CHRISTIAN BALE EMERGES ‘OUT OF THE FURNACE’
In Out of the Furnace, Christian Bale has none of Batman’s superhero qualities lingering from the Dark Knight trilogy.
That’s just how director Scott Cooper wanted it for his film about a steelworker standing up against tough criminals, Cooper’s first foray since writing and directing 2009’s Crazy Heart. Out of the Furnace is set to open Nov. 27.
“You often find superheroic people wearing capes and costumes in film today,” says Cooper. “But working-class Americans are the real heroes. This is the story of this man who works in a blast furnace, but with themes of justice, retribution and courage.”
Bale’s Russell Baze confronts a local criminal (Woody Harrelson) while searching for his missing brother (Casey Affleck), an Iraq War veteran. Baze is not the traditional slick action character.
“Russell is not of that personality, nor does he wish to be,” says Bale. “But he finds himself having to confront these people in order to do the right thing. He’s only got his own fortitude and will power, nothing else.”
To capture the blue-collar spirit, Cooper insisted on filming in Braddock, Pa., where he set the story. The director was impressed with the way Bale immersed himself, taking none of his own clothing on the shoot — wearing only what Russell would wear. Bale also experienced work on the steel furnace.
“It’s long hours, unhealthy conditions and intense heat.,” says Bale. “It’s dangerous work. The guys had recently lost a friend who had died on the job. But there’s a great bond. And they have a love for it, despite the hardships.”
Bale and the other actors — the cast also includes Forest Whitaker, WIllem Dafoe, Sam Shepard and Zoe Saldana — were also able to find character role models in the town. Bale recorded a local man at length to get a handle on the tricky Braddock accent.
“You’d think he was listening to Daft Punk or something with his headphones on, but it was these recordings,” says Cooper. “He would listen to it endlessly, even between takes.”
Cooper says the Pearl Jam song Release was an inspiration while he wrote the screenplay, so he flew to Seattle to show the film to lead singer Eddie Vedder, who wound up collaborating on the soundtrack.
“I ran the movie for Eddie and I’ll never forget the look on his face,” says Cooper. “It moved him.”
The film is also a testament to the steel workers who have suffered through trying economic times, Cooper says.
“It shows the plight of the citizens of Braddock. They have banded together and emerged stronger now,” says Cooper. “It’s much like the process of what steel undergoes — intense heat which emerges stronger as it comes out of the furnace.”