Christian ‘Batman’ Bale is a serious man for a serious role

[18 July 2008]

By Rick Bentley

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - The role of Batman in “The Dark Knight” suits Christian Bale better than when he played the comic book hero in “Batman Begins.” Literally, the Batman suit fits him better.

“In the first film, I had to fight against the suit all the time when I was doing the fight sequences. This one was actually more compatible,” Bale says.

“It was heavier than the original suit but there was so much more motion. Also, it didn’t squeeze my head like a vice. So this time I had to act the rage and anger.”

Bale smiles after that last comment, the one and only time during the course of the interview. He’s serious about his profession and the work. That certainly made it an easy leap for Bale to take on the dark and brooding character of Bruce Wayne/Batman. Bale’s a quiet man who picks his words carefully. He tries to mask the Welsh accent that gives away is heritage, but occasionally he slips.

Co-star Gary Oldman, who plays Batman’s police liaison Jim Gordon, explains just how quiet Bale can be.

“I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way. Christian is very private. He is quite intense and very private in the way he works,” Oldman says.

Heath Ledger, who died in January, was more sociable with Oldman. Ledger played The Joker in “Dark Knight.”

“It was more fun hanging out with Heath. Because Heath died, people want the dark story. In between takes he would sit on the curbside, smoke a cigarette, laugh and talk about his daughter Matilda,” Oldman says. “I had a real affection for him.”

The dark side of Bale is evident in his movie selections. Besides the Batman films, he played a tortured magician in “The Prestige” and an industrial worker who doubts his sanity in “The Machinist,” to name a few of his starring roles.

Bale has taken the serious route since his big break at age 12 in the 1987 Steven Spielberg movie “Empire of the Sun.”

“I have always liked the opportunities acting afforded even if I kind of lost enjoyment now and then with the actual acting,” Bale says. “Probably I wouldn’t be here today without ‘Empire of the Sun.’ But starting at such a young age is not ideal. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone.”

For Bale, “The Dark Knight” ended up being one of his better jobs. It was the third time he worked with director Christopher Nolan and his film crew. (Besides the two Batman films, they made “The Prestige.”) So he felt comfortable on the set.

Bale also felt less pressure slipping back into the Batman outfit because critics and moviegoers liked his work in the first film.

Then there was Ledger, who died months after the filming was completed. Bale found Ledger to be a worthy acting partner.

“Heath was immersed in his commitment to the character,” Bale says. “That makes it incredibly easy to work opposite and it ups everyone’s game.”

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