Christian Bale on Why He’s an Actor and What He Can’t Stand Actors Doing on-Set
Who doesn’t like Christian Bale (Well, besides that guy he yelled at on the set of Terminator Salvation)? Though Bale has been absent from cinemas since The Dark Knight Rises last summer, he stars in two films that are being released this month: Out of the Furnace and American Hustle. Though American Hustle might be getting most of the spotlight — I mean, it’s already winning a ridiculous amount of awards and hasn’t even been released yet — Bale’s performance in Out of the Furnace should not be overlooked. In the film he plays a working class man in a dying Rust Belt town whose brother, portrayed by Casey Affleck, goes down a dark path.
While promoting Out of the Furnace Bale spoke with New York magazine about his career as an actor as he enters yet another stage in his nearly thirty year career.
Since starring in his third (and final) Batman movie, Bale has been filling his schedule with all sorts of projects. He admits that it affects his perception of time, saying, “When you’re doing a film, you lose all sense of time. You can’t even believe that anybody else has a life outside of the film you’re doing. You completely lose track.”
Though he spent some time in the editing room alongside Out of the Furnace‘s director Scott Cooper, Bale claims he didn’t end up adding much to the process because of his belief in how a director should work. He explains, “I’ve always believed that the director does whatever the hell he wants. That’s what you sign on for as an actor — I can’t stand it when you have actors who are trying to leverage directors into doing things they don’t want to do. That being said, I’m fascinated by directing, and I gave Scott whatever thoughts I had knowing that he would listen to the ones that are good and disregard the ones that aren’t. And that’s how it should be.”
Bale first wowed audiences in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun when he was barely a teenager. He reveals that from his earliest roles he was determined to never have a job that lasted regular working hours. He explains, “For me, I started doing this when I was quite young. It did unfortunately become a necessity for me, in that I was having to support people through acting, and even at the lowest end of what the union requires you to pay actors, that was a phenomenal amount of money for my family. So there was a slight responsibility I felt with all of that, but the one thing that my father would have absolutely just killed me for is if I’d ever taken a 9-to-5 job. That was the one thing that he said, ‘Don’t ever fuckin’ touch that kind of crap.’ The biggest rebellion I could’ve ever had with my father would be to work in a bank. He would have disowned me. As long as I was doing something where I didn’t have to wear a tie, I was good.”
When the interviewer points out to Bale that Out of the Furnace marks the second time he has played an “impoverished American just trying to eke out his small space in the world,” after his character in The Fighter. Bale is proud of that, but admits that it isn’t by design, saying, “I do it for totally selfish reasons. I look at a character and I think, That’s an absolutely fantastic character I can dig into. As a consequence, if you’re representing those sort of people, that’s great. I’d love to say I’m altruistic in that fashion, but I’m not — and you can’t go out aiming for that, because it could be a bit patronizing. I just look at the project and think, Is this what I want to be doing and can I spend two months digging into that character?“
As far as I’m concerned, Bale can dig into as many characters as he wants. We’re talking about a guy who has played Patrick Bateman, Jesus, Batman, and Moses!