Have you caught any interviews with Christian Bale over the past year or so? Something’s changed. During his Batman years Bale was almost always a tough chat. Often it was because he seemed loathe to answer questions about the Nolan franchise when he was promoting other films, but even when he was doing press for “The Dark Knight” or “The Dark Knight Rises” he seemed well, for lack of a better descriptor, “oh, so serious.” Due to two the fact he has two films releasing within two weeks of each other, an unusual occurrence for any star, Bale has been on something of a media blitz. And, shockingly, he’s being more candid and friendly than ever.
While many critics, including HitFix’s own Kris Tapley, went gaga over Bale’s performance in Scott Cooper’s dark thriller “Out of the Furnace,” the 39-year-old actor woke up this morning to find himself with another Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of the not-so bad conman Irving Rosenfeld in David O. Russell’s “American Hustle.” Set in the late 1970’s, “Hustle” was influenced by the ABSCAM scandals which found local politicians, Congressmen and a U.S. Senator taking bribes for money. Rosenfeld is based on a real life hustler, Melvin Weinberg, who helped the FBI take down these corrupt public officials. Speaking to Bale last weekend in New York — in an interview you can see embedded at the top of this post — he talked about the evolution of turning Rosenfeld into a subtly different version of Weinberg.
“When we first read [the script], it was the historical drama that Eric Singer had written about ABSCAM, you know exactly how it went down,” Bale recalls. “And, David found it intriguing but more as a launching point to see these characters. He wanted to make it an emotional drama. He went away and did a page 1 rewrite. He did like 160 pages and none of them had any similarities to Eric Singer’s original script and equally gave me the freedom to go and create this character.”
It also turns out the physical transformation Bale went through for the film was completely of his own doing.
Bale notes, “[David] hadn’t envisioned or believed I would put on any weight or anything like that, but I just fell in love with the look of Mel Weinberg who we took a lot of license with and who I made into Irv. His comb over and his rotund physicality and that sort of rolling ball nature to him. Not the con man you’d expect to see and then discovering this guy is a real romantic. He’s just trying to recreate his life that’s adventurous and exciting. ‘Please forgive me, so I tell a few lies in order to make my life more exciting in order to find some bigger truth, but who doesn’t in some ways?'”
The Oscar winner has endured major fluctuation in his weight for roles in “The Machinist,” “The Fighter” and even the “Dark Knight” series over the years. After the weight gain for “Hustle” he jokes, “I always forget the promise I made to never do it (again).”
But, Bale continues, “The nice thing to says is I’ve never had a single director ask me to do any of this stuff. Everyone’s kind of gone, ‘Well, we can do it with a bunch of makeup and some prosthetics’ And then they discover I’m really doing it myself and they go, ‘Really? Are you O.K. doing that? I’ve never really had anyone say, ‘You have to get to this place.’ It’s always been me saying, ‘I have to get to this place.'”
A fellow Globe nominee this year, Matthew McConaughey, became emaciated for his work in “The Dallas Buyers Club” just as Bale had for “The Machinist” and “The Fighter.” Bale hasn’t seen “Dallas Buyers” yet, but admits he has had many actors call him for tips on how to pull it off.
“Unfortunately I didn’t do it under any sort of doctor’s monitoring and so I’m loathe to give advice because what if it goes wrong for somebody else,” Bale says. “There really isn’t much of a secret to it. You eat less and do more. And whatever extreme you take that? The more skinny you’re going to become.”
But again, Bale and HitFix would remind you to seek out some medical advice before taking it to that extreme. Somehow, we’re not so sure it works for everybody just like that.
“American Hustle” is now playing in New York and Los Angeles. It opens nationwide on Jan. 18.