Time to get off The Bat
‘I don’t like big goodbyes so I was fairly quick about that,’ says Christian Bale, who plays Batman for the last time in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’
LOS ANGELES—“This is time to say goodbye,” Christian Bale said as he sat down to talk with us one last time as the star of “The Dark Knight” film series.
“We could continue endlessly with this, but this is the right time,” he added. “Chris (Nolan) has written a wonderful final chapter.”
Christian walked into the Beverly Hilton meeting room in a good mood and, throughout the interview, he appeared enthused to look back on his Batman career.
But first he had to discuss “The Dark Knight Rises,” writer-director Nolan’s conclusion to the trilogy. Michael Caine (as Alfred), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox) and Gary Oldman (Commissioner Gordon) are back and are joined by new cast members Anne Hathaway (Selina Kyle/Catwoman), Tom Hardy (Bane), Marion Cotillard (Miranda Tate) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (John Blake).
On how he kept it fresh, playing Bruce Wayne and Batman three times over the years, Christian said: “There’s an awful lot of surprises that are possible with Wayne’s character. He’s got multiple personality disorders, really. There’s that part of him that’s still the child who saw his parents murdered in front of him and he’s stayed at that point. He’s a very sad, lonely individual who is unable to move on with his life.”
Speaking in his low, quiet voice, Christian added: “Wayne has the public persona of the playboy and then he’s got the sincere character of Batman, who is the personification of his rage and his sense of injustice. He’s almost a villain. He takes it right to the edge when he can do great wrong but he has the altruism that holds him back from doing that. There are so many stories that can be written in this vein.”
But, as Christian said, it was time to move on.
The former child actor pointed out that he did not keep the Batsuit, but kept the cowl from each of the three movies.
Asked how he would react if he was walking in the middle of the night and encountered a man dressed like Batman, Christian grinned and replied: “That would be a nutcase, right? Hopefully, it’s Halloween and he’s had a little bit of drink—in which case, he’d be a lot of fun. But that was very much what I thought when I first played this character. I thought, when someone is dressed like that—he’s an idiot or you’ve really got to understand—he takes it very seriously. The point is that Wayne is not a healthy superhero. He’s somebody who practices altruism, like I said. He’s managed to turn his pain into something good. But he’s in great danger of the pain overcoming that good, although he takes this very seriously.”
Christian offered his take on the Batman costume. “The reason he dresses that way is that he feels monstrous,” he remarked. “Therefore, he creates a monster to represent that rage and keep it away from his personal life. That was a job that both Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway had to incorporate themselves into as well—not to feel like fools who were walking around in silly Halloween costumes. That we would understand it and that they would have a very clear reason about why they did such a thing.”
The Batman costume was a blessing to his career, admitted the Wales native. “What I found before Batman is that I would have these wonderful creative conversations with directors and writers,” he recalled. “They’d always say, ‘I’d love you to be in my movie.’ Then financiers would get involved and say, ‘Don’t even mention Christian Bale to me. It’s not going to happen.’ That’s changed. That’s been a big change in my career since playing Batman.”
He declined to discuss whether or not he’d star in a film franchise again. “I’ll never say never. But right now, it’s a little bit too early. I’m looking at very different kinds of movies,” he said.
Brushing his moustache and beard with his right hand, Christian said: “The thing with these Batman movies is, we were never arrogant to think that we had the luxury of knowing we were going to make sequels. Chris always said emphatically, ‘Hey, each movie has to be independent and stand on its own because it could be the only one we’ll ever get to make.’ I think that’s the only way to make any of these movies.”
Talk about a post-Batman career, Christian’s expressive eyes lit up when he described several coming projects. “I just finished a movie called ‘Out of the Furnace,’ which we shot in five weeks and with Scott Cooper, who’s a fantastic director,” he said. “Really great cast—Casey Affleck, Sam Shepard, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe and Woody Harrelson. That went fantastically well. I’m [also] currently doing a couple of movies with Terrence Malick.”
Those Malick films are “Knight of Cups” and a yet untitled one.
“He is great,” Christian said about Malick, the filmmaker known for being fiercely private.
No Skype dad
When Christian makes movies, he takes his wife Sibi Blazic and their daughter Emmeline, 7, with him. He’s not joining the trend of actors who talk to their families via Skype while away on location.
“I believe in sticking together,” he declared. “I believe that making movies can produce experiences unlike any other job that I’m aware of. I could travel. There are strange, wonderful experiences and I want my daughter to be a part of that. I want her along for the ride. My wife agrees. We want to be together throughout. So, no Skype dad for me. Also, I’m bloody awful with technology. I would always balls-up Skype.”
Dancing to LMFAO
Can you picture Christian bopping to the electro-pop hits of LMFAO? He claimed that he grooved to that duo’s music with his daughter. “We do an awful lot together,” said the beaming dad. “She has made me sing and dance to songs I’d never imagined I would be singing and dancing to. Nowadays, LMFAO is one of the favorites. It’s fantastic and rejuvenating.”
Dark Knight toys
Laughing, he added: “We also get box-loads of these (‘Dark Knight’) toys. So I get to beat myself up … There is no guilty pleasure about it. My daughter is also crazy about art. So we draw, paint, sculpt.”
Lucky for Emmeline and her pals, they have the “real” Batman to play with.
“I can’t deny it’s a kick for her and her friends,” Christian said. “They enjoy it when I do the voice and everything for them, chasing them around and pretending to be Batman. They enjoy that. And I enjoy it, too. It’s worth it.
Female role model
Asked what kind of future he wants for Emmeline, he answered: “Just the freedom to choose whatever she wants to do. That’s my dream for her.”
He wants her to be inspired by female role models and first on that list is his wife. Christian said: “It’s incredibly important for our very bold and forthright young little girl to have great female models in movies and books. I realized how few female singers I had listened to before she was born. Now, I listen to an awful lot because I want her to know she can do anything that any man can do.”
Still on music, Christian was asked to comment on “Newsies,” the Broadway adaptation of the 1992 Disney movie musical in which he starred (the film was panned by critics). With a chuckle, he said: “I’m not into musicals but I’m very glad that they’re making a success out of something that we apparently made a shambles of. Good for them!”
While Christian the actor has parked The Bat for good, he likes to zoom around in his motorcycle, but “not that often. I always put on the insurance forms that I’m going to be racing motorcycles throughout the movie. But they tend to look at that and say, ‘Can you please not do that?’ But I always give it a try.”
Toward the end of our interview, the fitting topic was the very last take he did as Batman. “The final scene that we shot was with myself as Batman, Anne as Catwoman, on a rooftop in Manhattan with The Bat behind us,” he narrated. “It was a fairly low-key affair. When I finished, the filming was going to continue for a few days. I said goodbye to everybody. I don’t like big goodbyes. So I was fairly quick about that, headed down, and then I just said, ‘Hey give me a few minutes.’ And I just sat in the office with the cowl for a good 20 minutes, reflecting on what it had meant to me throughout the years. Then I took off, knowing that was the last time. I won’t be doing it again. It was very meaningful.”
E-mail the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.
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