Christian Bale, At Telluride Tribute, Talks About Originating DARK KNIGHT Role
Early on Sunday morning in Colorado, the Telluride Film Festival launched a retrospective and tribute to the illustrious career of Oscar-winning actor Christian Bale. As is the practice, the festival makers assembled together highlights from the honorees work treating us to delightful moments from Bale’s career spanning from Empire of the Sun through The Big Short. At the end, Christian Bale himself took to the stage to accept the award and to talk about his career. Here is some of what happened at the event.
The pastiche of clips was itself well prepared and comprehensive, touching upon Bale’s unique penchant for physically transformative roles, as well as roles that are physically demanding. Christian Bale weight loss for The Machinist, now famous, was showcased, as were his more grotesque embodiments such as in American Hustle. Indeed, Bale later showed up bulking up in preparation to play a part as Dick Cheney. The reel also reminded the audience of Bale’s unique transformative abilities upon his voice, and of the way he uses his piercing look (or, when convenient, absent look, as in The Big Short), to deliver powerful lines. Overall, the entire exercise nicely captured what Bale brings to the table as an actor—essentially, his entire being.
The session that followed included commentary by Bale that, unlike most actors, he does not mind seeing himself on the big screen because he is able to separate himself completely from the role. He does not see himself on the canvas, but simply a character. Moreover, he added, the clips brought back old memories—both good and bad—of his life at the moment of realization. Prodded then about memories that he may have about being a little boy in Spielberg’s World War II epic, Bale mused, somewhat forlornly, that he remembers missing his family, and also that he was stunned later on when he learned that not all films were made with the big budget of Empire of the Sun.
And when he was asked how he decided to give his Dark Knight a raspy tone, the following exchange occurred:
Christian Bale: Originally Darren Aronofsky was going to be making Batman, the film was low budget. But they said I was too old for Batman, that I should try for Gordon.
Moderator: How old were you at that moment?
Bale: [Pause] Thirty. And then it went to Chris [Nolan] and it became a big project and I thought oh they’re going to do what they’ve done before, but then I realized, it’s Chris Nolan, I can do that. So I met with Chris, to understand the character, dissecting whether he wanted to see him how we had seen him before. And, you know, Chris, he plays his cards close to his chest so I didn’t leave thinking ‘yeah’ that’s something I want to do, but it was about finding the right mental connection to be excited to do it in a new fashion.
Moderator: [How did you come up with the voice?]
Christian Bale: [Before Amy Adams was Amy Adams,] she was reading that day, she was the actress hired for that day to do the readings. And so we were doing this and we kept sitting around for hours and hours and hours thinking OK, I’m getting in a rubber suit, jumping around pretending to be a bat and it more and more made me think, you know, this isn’t going to work. So they then put me in Val Kilmer’s suit and it didn’t fit, and it was all weird and tight in spots from whatever I was doing and then I just went, ‘you know, if I just told nobody that I was a vigilante,’ and I realized, he’s a very damaged individual, he hides it from his body and this is how he channels it and I just went ‘he’s a monster.’ That’s what he wants to be that’s what he needs to be, he needs to let that out. So I went ‘you know I’m just going to do this voice’ and see if they say “pfft, alright get out.” But they didn’t, and it just felt right, it felt animalistic. And also, you know, the fact that he’s trying to hide who he is. But mostly it just felt like a beast, and that’s what he wanted to really be. And so I did that. At first they didn’t say anything and I said alright and I went back . . . then they called back and said we loved it. But really that was instantaneous, it only came on from putting on the suit.