Christian Bale: Batman Begins
Los Angeles – Nearly twenty years ago, at age twelve, Christian Bale stole hearts and captivated audiences in the leading role of Steven Spielberg’s WWII epic, “Empire of the Sun.”
Two years later, in 1989, the first “Batman” movie, directed by Tim Burton, starring Michael Keaton (Batman) and Jack Nicholson (The Riddler), was released, going on to become the year’s highest grossing film; $251 Million – which, if adjusted for inflation, would be more than $400 million today.
Fast forward to summer of last year, 2004. Academy Award winner Halle Berry donned the Cat-suit and starred as “Catwoman.” The film, the fifth in the “Batman” franchise, stunk up theaters faster than any cat could fill a litter box – which would rightfully cause anyone in their right mind to hesitate before plunking down $10 at the box office for the latest in the series, “Batman Begins.”
Warner Bros., who owns theatrical rights to all “Batman” films, seems to have learned their lesson after hiring “Pitof,” a less-than-nothing, (someone who had only designed videos for MTV and such, someone who had never directed so much as a gust of wind), to direct “Catwoman.”
“Batman Begins,” which hits theaters, including most IMAX screens, June 15, is directed by award winner Christopher Nolan, (“Memento”), and boasts an ensemble even the producers of most lauded Christmas season films would kill to have. Academy Award winners and nominees: Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”), Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules”), Tom Wilkinson (“In the Bedroom”), Gary Oldman (“Prick Up Your Ears”), Liam Neeson (“Schindler’s List”), and Ken Watanabe (“The Last Samurai”).
The only spoiler “Batman Begins” has attached to it is Katie Holmes, who has attached herself to Tom Cruise, in what seems to be the biggest publicity stunt of both of their careers thus far.
“Good for them,” says Bale sarcastically, recently, about his co-star’s ‘situation’ while sitting in an air-conditioned suite at The Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, sipping from a bottle of Fiji water. “But who the fuck cares? Most people who really care about each other don’t need to make such a spectacle.”
Perhaps Bale is speaking of his own relationship, one that has lasted more than five years. He is married to the former publicist of Winona Ryder, whom he met on the set of “Little Women” more than a decade ago.
The couple just had their first child, a baby girl, in March.
Standing six feet, two inches tall, Bale is the first actor since Adam West to play “Batman” at the height he is written in the comic books – the first released in 1939.
Bale is eager to point out that though he is a “Batman” movie, it is more like the latest “Star Wars” film, in the sense that it starts at the beginning. “It isn’t a sequel. It is the beginning,” says Bale. “If there is ever a box set, this one should be seen first, so that everyone can see the story in context. People should forget about all of the other ‘Batman’ movies when they see this. Unlike the previous incarnations, where the villains are the most interesting characters, in this film, Batman is the main character and we see how he actually becomes Batman.
“The bat is a personal symbol to him, continues Bale. “It was something that caused him much fright as a child and as an adult is a constant reminder of the night his parents were murdered. He uses the Bat disguise as a means to intimidate others and manipulate their fears, as well as master his own.”
Christian Bale, unlike most children who appear in Steven Spielberg films, save Drew Barrymore, has continued to earn his living as an actor. In the 90s he appeared in a couple of Disney films; as the lead in “Newsies” and a voice in “Pocahontas,” in addition to bit parts in a handful of other films. It was the year 2000, though, which made everyone realize that Bale was an acting genius. He was cast as the lead in “American Psycho,” lost the part to Leonardo DiCaprio, and then got it back, just before shooting commenced.
“The same thing happened, almost, with ‘Batman,'” reveals Bale, whose stepmother is none other than Gloria Steinem. “Chris [‘Batman Begins’ director] wanted me, lobbied for me, but the studio didn’t want me. If it were not for Chris’s persistence, pretty much demanding that I get the role, I doubt I would have gotten it. And I feel privileged, after having made the movie, seeing it, how spectacular it is, in every sense of the word, which he fought so hard for me.”
If you’re a movie aficionado, or at the very least up on current movies, you will have heard of “The Machinist,” the movie Bale starred in last year – the role in which he was required to lose 65 lbs.
Dropping 65 lbs., or more than 1/3 of his body weight, was not an easy task for Bale. He limited himself while losing the weight and filming “The Machinist” to eating not much more than non-fat lattes, apples and celery.
However, it was gaining the 65 lbs. back for “Batman,” plus and extra 20 lbs. of muscle, which he needed for the scenes in which he bares a lot, that he thinks were the most dangerous.
Fear not. Bale dons the Batsuit, which fit his perfectly sculpted body tighter than the glove in the prosecution’s evidence fit O.J. Simpson.
“I was forced,” he says, laughing, “to be fitted for the outfit. A full body cast was taken of me. Yes, even my penis was cast. They tell me that a lot of time went into finding just the right recipe for the mixture, the mixture that would make the final Batsuit. It needed to be flexible, light, yet durable. Once it was finished, and I was wearing it on the set during the filming of the movie, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would have been. It gave me quite a few headaches. It was painful at times. But I used the pain I endured as fuel for my character’s anger.”
In addition to the Batsuit, there is also the Batmobile. Yes, it too makes quite an appearance in the film and it was built, (actually five different models, all drivable), with the ability to go more than 100 miles per hour – and fly for more than sixty feet, three to four feet off the ground.
Next up for Bale one of the lead roles in Terrence Malick’s upcoming film, The New World, based on the lives of John Smith and Pocahontas.
Tim Nasson, whose celebrity interviews regularly appear on this website, can be reached at [email protected]
Photo credits: Warner Bros.