is the Chief
The Brit Who Played American Psycho
Gets Serious About His Movie Career
of the Sun changed my life quite considerably and
I didnt like it one bit, remembers Reign
of Fire star Christian Bale, who was only 13 when
cast in the Spielberg-directed tale of Japanese-occupied
always a catch-22 with acting, says the
28-year-old Welshman. Youre encouraged to go
out and get exposure, as its called. And,
yes, youll get put on all the lists they have, but
you run the risk of becoming a celebrity who happens to
act. I did a fair amount of publicity for Empire of
the Sun and felt like Id been kicked in the
teeth by it, so I really didnt do much after that.
As far as most people were concerned, I never worked again
after Empire of the Sun, and I found that beneficial
for my own life.
any widespread perceptions, he did work, and worked consistently,
appearing in more than 25 films over the last decade and
a half. He broke hearts opposite Winona Ryder in Little
Women, essayed Calista Flockharts object of
desire in A Midsummer Nights Dream and
garnered much critical praise for work in movies as diverse
as Portrait of a Lady and Velvet Goldmine.
came American Psycho, which proved a turning
point for the actor.
was director Mary Harrons first choice to play lead
psycho Patrick Bateman, but the Brit was effectively bumped
off the project when it was reported that the far more bankable
Leonardo DiCaprio was interested. The Titanic
star ultimately decided to pass, and the title role reverted
back to Bale but a lesson was learned.
Psycho was a wake up call. It said to me that
while I dont want to do so much publicity that I cant
really be called an actor any longer I also dont
want to wait another year and a half to do a movie that
I think is worthwhile.
thriller was important also in that it demonstrated Bales
ability to effectively impersonate an American, and he was
soon cast as another evil Yank yuppie opposite Samuel L.
Jackson in Shaft. More high-profile opportunities
followed, including the lead role in Miramaxs upcoming
science fiction actioner Equilibrium.
of Fire, Bale butts heads literally
with costar Matthew McConaughey. In an interview with Premiere
Magazine, Bale said that when he and McConaughey cracked
heads, It echoed around the castle walls like a ripe
watermelon being split.
play Quinn in Reign of Fire. Whats his
Quinn is stuck in a nightmare really. The story begins with
Quinn as a young boy, when he accidentally unleashes the
creature with hideous results, both for him personally and
for the world. When I start playing Quinn, its in
a kind of apocalyptic future where man is no longer the
dominant species. Quinn has built a community that is barely
managing to survive within the grounds of an old castle
in England. He feels responsible for everything thats
happened because if he would just have done what he was
told [as a boy] it wouldnt have happened. Unleashing
the creature also resulted in the death of his mother right
in front of his eyes. So hes a little bit screwed
role is different from any youve played before. How
did you approach it?
It is, yeah. I purposely tried to ignore the fact that there
was this fantastical creature in the midst of the story,
because Ive always felt that the problem with so many
thrill-ride movies like this special effects movies
is that for some reason they spend an awful lot of
time and money on the special effects and often completely
neglect to have any interesting characters or scenes in
the film. Its like theyre just biding time until
the next incredible explosion, or the alien appears, or
whatever the hell it is. It always feels like such a waste.
Ive never believed that special effects movies have
to be that way.
chose to make the film based on Rob Bowmans take on
Essentially that was the reason. He did convince me. It
was also me wanting to make something that I hadnt
done before. I was curious to see if I could do a movie
like this. I hadnt really been approached to do this
type of film before. But, yeah, for this specific project
it was completely Rob. It was the confidence I had in him
that made me commit. I went in thinking, Theres
no way Im going to make this movie. I came out
thinking, OK, heres someone who has exactly
the same problems with these kinds of films that I do, and
hes very straightforward and forthright. Heres
somebody who, if he says this is what he wants, hes
going to try his damned hardest to get it. So suddenly
the project changed from something I wasnt interested
in doing to something I really liked, which was a different
genre, a different kind of movie for me to do.
before the release of American Psycho, we talked
about the possibility of that film opening new doors for
you. Has it happened?
Yeah it has. Even before American Psycho came
out I was asked to make Shaft because theyd
seen some of the footage. And I very much doubt that Rob
would have known anything about me had it not been for American
Psycho, and therefore he would never have asked me
to do Reign of Fire. So it has helped a great
deal. It created more news than other movies Id made
before then, which obviously helped, but also theres
been a change in my own outlook. I mean, just getting American
Psycho made was a headache because of me because
the director wanted me for it. I just got fed up with thinking
that I was going to have to continually put up with situations
where there were good scripts that I wanted to make, that
the director wanted me for, but being told by the business
side, No. Theres a level of aggressiveness
that has altered in me. I know I cant sit back and
expect that its all just going to happen. Ive
got to go out and try to create it.
Do you think appearing in a big summer film like Reign
of Fire will open a new set of doors once again?
Hopefully so, because its obviously a great thing
to have a lot of choice, whether that be the choice of making
the tiniest movie that only four people will see, or whether
it be some big summer movie. I do really crave having that
choice. If not being outright offered then at least being
able to get my foot in the door of a variety of movies.
If Id have done something on this scale before American
Psycho, we would not have had that year-and-a-half
of trying to get it made. It would have gotten made straightaway.
So while I made Reign of Fire for itself, and
I really believe its going to be a good movie, it
will undoubtedly help me with all sorts of other style movies.
made you choose Laurel Canyon as your follow-up
to Reign of Fire.
Once again it was something completely different after coming
off of Reign of Fire. I knew that Frances McDormand
was attached, and I really wanted to work with her. I met
up with [director Lisa Cholodenko] and got along with her.
I liked her writing. She wrote the script and I liked her
take on it. It was the complete opposite of Reign
of Fire, which was a monster of a movie with a 20-week
schedule. Laurel Canyon was five or six weeks
and had very real characters. The complete other end of
you talk about Laurel Canyon?
Well, its a funny thing really. I havent started
doing interviews for Laurel Canyon yet and,
making the movie, I tried to avoid forming any kind of sound
bite explanation of what its about because that always
seems to make it far more simplistic than it should be.
I havent really worked one out yet, to be honest,
but it is an ensemble piece. Its essentially about
relationships, sexual relationships and family.
also have Equilibrium coming out this year.
Whats that about?
Equilibrium is a science fiction, action movie.
Its a blending of, maybe, Brave New World
its theme is about a society where drug-taking is
enforced to prevent emotional outbursts a blending
of that and some kind of Hong Kong action movie (laughs).
I play a law enforcement officer who ceases his dose because
of various circumstances. He comes to see what hes
been doing and hates the regime hes been working for.
was shot prior to Reign of Fire, correct?
Yes, I did it before I did Reign of Fire. I
was sent it while I was out on a tiny Greek island making
Captain Corellis Mandolin. Once again,
it was as radically different from what I was doing there
as is possible. It takes place in a futuristic society where
emotions are virtually nil between people. Theyre
almost android-like in their existence. On top of that,
I was asked to be this serious ass-kicker. So it was the
idea of that, along with the idea of doing a science fiction
story thats something akin to Brave New World
or Fahrenheit 451. One of the indicators that
made me think the movie may be going in the right direction
was that the director had already offered the female part
to Emily Watson. Emily and I are friends, so I called her
and we chatted about it. Neither of us had ever done a movie
like this. We both said, Well, if were going
to try this kind of movie, this one seems like a good bet,
so if youre going to do it I will too.
never played the leading man in a romantic comedy or drama
at least, not one where you get the girl.
Do you think youll consider doing so?
I will always consider absolutely everything. Probably will
do at some point, but I have no plans to at the moment.
other projects lined up?
There are a couple of things that are hopefully going to
come together that Ive been talking with a couple
of directors about, but nothing is definite at the moment.
new choices will emerge after Reign of Fire
I hope so. Id like to avoid doing dinner theatre somewhere.