Christian Bale’s career may well have been given a kick start with last year’s Batman Begins, but his career is going full steam ahead with or without the caped crusader. In The Prestige, directed by his Batman helmer Christopher Nolan, Bale plays a turn of the century magician obsessed by rival Hugh Jackman. Bale will also be seen in Harsh Times, a gripping, Indie thriller which he helped produce. Bale talked to Paul Fischer.
Question: So when Chris Nolan wants you to do something, is your curiosity automatically peaked?
Bale: Inevitably yeah. If you work well with someone you want to try to strike gold again. Chris didn’t actually come to me with this. I actually read the script and I called him up and said ‘I want in. I like Borden. I can really nail this character.’ You know the question was could he see me as anything other than Bruce Wayne? He said ‘yeah go for it.’ I do think he’s one of the best around and I think you’re in bloody good hands. It’s nice to work with someone a number of times. You do get a nice little short hand between you and you can really hit the ground running much quicker. Chris was doing a ship shaping kind of thing in terms of his directing styles between the two movies.
Question: Why did you think you could nail this character?
Bale: He just was one that I was fascinated with throughout. The fact that this relies upon secrecy not only for his livelihood, but his for his very life and the fact that he was somebody who saw this as being so vital and such value for his life and pretty much the only thing he’s valued for by anybody. That it came first. It was his first love regardless of other relationships, the secrecy was paramount and his obsession which you know is absolutely necessary for achieve the level of skill that he does. There were so many mysteries surrounding this one character that he was immediately the one I wanted to play.
Question: Chris Nolan was saying the magicians Ricky Jay and Michael Weber he consulted wouldn’t show him the tricks, only the actors and that was only if it was absolutely necessary.
Bale: Barely. He barely showed us as well. If we needed to know for the shot, then yes he would show us. But, that was very seldom because for this movie as you know is not a movie about showing magic tricks. In the movie rightly I think Chris felt that with editing you can do anything you know. It’s really not so impressive to watch magic tricks being performed on film. It’s centered on the one particular trick that my character develops that just infuriates the hell out of my rival who can not understand how it’s done. As for the rest of it, we needed to show some of their performances, but it was more of finishing up on tricks or starting on tricks. Just giving the impressions of the magicians of this day being the top entertainers. Being the top pull. I like this very much. It’s kind of a take on the story that Chris changed somewhat from the book “The Prestige.” This great kind of fascination and so much mystery about science itself. Obviously now a days we know everybody understands it, but at that time the likes of Telsa appeared liked wizards. How is this done? People did not know exactly what he was doing and how he managed it at all. So there was that ability to confuse audience members as a magician. Perhaps some people did posses some kind of power beyond which the rest of us are able to call on. So they truly were magnificent performers of the time. That’s an era that can never be regained you know. We’ve gotten beyond it now. You can’t strip that knowledge away.
Question: What was the hardest scene for you to do?
Bale: Well the trouble is, if I were to answer that I’d give away some things which we just can’t give away for the movie.
Question: Are there any secrets that would stand between you and love?
Bale: Not secrets in the way that he has secrets. That’s something which only his particular circumstances really meant that he had to hold onto those secrets. I mean I certainly agree in terms of if you’re talking family and etc than no. I would necessarily call them secrets, I would just say maintaining some kind of keeping something for yourself. It’s essential in all walks of life. Not giving everything away.
Question: Are you as obsessive as he is?
Bale: Listen I think that you know I get obsessive, but over shorter terms you know. Obviously a movie lasts a few months and then you’re done with it. With him it’s life long of this single obsession. This one particular trick that he knows will make him immortal. So I have an obsession, but it’s a different kind of obsession. It’s more kind of short term obsessions.
Question: Earlier you said you were afraid Chris Nolan wouldn’t see you as anything other than Batman. Are you were concerned about that with other people as well?
Bale: I wasn’t worried about that because my feeling has always been with anything like that it all depends on the following roles I take and just ability as well you know. If it turns out that you know what I’m just doing different variations of Bruce Wayne for the rest of my life than you know what who would want to keep hire me for anything so I wasn’t that worried about that. Especially because of the way that we approached that of doing “Batman” and “Batman Begins.” Although he’s obviously larger than life, obviously we were referencing many of the graphic novels it’s somewhat in my mind less of a character than he was represented in many of the other versions. I kind of watch it and believe him as a real character in this sort ridiculous animated personality. So I think that again, I was able to kind of stay under the radar a little bit more.
Question: Will there be more depth to Bruce Wayne in the next movie? Will the film get much further into his psychology?
Bale: I have no idea.
Question: You haven’t seen the script?
Bale: No, I mean look. I’ve spoken to Chris about it. I haven’t read anything yet. I trust him completely. I’m sure he’s been coming up with something improved upon our first one. We also have the knowledge that everyone has confidence in what we’re trying to do now because the first one worked. People embraced it. Beyond that, Chris is just a real solid foundation. You don’t worry too much if he’s going to come up with the goods. He is. To me also in the way that he adjusted the book to the movie. I just love what he did with it. The twists and turns that he’s added. The take that he found interest in. He’s one of the best around. I’ve got totally trust in him and I have no problem reading the script a week before we start. I’m actually pretty confident. I mean look of course, I’d love to be able to talk with you more and we will about the actual character and where we can take that and where we want to take him. But, beyond that I enjoy this kind of air of secrecy about it and I don’t mind not being in right there in the inner circle until Chris decides ok you need to be there now. He’s need me to know about it and he needs my input as well. So far that hasn’t happened.
Question: This is one of the best detectives in the comic book world. Are you hoping they explore that side of Batman in the upcoming film?
Bale: You know what I have no clue. I have no clue what we’re going to be doing and I haven’t paid a lot of thought to it. I’ll pay a lot of thought to it once Chris sits me down and tells me what he’s trying to achieve for the next one. When I sit in the safety vault and read the script you know being monitored on all sides and then I’ll know more. Then I’ll move forward with it from there. But, before then I’m truly not thinking about it.
Question: Are you obsessive about your career and do you let that get in the way of your relationships like your character?
Bale: No you know look people understand that I enjoy one of the best things to me about this job is the level of commitment that you have to put into it otherwise it just ain’t going to work at all. I enjoy that. I enjoy that obsession. Everybody around me, my family and my wife and little girl they get that. They understand it and they enjoy it too. They don’t mind it.
Question: Do you choose roles now and be more selective because of your family?
Bale: You know I think there’s not a single person whose life doesn’t affect the decisions that they’re making for any project. (There was another sentence here, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying) Certainly I know there are scripts that maybe I don’t find interest in right now, but two years ago I might do.
Question: Would you still do something like The Machinist?
Bale: I love The Machinist.
Question: You were endangered yourself?
Bale: I didn’t feel like that. I felt invincible. I felt like I could do this. Everyone else is getting worried about me, but oh shut up.
Question: Have you seen Harsh Times yet? I saw it in Toronto.
Bale: That’s coming out November 10th. We shot it in 24 days. I mean that’s as independent as you can get. David [Ayer] paid for it out of his back pocket literally. It was all of his money. It’s just something that the script stuck with me. I read it a few years back. I read it with Dave. Liked him and just the character is like a shark. He can not stop. I find him engaging, hilarious and you know as the piece is called incredibly harsh as well. I found it to be topical and timeless one at the same time. I liked the kind of raw beginner’s attitude that they’ve had. He’s achieved it magnificently. But, there was a definite lure from going to Batman where we shoot for seven to eight months straight to shooting a movie in 24 days.
Question: When you do start working out for Batman?
Bale: On man don’t remind me for that.
Question: Did you do anything before Batman?
Bale: Yeah I just finished doing a Todd Hayes movie and I’m just started doing called “3:10 to Yuma.”