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Christian Bale on the ‘tragically relevant’ ‘Hostiles’

Western takes a harsh, raw and violent look at American history
Christian Bale in Hostiles
[Image: Entertainment Studios]

Christian Bale didn’t expect his latest film Hostiles to be so timely when he originally read the script. 

 

But the tale of a U.S. Cavalry officer escorting a dying Cheyenne war chief and his family from New Mexico to Montana in 1892 quickly took on more and more relevance as social unrest exploded over America. 

 

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“It wasn’t something that I thought about whilst deciding to make it. I decided to make it because I just thought it was a great story,” Bale explained when I sat down with him to discuss the film. 

 

“But as we were making it, and since we finished - we shot the summer of 2016 - It is a specifically American story, but globally understood. There are parallels to other countries. And seeing the division, the comfort that in this country people have started to express, directing hatred towards those who are different. It has become relevant. Tragically relevant. Hopefully for a short amount of time.”

 

Bale initially became interested in “Hostiles” because he was looking to work alongside director Scott Cooper again, after previously doing so on “Out Of The Furnace.” 

 

His obsession grew as the Oscar winning star liked the idea of portraying Captain Joseph J Blocker, “a many of very few words,” while he knew that the story was as “harsh and raw and violent” as American history. 

 

“It looks as who we are, who these characters are, and who America is in a raw and visceral way.”

 

Bale admits that filming chronologically, and in the heat of the New Mexico summer, while wearing wool and riding horses, was a “challenge.” But it also added a priceless detail to “Hostiles,” as “you could see the sweat dripping off of us.”

 

At the same time, Bale was taught about the life and culture of the Cheyenne, as well as the language itself, by Chief Phillip, an “indispensable” member of the crew, who every morning would provide a blessing to the production. For Bale, this made the film feel much more “meaningful” compared to some of the others he has worked on. 

 

“He would do a blessing each morning. Producers and ADs were understandably a bit [claps hands], because they were like, ‘Crack on. Crack on.’ But it was a wonderful thing. Because it really settled us and gave a good sense of community to all of the filmmakers.”

 

“You’d have all these hard arse wranglers and stuntmen balling their eyes out. The nature of the film was a very raw one. And it helped immensely. It was very meaningful and separated it from the herd, and those films that are just rush rush rush.”

 

All of which has combined to give “Hostiles” an integrity that is often lacking from other Hollywood stories, especially when it comes to Westerns. 

You’ll be able to spot this for yourself when “Hostiles” is released in New York on December 22, while it will be extended across the rest of the country over the next few weeks, into the New Year.