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Behind The Mask of “Batman Begins”: Christian Bale

What’s different about your Batman compared to some of the previous films?

Christian Bale: “Some of the other films, to me, were more of a spoof of what the original intention of Bob Kane when he created Batman back in 1939 was. And if you look at Frank Miller’s work in Batman: Year One and you look at Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s work in Dark Victory and The Long Halloween, you see a much darker Batman, a much more human Batman, and you see a Batman that is just as–or in my mind, more–interesting than the villains, which has not been seen before. The villains were always the more fascinating characters in all the movies. This one is the genesis story, and it truly looks at Bruce Wayne and what happened between the murder of his parents and him becoming the Batman creature. What psychological journey he went on…I’m really happy with how it came out, I think Chris [Nolan] has made a movie that will finally please like the hard core Batman fans and the fans of the graphic novel but also just people who appreciate good movie making and good storytelling.”

When did you know that you wanted to play Batman?

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Bale: “It had been a long process, because for me it started when I was given a graphic novel of Arkham Asylum in about 2000 and I kind of begrudgingly read it because I just had never been into comics or anything and just had no interested in them whatsoever. And also I hadn’t seen much interest in the character Batman before. And that was what first opened my eyes and I went on to read Batman: Year One and then The Dark Victory, The Long Halloween. I realized that he was a really great character, a dark, severe character unlike anything that I had realized he can be before. So that’s when I first thought to myself ‘I really want to play this character.’ I had not seen him done. And I contacted my agent and said ‘Can you just keep your eyes out? Keep your eyes pealed if they’re ever going to be doing a different Batman, and if it’s every going to be in this style.’ Then hearing that Chris Nolan had been brought on was an obvious indication that the studio didn’t want to go back and do the same old as before, and then the fact that they seem to be seriously interested in me–and I had been very explicit with the way I saw it and how I wanted to play it that. This was going to be made in the way I would like to see it. By the time I actually came to be cast I kind of gotten so obsessive about it that I kind of viewed it as it being mine already. It would’ve been more like if they had told me like ‘No, it’s not yours’ I would’ve been like ‘No way that’s not working out. That’s not going to happen.'”

There are three facets to your personality in this movie; you got the tormented Bruce Wayne, the fierce Batman and then the playboy Bruce Wayne. Which was the most fun for you to play, and which one was the hardest to tap into?

Bale: “I love playing the demonic Batman, obviously. But I’ve got to tell you, they were all pretty enjoyable because then you get the playboy Bruce Wayne whose just this vacuous asshole and that’s a great deal of fun to play. But then the angry young man one, the true kind of soulful Bruce Wayne is really what gives it the heart and which I think is been lacking so much through out the rest of it, and is the kind of glimmer of hope that though out all of the darkness of his Batman persona and the vacuousness of the playboy persona gives you that glimmer of hope that this is actually a well-motivated, very emotional young man with a great deal of issues. It gives you that understanding; it gives you that human side to him and the ability to emphasize with him and where he’s coming from.”

Did donning the Batsuit help you get into character almost instantly?

Bale: “Yeah, because I felt like a fool if just stood there chatting and behaving like a man. I had an idea that I wished to portray Batman as a creature, a somebody who ceased to be really human when he donned the Batsuit and that just confirmed it when I first put the suit on, because you can’t put that suit on without feeling like a predator…The very fist time I put the Batsuit was actually for the screen test, so it wasn’t my specific Batsuit built for me. It was one I believe from, I don’t know, ‘Batman Forever’ or something from before. I was very constricting because it was smaller. It was too small on me, so I can hardly breathe in it. But you got your first impression about the heat of it. But also for me it became clear that I just could not wear that Batsuit and feel anything but an ass unless I really became like a beast within it, and that he kind of became somewhat demonic. Because to me, just standing there in the Batsuit I felt like an idiot on his way to a Halloween party. Aand that’s the way he’s been often been portrayed, and the way that it had gone with some of the movies with these kind of little one-liners and quips and things. It just wasn’t savage enough for what to me that Batsuit felt like it had to be. It was his demonic incarnation and the way that he channeled all of his negative emotions and rage so that he was able to function in regular society as Bruce Wayne.”

More than any other Batman project in film or TV, this movie was all about Bruce Wayne’s relationship with fear and vengeance. Who he is and how he came to be.

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Bale: “It’s never been explained. I mean, everybody knows the lore, about the parents being killed and the pearl necklace and the alleyway, and then he becomes Batman. And there’s never been the exploration of ‘Well, how did this happen? What was the transition? What was going on in his head?’ The angry young man as Bruce Wayne, the prince of Gotham, but ultimately finding out that he’s completely impotent when it comes to seeking vengeance, and realizing that with all of his wealth and all of his connection that it means nothing in the criminal underworld. And so he has to disappear. And to me it was kind of like a little bit of a Christ-like journey, because it’s meant to be seven years and then there’s the seven years in Christ’s life where we don’t know where he went to, but when he returned, Bang! He hit the ground running and he had his purpose. And for Bruce Wayne, that’s what happens when he disappears and meets with Ra’s al Ghul and finds a mentor and really hones his skills and his beliefs, more importantly. Finds out who he is and is able to stand up for himself.”

You had lost an incredible amount of weight for your film The Machinist just prior to filming this. How did you bulk up so quickly to make a convincing Batman?

Bale: “The end of July I finished on The Machinist. The first week in September we did the screen test [for Batman Begins] and so I actually put on around 60 pounds in that amount of time. Just eating like crazy. I was more breads and things like that, and pastas. Not a healthy thing to do, and I would not do anything like that again to gain the weight that fast. Because I had spoken with Chris–he said I would have to be doing a screen test and he said ‘We’re really not going to be able to convince the studio that you’re the man for the job if you’re looking like a toothpick.’ So I did that and then after they cast me then the real rigorous training began, because you had to get into to good shape, this guy has no super powers he really has to look like he can be a good brawler. And I couldn’t do a single push-up, and so we had months ahead of us. I was just down at the gym with this good, crazy ex-marine trainer friend of mine who just made me lift just impossible heavy weights for three hours a day for months on end and then eventually managed to get in shape, like kind of just in time for the beginning of the movie.”

You have a reputation of somebody who will do anything for a role. Do you see yourself continuing this in the future, or is this just a phase that’s over?

Bale: “It just depends on what the roles is. I never planned on becoming any kind of gimmick guy that was like ‘Hey, you know what? I’ll lose weight, I’ll put on weight, I’ll lose weight and I’ll put it on again.’ It just happened in a few consecutive movies that was necessary, and I just loved the projects so much that I said; ‘Yeah, fine, I’ll go for it.’ There is also the challenge of it, there’s the novelty, there’s the discipline of seeing if you achieve that yourself. But it’s not necessary–of course not–and if you start doing it just for the pure kind of showing off value then that gets ridiculous. I believe for The Machinist it was essential. I just did not see how that part could be played without looking like he was on death’s door. ‘American Psycho,’ it was necessary for the guy. Batman, it was necessary for him to look capable. I will adjust for what is needed, but only if I have quiet an obsession for that role.”

Do you have a favorite movie Batman among your predecessors in the role?

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Bale: “I feel, with all due respect, that I’ve never seen the character defined sufficiently. I had seen in the other movies villains who were fantastic but I never felt like Batman had been fully fleshed out and certainly had never become as threatening a character as I believe he should be. That was why I wanted to take on the role, precisely because I’d never had a favorite. I couldn’t see anybody who I felt like I was going to be in competition with. To me, there is a reinvention here. There is no need to refer to anybody else.”

Have you singed on for a sequel? And how many would you be willing to do?

Bale: “Well, look, if this one is embraced then yes, they’re going to be asking me to do another one. Yes, I’ve singed on for another one already, but they’re not going to be asking me to do it if people don’t like this one. So if people like this one and it get to continue playing it in this vein and push it further, then I’m absolutely happy to continuing doing it.”

Did you work with any real bats? Or were they all CGI creations?

Bale: “No, they did have real bats there. They’re fine, they’re not vampire bats, they were fruit bats and I would go into the cage with them and stroke them and they would walk all over my shoulder and everything…I love bats. I very much had to act that fear of bats, because I think they’re wonderful creatures. Listen, we had very nice bats around us. They’re nice little furry creatures.”

Did you keep anything from this film?

Bale: “The cowl. I didn’t keep anything else, but I wanted to keep the cowl.”

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