There are few roles that Oscar winner Christian Bale can’t or won’t do… and he’s shown such intense dedication to his work that it might seem he’s crossing the line into insanity. He’s dropped weight dramatically (The Machinist), gained weight dramatically (American Hustle), ruined his good looks (The Fighter), and got ripped (American Psycho, The Dark Knight trilogy). Though he’s played Patrick Bateman and Batman, he plays the biggest icon of his career in Exodus: Gods and Kings, the Biblical prophet Moses. In an extensive interview with The Wall Street Journal, Bale spoke about getting into the head of one of the founders of modern religion, why he has a love-hate relationship with his lifelong career, and reveals how persistent he was about playing Bateman in American Psycho.
Though Bale has a long history of getting deep within his characters’ psyches, he admits Moses wasn’t so easy. He reveals, “First off, I kind of said, ‘Look, can we say Moishe as much as possible?’ Because you say Moses and you go, ‘Oh my God, how can I do that?’ You say Moishe, and I can come at him from a human perspective: I was chasing some sheep up a mountain recently, and I got hit on the head by a rock. And when I came around, I spoke with God. And he told me things. And I’m changed forever. This is going to be my new destiny; this is my calling.”
Despite being an acclaimed actor, Bale has a reputation for being reserved when talking about his work — and he points to his love-hate relationship with acting as the reason. He explains that there is sometimes little separation, “Most people think it’s important and talk about it nonstop, about how important it is. I know what it comes from. Though there’s a bit of a circus background in my past, acting is not in my background, beyond that. My dad’s lineage, they were military men. They were bigger than me physically. I started at a young age, and my family was going through things and they said, ‘That’s an opportunity you can’t pass up. We need that money.’ So I had a natural love of it but also far too early had the responsibility imposed of, ‘Please take that thing that you love, but can you make sure that you just keep doing it? Because we need that.’ So there’s a hatred of it coming through. So I’m always doing that, all throughout filming there’s like, I love it, then, I can’t stand it, it feels like the most stupid thing ever.”
One of the roles that Bale is most identified with is Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, a part he almost lost to Leonardo DiCaprio. Bale admits that he wanted the part so badly that even when it seemed that DiCaprio would be starring in the film Bale refused to concede the role. He recalls, “I’d been training for it for a long time... Here’s what it was. I just pretended it didn’t happen. I’m English, so I never go to a gym, but for that role it was part of the whole deal that I had to go. I still kept going down to the gym every day because I was going, ‘Oh, I’m making the film.’ I would call [American Psycho director] Mary Harron—she’d be having a nice dinner with her family—and I’d go, ‘So Mary, so when we do this scene….’ And she’d go, ‘Christian, Oliver Stone is directing, DiCaprio is playing your role.’ I said, ‘Right, but you said it, my role, all right? It is coming back, so let’s talk about it, because it’s coming back to us.’ And she’d go, ‘Christian, can you please leave me alone?'”