actor to stop.

“I just like his style of working so much,” Bale raves. “He’s such a calming director. He’s so curious and he’s appreciative of absolutely everything and there’s never a sense that you’re kind of being tested. Sometimes, with a movie, where there’s such a hard, fast idea from the director about exactly what the scene should be, then it’s very much like you are being tested, you know? You better achieve that line there, you better get that one in there and this one has to have this inflection and you’ve gotta switch here. And it stops being natural.”

It’s immediately obvious that Bale, who plays John Rolfe in this latest retelling of the Pocahontas legend, has joined that legion of actors willing to sacrifice various and sundry limbs to work with the reclusive Malick (“The Thin Red Line”).

Although Bale (“Batman Begins”) has cemented a place as one of the industry’s rising leading men, he eagerly took on a supporting role in “The New World.” Rolfe, famous for his role in the Virginia tobacco industry, shows up well into the film to romance Pocahontas (newcomer Q’Orianka Kilcher) after her heart has been broken by John Smith (Colin Farrell). Bale never minded playing second fiddle to the other actors, or even to Malick’s own eccentricities.

“There were absolutely times where we’d be in the middle of doing a scene and it was, `Oh God, look at the sun, look at the way that, look at the trees, the way they’re moving right now. Quick,'” Bale recalls. “And people would run over there, get that, you know, or hey, `Q’Orianka, chase that grasshopper… Go on. There you go.’ Or somebody would walk past with a caterpillar on their hand and it would be, `Heeeey! Come on, get the caterpillar now!’ But it was great, so you never knew what was gonna happen and Terry was just endlessly enthusiastic.”

Of course, concentrating on sunsets, grasshoppers and caterpillars often meant that pages of dialogue in the script would be reduced to a yearning glance or two on screen, somewhat negating the time Bale spent in the library learning about the real Rolfe.

“As usual, I tend to find that by the time I finish the movie I think, `Ah yeah, once again Christian, you did all that research and it wasn’t needed,'” Bale laughs. “But I just can’t help it. It’s nice to know. I just enjoy finding out as much as I can.”

Watching the final product, Bale doesn’t miss the scenes of character development for Rolfe or any of the myriad moments that were left out of the final cut. His main regret seems to be that he didn’t have more opportunities to be edited out of the film.

“The only thing that I would have liked is just to have been involved more actually there, actually in the filming. You know, because I ended up only being there for I think four or five weeks or something. And I just like his style of working so much. “

By Daniel Fienberg.