ACTING IS ALL ABOUT BEING FAKE.. I DON’T WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ME
Exclusive: Christian Bale on why he hates being a film star.
Two short years ago, the Hollywood critics were lining up to give Christian Bale a pasting.
Despite acclaimed performances in American Psycho, The Machinist and two Batman movies the British actor’s stroppy temperament and obvious disdain for LA luvviedom had them sniping he would never be a “true star.”
The leaking of a foul-mouthed rant at a crew member on set then his arrest for allegedly assaulting his mother and sisters – a charge he denied and on which no charges were brought – did not help.
But in a fortnight’s time Bale, 37, looks certain to pick up an Oscar for his role as Dicky Eklund in hit movie The Fighter – to join the Golden Globe and Stage Actors Guild award for Best Supporting Actor already adorning his mantelpiece.
While Bale is proud of his performance as the reformed crack addict and convict Dicky, he cringes every time he has to submit to another interview.
Christian Bale hates talking about himself. “It’s embarrassing to be a star,” he admits. “Most people look at you like, ‘That’s not a f****** job, is it?’.
“I don’t want people to know ME because that b****** up my job. If you know about somebody it gets in the way of watching the guy as a character.”
Born in South Wales, Bale grew up in Portugal and various towns in England before settling in Bourne-mouth. And the entertainment business is in his blood.
Bale began acting at nine years old in adverts for fabric softener and cereal then starred with Rowan Atkinson in a West End production of The Nerd when he was 10. Spielberg chose him from 4,000 hopefuls to star in the 1987 film with John Malkovich and Miranda Richardson.
But press attention and school bullying made Bale give up acting – until Kenneth Branagh lured him back two years later with a minor role in his Henry V. Then it was not until he portrayed serial killer Patrick Bateman in 2000’s American Psycho that he made his international breakthrough.
And losing 60lbs for his role in the psychological thriller The Machinist brought comparisons with Robert De Niro and Daniel Day Lewis.
But Bale rejects the label “method actor”. “I’m not having therapy. It’s very limiting if I have to relate every damn thing in somebody else’s life to something that’s happened in mine. At the end of the day, I’m faking it. Pure imagination.”
This time the character is Dicky Eklund, the older brother of “Irish” Micky Ward, played by Mark Wahlberg who also directed The Fighter.
To get the role just right, Bale hung out with Eklund on the streets of his home town, Lowell, Massachusetts. “He’s larger than life,” Bale says. “He took me around the crack houses he used to use and the jail he spent time in and wherever he goes he is the mayor of the streets. Every one calls out his name.
“You hang out with Dicky and the most crazy stuff becomes normal. He’s someone who’s gone way over the edge, he’s come back laughing and there’s a real buoyancy about him all the time.
“He had extreme ups and extreme downs and was so naturally gifted that he was able to go drinking all night and then jump in the ring in the morning.”
Eklund’s drug addiction and personal problems finally forced him to quit boxing in 1985 after a 10-year career and a record of 19 wins and 10 losses.
While reluctant to speak about himself, doting dad Bale admits he could talk all day about his daughter Emmeline, five. The star has been married for 11 years to Sibi, a model and former assistant to Winona Ryder.
He says: “I’ve got incredible pride in my family. I’ve absolutely fallen into that cliche of a dad who could just talk about his daughter endlessly.”
In April Bale will be back in the studio filming the third Batman adventure, The Dark Knight Rises.
“I’m incredibly fortunate I’ve got that little Batman movie coming up,” he jokes. “It’s a wonderful thing to fall back on.”
What appeals to him so much about the role of Bruce Wayne and his troubled alter ego? “The darkness, the ambiguity, the possibility of change in the human condition,” he says.
Unfortunately for publicity-shy Bale he still has the Oscars to endure before he can retreat into character.
And like it or not, he’s going to be star of the show.