“For me, because I lack any kind of considered technique, I’m constantly striving to stay in that space. I’m not as talented as an actor who can just show up and turn it on when they hear ‘action!'” – Christian Bale
In Ford v Ferrari, Christian Bale portrays Ken Miles, the famed championship race car driver. Speaking with The Denver Post about his performance in the historical racing film, Bale talked about portraying the race legend, playing an English character after a long period of mostly playing Americans, and shared a story of an embarrassing moment on set.
Bale says that he knows that while he didn’t necessarily act like Miles might’ve in certain situations, he felt it fit the character. He explains, “I utilized that Ken Miles was not a strong, silent type. I’m quite certain that I overplayed just how much he expressed himself within the car. But it felt very in keeping with the man I had been told so much about and read about outside of the script.”
Curiously, it has been quite some time since the English actor has played an English character on screen. When asked when was the last time he spoke with an English accent in a film, Bale replied:
“I haven’t really thought about it, but I think it’s been at least since (2006’s) The Prestige, so probably almost 15 years since I’ve played British. But I have lived in America longer than I’ve lived in Britain. And I completely understand that many Americans won’t necessarily be able to hear the difference, but the area of England that Ken Miles came from is radically different than my own accent. I have a bit of a mess of an accent from living in many different towns and from what I do for a living. A few people have said, ‘It must have felt nice to speak in your own voice,’ and sometimes I just say ‘Yes.’ But the truth is that it’s as different as someone from the Bronx doing a Texan accent.”
Another aspect of the production that helped Bale get into character was that director James Mangold utilized practical and tangible set pieces whenever possible. He explains, “For me, because I lack any kind of considered technique, I’m constantly striving to stay in that space. I’m not as talented as an actor who can just show up and turn it on when they hear ‘action!’ One thing that was incredibly helpful was that even when we were doing scenes on the side of the track, Jim would have the actual cars flying by. I can’t actually remember a day where we had to watch a man holding a tennis ball walking past us and pretending it was a car. And likewise, whether we were actually driving or being dragged along or pushed by a vehicle called The Biscuit, it all gave you this sense of actual movement, and it takes away that bloody silly feeling of sitting there pretending to go fast.”
Of course, no actor — even an acclaimed Academy Award-winner like Bale — is perfect, and he revealed one on-set hiccup. He admitted, “I did catch myself in the early days on one take where I got in the car and was just kind of revving it up, and Jim shouted ‘Cut!’ He turned to me and said, ‘Christian, I’m not sure if you’re making a character choice but you do realize that you’re going, ‘Vroom, vroom!’ I’m meant to be a professional actor. People pay me to do this, and I was actually sitting there saying ‘Vroom, vroom!’”