BATMAN ON FILM, since June 1998!


Thursday, June 9, 2005

I was fooling around with some of my gear after Mr. Freeman and Mr. Oldman left the room. I looked up to find Christian Bale standing about four feet from me. One of the first things I noticed was that he was a bit smaller now than he was in BATMAN BEGINS. Not THE MACHINIST small, but normal guy small (he‘s actually about my height and size right now). Having seen him onscreen the night before in BEGINS - in which he is really yoked up - I forgot it had been nine months since filming wrapped. But Bale looked good, fit, and seemed to be in really good spirits.

“Whose is this one?” Inquired Bale about a rather large recorder as he sat down at the table, “this big obnoxious one?” One of the first questions asked was about his weight. As I just mentioned, it was clear that he had dropped a few pounds since BATMAN BEGINS. “I don’t have any idea. [I’ve got a film] coming up that I’ve got to lose a bit of weight for that, so I’m just starting to diet. I’m usually about 185 (lbs) or something like that.”

He talked about the weight he had to put on for BATMAN and how that affected him. “You do get a lot of nervous energy. I think that putting weight on - and unfortunately I had to put it on rather fast - and it’s not very healthy doing it like that. That was when I felt bad, you know. I actually felt I was putting my body under too much pressure because I put on a hundred pounds in like, five months or something. And uh, you get really bad mood swings and everything. But that’s not such a bad thing when you are playing this rather dark version of Batman.”

Actually, Bale doesn’t do a lot of “brooding” per se in this film. “I think because he channels his rage so much into the Batman character, and creating that creature - sort of like a monster - that it is sort of like demonic therapy. That these negative emotions can go into that character so that he is able to function in his everyday life,” said Bale. “And he’s and actor,” he continued, “he performs most of the time. The only person that actually knows who he really is, is Alfred (Michael Caine). But with everyone else, he’s got some kind of façade, and a wall that he’s putting up. Whether it be a playboy character, or you have the angry young man. But he’s never really letting anybody inside at all.”

Bale continues, “I like very much the relationship with Alfred and him, you know because it has its duality to it. He’s his servant, his butler, but he’s also the closest thing he has to a father figure, and the only person who truly knows him. And I think it is one of the most important parts to the movie.” Bale’s right, the way that Bruce and Alfred interact on screen in this film, is one of the best aspects of BATMAN BEGINS. The bond and affection that they share comes across nicely on film.

So with the sequel, what would Christian Bale like to see? A darker film, perhaps? More humor? “You know, in extreme tragedy, you always get incredible humor” he says. “With human beings, that’s just the case. The sequel - if it was to happen - people would have said ’yes, we like the way you play Batman and the style [of the movie].” So, a continuation - you can push it further - there is a lot of room for embellishing this character for new sides and new stories with him. There is kind of no limit to it and there is also so much more material you can reference in all the different graphic novels. It is kind of limitless. But that is something you would have to speak more about with - hopefully - Chris Nolan. He’s keeping kind of tight-lipped about it, whether or not he would be interested in doing a second one. Or whoever ends up directing it.”

Watching Bale talk about a sequel, and the character of Batman as well, you get the sense that this is something he would like to hang his hat on. That not only is a sequel with Bale in the future, but many more BATMAN films.

So how does Bale “return to the light,” so to speak, after playing a very dark and driven character like The Batman? “Well, uh. It ain’t so tricky, you know what I mean? I think it is just a matter of when you get your head into a place, where you understand exactly what you are going to do, and then you can really relax. It’s just in getting there that you don’t want to find yourself starting work and being in scene and just not knowing, knowing what the hell you are doing. But once you feel it and understand it - putting on the Bat-suit so much and walking around in that - and understanding him and feeling how I wanted to play it. You can pretty much relax. And you have to actually.”

Again, the BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN script was brought up. Is this something that interests Mr. Bale? “You know, I think that would be a ways down track. I haven’t read it. If it was to ever happen.” Translation: probably not because we’re never going to do it.

So when did Bale feel as if he connected the most psychological with the Batman character, if at all? “Um, I’m trying to get my head right for that question,” he laughs, “it’s been a long day.” He continues, “I think that the general notion of using negative emotion - anger, resentment, whatever the hell it is that everybody feels - and turning it into something positive is something, yeah, I can relate to.” And what was something he couldn’t relate to? “I guess the thing is that his only real superpower is his wealth. And that’s pretty phenomenal to try to understand. Growing up in that fashion, having such access and such power is something that it quite unimaginable to almost anybody.” He continues, “But it is also quite interesting that it became something that made him feel completely impotent. He was this kind of little prince, born with a silver spoon, incapable of every understanding desperation or any of that.”

The theme of BATMAN BEGINS is anger and fear. So what does Christian Bale fear and what makes him - if anything - angry? “Oh man. I wish much less things made me angry,” he told us with a smile. “My Dad always told me “fear being born.” I don’t have any specific phobias like Bruce Wayne - like bats. In fact I liked the bats. I’d go into the cages with them.”

Bale is known for smaller films, such as LAUREL CANYON. Was he apprehensive about taking on such a huge film? “It was a consideration of mine that it could be such a monster of a movie that I wouldn’t really know how to deal with the actual making of it. But I think the saving grace there was that Chris comes from more independent movies as well. And so he wanted to make the more actual day to day interaction very similar to making a more independent movie. So there was no problem with it becoming impersonal whatsoever.” He continued, “I didn’t want to be scared off making the movie. I believed that it would be a movie that I would very much want to be a part of, very much want to see. It is a really great story with fantastic potential, so I didn’t want to be scared off about any notions of the consequences of making that choice.”

So what about stepping into a role - albeit a totally different continuity - that has been played by other actors somewhat recently? “I think that the script by itself - you can’t do anything but make it your own. I don’t feel like it’s been defined before. I just don’t feel like it has been satisfactory played. There is just a lot of room for what is just so good about this character! Things that have never been shown before [on film]. So all I had to do was ignore all that has been done before, you know?” Bale continued, “We were going to be coming up with something new and original regardless. And the last thing I wanted to be doing is stealing from anyone else.”

So, does Bale dig having Batman action figures with his likeness? “It was such a long process - we kind of had to get into these computerized outfits and look really stupid in these, like, flesh stockings. For them to get all the 3-D imagery and everything like that. It was still a kick seeing it - kind of bizarre. I never really thought I’d be in a movie where they would make a doll out of me! That’s a bit of a trippy one. It’s not something I’ve really dwelled on too much. Hopefully someday my daughter may sink it in the pool, or something,” he laughs. So, does he have any? “I got a couple of little things. I’ve kind of been overloaded with BATMAN so I sort of left it in a box for right now. I’m sure I’ll be able to enjoy it a bit more when all of this [hype - Jett] is over.”

Bale spoke of not being afraid of bats, like Bruce Wayne. So what did he make of all of them - in particular that one scene of him with them in the cave? “The one with the bats swarming around? Well that particular scene - if I remember correctly - there were absolutely no bats,” Bale said with a laugh and a smile. “But I think that scene works fantastically when you see him finally facing his fear, and it is a real cathartic moment for him - when he captures his future persona. I like that scene quite a bit.”

With that said, Bale was off to do this bit all over again for yet another group. He signed a few autographs and bid everyone goodbye.

The one thing I took from talking to Bale - and listening to him discuss the character of Batman - was that he had a genuine affection for this character and that he would love to continue his story in future films. So all you fans who called for Christian Bale to play Batman for years, give yourself a pat on the back. I believe that we have found our definitive Bruce Wayne.

"Jett" is the creator and editor-in-chief of BATMAN ON FILM and ON-FILM.NET.

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