Christian Bale on Developing Characters: “I wing it. It changes not just on every movie, it changes every day”


Christian Bale is getting rave reviews for his role in The Fighter where plays real-life Dicky Ward, a former boxing champ who squandered his talents and threw away his shot at a title.

Bale talked with Moviefone about his role, character choices and how he develops his characters.

You’re kind of known for playing characters that are more brooding and intense. Was part of the appeal of playing Dicky the fact that he was maybe a little more flamboyant than some of the other characters you’ve taken on?

No, not really. I don’t have acknowledged preferences of characters. Other people like to look at it and talk about that and figure that stuff out, and this was just another good character that I liked a lot and, yeah, he does end up being a lot more flamboyant. But I never look at it and go, what haven’t I done? What do I need to do? I just read a part and go, right, good — that’s the part I want to do. I don’t really analyze it as much as that. But yeah, there is a kind of great sort of lightness to Dicky, this sort of buoyancy, this bounciness that he has all of the time. He’s good company, I like him, and you can’t always understand what he’s saying when you first meet him — but he does that a little bit on purpose. But once I got my ear in, it was great, and he’s such a fun character to play; he’s kind of like a dog sort of hanging out the car window, with the ears flapping and the jowls going, and that was how I felt playing him — that it was just right. But believe me, I take it down a fair bit from what the real Dicky is, because David [O. Russell] would go, “nobody’s going to believe it — no one would believe this guy really.” So we had to reign it in a little bit, actually.

Was it time spent with Dicky or the physical transformation or what was the most integral part of tapping into the character?
It was time spent with him, absolutely, no doubt about it. Just getting to have that is wonderful, and I’ve never had that before — I can’t remember, but I don’t think I’ve played a living character. Certainly nobody who’s been present or been around and I’ve been able to hang out with them.

Do you tend to be analytical, or are you more intuitive about developing your characters?

I wing it — no, I really do wing it. It changes not just on every movie, it changes every day; we’re all kind of different people morning, noon and night, and you’ve got to adjust how you’re feeling, and the vibe, you’ve got to be aware of that on the set and picking up on that very much. Because — and that’s one thing I’ve got to say with ‘The Fighter,’ the producers, the line producer, Jeff Waxman, did a wonderful job, along with obviously David. It was a movie made for really not very much; everybody was not getting paid very much, and it was such a good spirit. Everyone was really behind the story; everybody really loved it and was laughing, enjoying it, following the story, no matter what job they had on the crew. You don’t get that on every movie; some movies you can see people are just clocking in and they don’t have a sense of connection, but on this one, everybody felt involved, and I think everybody felt like a filmmaker themselves rather than, oh, there’s those *sshole filmmakers over there and the rest of us are just sort of going through the motions. This one was really a collective spirit, you know?

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