Ladies and gentleman, Ridley Scott has returned to the world of antiquity and it ain't “Gladiator” or “Kingdom of Heaven.”
20th Century Fox provided an early look at Scott's latest opus, “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” Tuesday night in Century CIty for a notable number of LA media. The studio's new tentpole is just that, a very big, Hollywood movie re-telling the story of Moses discovering his Hebrew heritage and leading his people out of Egypt. It stars Christian Bale as Moses, Joel Edgerton (controversially) as Rhamses, Ben Kingsley as Hebrew elder Nun, Aaron Paul as Joshua, John Turturro as King Seti (Rhamses' father) and a wee bit of Sigourney Weaver as Queen Tuya (Rhamses' mother). The 20 minutes or so of the film screened clearly sold a big studio movie. Lots of action, lots of CG plagues ravaging Egypt and lots of dramatic grandstanding by Edgerton and Bale. Well, perhaps that will be less obvious in the complete picture, but for now: think big.
After the preview, there was a brief Q&A with Bale, who talked about his performance and the responsibility of playing such a major religious icon. Bale, who segued from shooting “American Hustle” to “Exodus,” says he really had no idea about Moses outside of Charlton Heston's take in 1956's Cecil B. DeMille classic “The Ten Commandments.” As you might expect, he did a tremendous amount of research before production began, including reading books such as “Moses: A Life” by Jonathan Kersch. That wasn't the only prep he needed, however. He also watched two movies that might surprise you.
“While I was still trying to wrap my head around it I went and rented 'The Life of Brian,' which is a favorite film of mine,” Bale said. “The point being that not only do I enjoy that film a great deal, but anything you are approaching from a very earnest point of view can unintentionally be 'The Life of Brian' very quickly. It was sort of a guiding light for me. And I must confess that 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' is always humming in the back of my head. And then immediately after that I rented Mel Brooks' 'History of the World, Pt. 1' because you have to get that out of your system. You have to understand, 'What is it we could make funny?' You have to have humor. With something that is as earnest as this and heavyweight as this, you have to have an element of comedy in your every day shooting or it just becomes exhausting.”
Bale's research informed him that Moses was a “troubled and tumultuous” man, but that wasn't his biggest revelation. Instead, it revolved around the shades of grey that surround the Exodus story itself.
“The biggest surprise for me was the nature of God,” Bale said. “He was also very mercurial. Although Moses was able to talk directly with God there is an episode where God threatens to kill Moses, where he threatens to wipe out everybody but Moses and start again. And the really fascinating thing to me is there is no mention of the afterlife. Since Moses was coming from Egypt, where there is an obsession with death, I was very surprised by that. Other than Azazel, this literal scapegoat, there really is no mention of the devil. God is described as a God of good and evil. All of this was fascinating to me.”
How that is depicted by Scott and screenwriter Steven Zaillian will be revealed when “Exodus: Gods and Kings” opens nationwide Dec. 12.