Christian Bale has to be one of the most fearless actors in Hollywood today. It’s not because he willingly delved deep into the part of his mind where most are afraid to go in order to play a maniacal killer in American Psycho. It’s not because he lost allegedly over 60 pounds bringing his weight down to a little over 120 to play an anorexic insomniac in The Machinist. It’s because Bale jumped head first into a role which could have potentially severely damaged his career if any of the past Batman sequels were an indication of how Batman Beginswould fair. Fortunately for Bale, his gamble proved to be a smart one.
Like any other actor who has successfully portrayed a superhero, there comes the danger of being seen and known as that character for the duration of their career. “Christopher Reeves, [for] many people, is the defining Superman,” Bale said, “[Playing Batman] had been a burning goal and desire since I read a graphic novel in 2002; they have a much more dark take, which you see in Batman Begins I don’t find that when I look at any of the previous Batman characters; Batman has never gone that route or been defined so there was room to try and achieve that.”
Bale certainly had his work cut out for him coming off filming The Machinist, where Bale had to drop down to a weight even most Hollywood starlets hope to achieve. Bale described his shape back then as “pathetic”. “I couldn’t do a single push-up,” Bale admitted, adding that, “Batman has to look like somebody who has trained himself to such a degree that we can believe he is capable of doing the things he does.” So just like Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne, Bale quickly revved himself into amazing shape in only six weeks, just in time for his scheduled screen test with director Christopher Nolan, whose first major motion picture outing with Memento, insured that fans and movie-goers would be seeing something completely different.
What Christopher Nolan brought to the Batman franchise, Bale quickly described in two words: New blood. Bale’s biggest fear on this project was that it could and would actually turn into a circus, the way he believes that Batman and his home, Gotham City, were portrayed. “[Nolan] approached [Batman] from the point-of-view of an independent filmmaker. Chris managed to maintain an intimacy on the set; the guys a very sharp brain,” Bale complimented. What Bale found most fascinating about working with Nolan: “His desire to reinvent, completely!”
And reinvent he has.
Looking at Batman Begins, you almost forget that there was ever a time where Batman donned tights on TV, or when he had nipples on his armor, on the big screen. What has changed primarily in Batman Begins is the sheer darkness to which we now view Batman, the man underneath the mask, Bruce Wayne, and Gotham itself. Bale and Nolan shared almost a seamless approach and vision to what Batman would and could become this time around, something most fans have been dreaming of for years.
“We went for trying to make a completely different animal. For me,” said Bale, “it was about becoming this primal demon that allowed [Wayne] to channel all his rage, all his years of dissatisfaction, all into this one beast. With that costume on, I couldn’t help but adopt that bestial, demon-like attitude.” And in case you ever wish you were the one in that bat-suit, Bale assures you that its definitely no picnic. “It’s hot â€“ you sweat like crazy, and you get headaches.” Sounds like a bummer. Don’t be fooled though, Bale had his fare share of fun in this newly revised version of the batsuit. “I had the lightest, most mobile suit out of anyone who played Batman. Another plus,” Bale added, “it had pretty good padding and protection so people could hit me!” And here you probably thought prettyboy Bale had a stunt-double for the when things got rough on-set.
The batsuit is not the only “prop”, if you will, that’s taking notice. One of the coolest new additions to the bat-arsenal has to be the new Batmobile. With its tank-like appearance which closely resembles many of our own U.S. military vehicles, it is not that hard to become immersed in the possibility that you could see one of these babies roaring down your street, or parked for display at the Jacob Javitts Center. “They (the engineers) went above and beyond with the creation of it. Having this stealth look to it, and this military appeal,” Bale is convinced that this version of the Batmobile the most “practical” and thus, “the most believable.” And after now knowing that Bale was the man in the suit during many of the film’s fight scenes, in case you have any doubts whether he was the one behind the wheel, Bale quickly added: “Driving it was one hell of a kick!”
Up next for Bale is “The New World,” a 17th century saga about British Colonialists and American Indians, due out this later this year. Much like Nolan, director Terrence Malick is painting a much darker picture of the meeting of John Smith (played by Colin Farrell) and Pocahontas (newcomer Q’Orianka Kilcher); lets just say there’s a good chance they won’t be breaking out into song. Bale, playing the role of John Rolfe, described working on this film, as “quite possibly the best acting/movie-making experience that I’ve ever had. He (Malick) works in such an unconventional manner.” Look who’s talking, Mr. Bale!
By Rob Alicea.