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June 2005
Batman Begins: An Interview with Christian Bale

Batman Begins: An Interview with Christian Bale

By Wilson Morales

Christian Bale is one of those actors who can play any role and make it shine. Ever since he made his film debut in "Empire of the Sun", he's made a film for each genre. From the sci-fi film Equilibrium, to the fantasy adventure Reign of Fire, as well as the thriller American Psycho, Bale has made his mark in this business. He captures national headlines when he lost 60 pounds for his role in The Machinist, and then gained worldwide acclaim when he beat out loads of actors and was cast as the new Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins. Not only does he play the role with such intensity, but his demeanor and expressions captures the essence of who Bruce Wayne and why Batman exists. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Bale spoke about his role as the latest Caped Crusade and how he prepared for the role.


You did a great job

Christian Bale: Thank you very much.


Are you happy how the movie came out?

Christian Bale: I'm really happy with how it came out, I think Chris (Nolan) has made a movie that will finally please like the hard core Batman fans and the fans of the graphic novel but also just people who appreciate good movie making and good storytelling.


When the role was first offered to you what was the first thing that went through your mind?

Christian Bale: It had been a long process because for me it started when I was given a graphic novel of ARKHAM ASYLUM in about (the year) 2000 and kind of begrudgingly read it because I just had never been into comics or anything and just had no interest in them what-so-ever and also I hadn't seen much interest in the character Batman before. And that was what first opened my eyes and I went on to read Batman Year One and then The Dark Victory, The Long Halloween. I realized that he was a really great character, a dark severe character unlike anything that I had realized he can be before. So that's when I first thought to myself I really want to play this character.' I had not seen him done...and contacted my agent and said "Can you just keep your eyes out, keep your eyes pealed if their every going to be doing a different Batman and if it's every going to be in this style." Then hearing that Chris Nolan had been brought on was an obvious indication that the studio didn't want to go back and do the same old (films) as before, and then the fact that they seem to be seriously interested in me and I had been very explicit with the way I saw and how I wanted to play it that this was going to be made in the way I would like to see it. By the time I actually came to be cast I kind of gotten so obsessed about it that I kind of viewed it as it being mine already. It would've been more like...if they had told me like "No its not yours" I would've been like "No way that's not working out, that's not going to happen."


Can you talk about moving around the Batsuit?

Christian Bale: Well the very fist time I put the batsuit was actually for the screen test, so it wasn't my specific batsuit built for me. It was one I believe from I don't know BATMAN FOREVER or something from before. I was very constricting because it was smaller; it was to small on me so I can hardly breathe in it but you got your first impression about the heat of it. But also for me it became clear that I just could not wear that batsuit and feel anything but an ass unless I really became like a beast within it, and that he kind of became somewhat demonic. Because to me like just standing there in the batsuit I felt like an idiot on his way to a Halloween party and that's the way he's been often been portrayed and the way that it had gone with some of the movies with these kind of one-liners and quips and things. It just wasn't savage enough for what to me that batsuit felt like it had to be, it was his demonic incarnation and the way that he channeled all of his negative emotions and rage so that he was able to function in regular society as Bruce Wayne.


Can you talk about the weight you put into this film since The Machinist?

Christian Bale: We went from the end of July I finished on The Machinist. First week in September we did the screen test and so I actually put on around 60 pounds in that amount of time.


How did you do that?

Christian Bale: Just eating like crazy.


What was the biggest thing you ate to gain that much weight?

Christian Bale: Ice cream


or...

Christian Bale: No I was working on breads and things like that and pastas. Not a healthy thing to do and I would not do anything like that again to gain the weight that fast. Because I had spoken with Chris he said I would have to be doing a screen test and he said we're really not going to be able to convince the studio that you're the man for the job if you're looking like a toothpick. So I did that and then after they cast me then the real rigorous training began because you had to get into to good shape, this guy has no super powers he really has to look like he can be a good brawler. I couldn't do a single push-up and so we had months ahead of us. I was just down at the gym with this good crazy ex-marine trainer friend of mine who just made me lift just impossible heavy weights for 3 hours a day for months on end and then eventually managed to get in shape like kind of just in time for the beginning of the movie.


You've got this reputation of somebody who will do anything for a role, like weight changing, do you see yourself doing this in the future continuing this or is this just a phase that's kind of over?

Christian Bale: I mean look it just depends on what the roles is. I never planned on becoming any kind of gimmick guy that was like "Hey you know what? I'll lose weight, I'll put on weight, I'll lose weight and I'll put it on again" it just happened in a few consecutive movies that was necessary and I just loved the project so much that I said; yeah fine I'll go for it.' There is also the challenge of it, there's the novelty, there's the discipline of seeing can you achieve that yourself. It's not necessary of course not and if you start doing it just for the pure kind of showing off value then that gets ridiculous. I believe for The Machinist it was accentual. I just did not see how that part can be played without looking like he was on deaths door. American Psycho it was necessary for the guy, Batman it was necessary for him to look capable. I will adjust for what is needed but only if I have quiet an obsession for that role.


This movie was all about Bruce Wayne's relationship with fear and vengeance, it's more of an origin story with him becoming a ninja...

Christian Bale: Well its never been explained. I mean everybody knows about ...the pearl necklace and then alleyway and then he becomes Batman. And there's never been the exploration of well how did this happen? What was the transition? What was going on in his head? The angry young man as Bruce Wayne the prince of Gotham but ultimately finding out that he's completely impotent when it comes to seeking vengeance and realizing that with all of his wealth and all of his connection that it means nothing in the criminal underworld. And so he has to disappear and to me it was kind of like a little bit of a crises-life journey because it's meant to be seven years and then there's the seven years in crises life where we don't know where he went to, but when he returned, Bang! He hit the ground running and he had his purpose and for Bruce Wayne that's what happens when he disappears and meets with Ra's Al-Ghul and finds a mentor and really hones his skills and his beliefs more importantly. Finds out who he is and is able to stand up for himself.


What is your favorite Batman film beside yourself?

Christian Bale: No I was going to answer that one. (Laughs) I feel with all due respect that I've never seen the character defined sufficiently. I had seen in the other movies villains who were fantastic but I never felt like Batman had been fully fleshed out and certainly had never become as threatening a character as I believe he should be. That was why I wanted to take on the role precisely because I'd never had a favorite. I couldn't see anybody who I felt like I was going to be in competition with. To me...there is a reinvention here; there is no need to refer to anybody else.


Have you signed on for another one? And how many are you willing to do?

Christian Bale: Well look if this one is embraced then yes their going to be asking me to do another one. Yes I've signed on for another one already, but their not going to be asking me to do it if people don't like this one. If people like this one and I get to continue playing it in this vein and push it further then I'm absolutely happy to continuing doing it.


Is Batman impotent? There is no love scene in this movie. He's a very solitary figure there is no Robin in this film...

Christian Bale: (Laughs) Yeah what happened in that Asian jail? (Laughs) I kind of thank god that we don't have Robin in it, I think that...I mean not talking completely sexually, but I do think there is a lot of room for like a R rated Batman. In terms of YES that (sex) aspect of it as well because it I think that's a little bit tricky to broach when you want kids to come see this as well and even though this is a much darker and scary Batman than its been done before, we still like for a 12 year old to come see it and enjoy it. I think it would be very interesting myself to do maybe one version, which can be both PG and R, two different cuts of it. The graphic novel certainly dove into his private life because it's fascinating; of course he's got to do something, he has to do something at some point. I think it could be an interesting storyline to take somewhere. But no I don't believe that the batsuit is making him impotent. (Laughs)


Most of the cast in this film is British and this is an American kind of Icon and we now sort of have an Anglo American Batman coming over with a British director. Do you see any kind of subtext?

Christian Bale: Yeah we're taking over American culture. (Laughs) You know what? I wouldn't look at this movie and see anything British about it. I live here this is my adopted home, Chris is half American, he lives here.


You've lost your accent

Christian Bale: Right now I did another movie, I finished doing that, it was called "Harsh Times." And I just felt that...when I'm not thinking about it I can hear that I get a slight Englishness coming into it. But I just feel that Batman is such an American character that in representing him in doing the interviews I don't want to be sounding English because that would be peculiar. I would expect people to be saying, what the hell is going on? Why do we have an English Batman?'


There are three facets to your personality in this movie; you got the tormented Bruce Wayne, the fierce Batman and then the playboy Bruce Wayne. Which was the most fun for you to play and which one was the hardest to tap into?

Christian Bale: I love playing the demonic Batman obviously. But I got to tell you they were all pretty enjoyable because then you get the playboy Bruce Wayne whose just this vacuous asshole and that's a great deal of fun to play. But then the angry young man one, the true kind of soulful Bruce Wayne is really what gives it the heart and which I think is been lacking so much through out the rest of it, and is the kind of glimmer of hope that though out all of the darkness of his Batman persona and the vacuous ness of the playboy persona gives you that glimmer of hope that this is actually a well motivated, very emotional young man with a great deal of issues. It gives you that understanding; it gives you that human side to him and the ability to emphasize with him and where he's coming from.


Speaking of sequels will you do Batman Vs Superman?

Christian Bale: You know...(long pause) I don't know.


Were there any real bats? Or was that all CGI?

Christian Bale: No they did have real bats there. Their fine, their not vampire bats, they were fruit bats and I would go into the cage with them and stroke them and they would walk all over my shoulder. Their fine, their little creatures.


How much of the stunt work did you do?

Christian Bale: As much as I could. Every single fight I did but it was tag teaming with the stunt men, because you get exhausted and also my stunt double he was a five-times world champion mixed martial arts guy. I'm not exactly going to say I'm going to be doing a better job than him.


BATMAN BEGINS Opens In Theatres and IMAX Theatres June 15th

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