While Christian Bale has worked tirelessly to hone and perfect his craft during his ascent to the top of the acting profession, the 43-year-old is still well aware that he is a ‘lucky bugger’ to be able to do it for a living.
Bale made this admission when I sat down to talk to the actor about “Hostiles,” his most recent film, an ambitious Western that cost $40 million and was probably only produced because of his involvement. Not that Bale would ever admit as much.
“I always want to feel like I have made myself worthy. I don’t like to call it a job,” Bale insisted. “I think the job is more than that, it should be treated as more than that. Because we are telling stories. And like I said we are all lucky buggers to get to do this, and you better bust your arse to keep doing it.”
Bale’s stock as an actor has probably never been higher, as he has been nominated for three Academy Awards, winning one, while his presence in the likes of “The Dark Knight” trilogy, “American Hustle,” and “The Big Short,” and their subsequent success, has underlined his appeal to mainstream audiences, too.
This means that Bale has been able to be a lot more selective with his parts, which is another reason why the actor believes he is a “lucky bugger.”
“Some things you read and you like it, and then you realize that you haven’t thought about it for a while. I recognize I am a lucky bugger to be able to do that right now. There are times when you just take whatever happens your way. It doesn’t matter.”
“But right now I can slow down a little bit. And that is necessary, because films take a long time. And if you have lost that obsession and intrigue then it gets very dull very quickly. And you don’t want that to happen.”
Bale looks to avoid lapsing into boredom while on set by only working with filmmakers and actors that are as obsessed and dedicated to the craft as he is.
“Everybody has got a different talent and ways of doing it. As long as what they end up doing is right, I am all good. I like working with people, and it doesn’t matter what style of film, you can be as lighthearted as you want, but when there’s an obsession. I want to work with people that are obsessed.”
“And when I have worked with people that aren’t it has never ended well. Because they are treating it like a job. Like they deserve to be there. And I thought it was always better to be like, ‘You better bloody show why you deserve to be there’.”
As he never actually trained as an actor, “except for a couple weekends at the YMCA off Tottenham Court Road” in London, Bale admitted that he has had to learn on the job with each of his films. There is one lesson in particular that proved vital to his progression, too.
“One of the big lessons I have learned is working out with a script how much does a writer really mean for you to say every word. I always thought that was an absolute. I treated it as though it was Shakespeare.”
“But then one day I was with a writer and they’d forgotten a whole bunch of stuff they had written. I had to remind them of it. I had really wrangled with bad dialogue, going, ‘No, it’s not bad dialogue. You have to figure out how it works. That’s your job.’ Then I went, ‘No, that’s not your job. You don’t have to do that actually’.”
“That was a really important lesson to learn. And I feel like that has helped me a great deal. In terms of getting ownership of what I was saying instead of feeling like the writer owns it. It’s mine.”
You can see Bale putting that lesson into practice in “Hostiles” now, which is in cinemas in New York, and will be released across the U.S. through January.