Christian Bale on Playing a ‘Troubled and Tumultous’ Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings

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“You can’t out-Heston Chartlon Heston,” a long-haired Christian Bale laughed tonight following a presentation of footage from his upcoming Biblical epic, Exodus: Gods and Kings “There’s no point in trying!”

Bale had been keen to work with director Ridley Scott after hearing such good things from so many of his co-stars over the years and, when Scott suggested that Bale take on the role of Moses, the star went straight into research mood, taking in texts like Jonathan Kirsch’s “Moses: A Life” and Louis Ginzberg’s “The Legends of the Jews” as well as both the Torah and the Quran in full. His very first stop, however, may be a bit surprising.

“‘Life of Brian,'” Bale laughed, citing Monty Python’s take on religious history as one of his favorite films. “…I must confess, ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ was playing constantly in my head.”

Bale, who first met with Scott after signing on still completely bald and overweight from having just shot American Hustle, also made a point of rewatching Mel Brooks’ The History of the World, Part I, explaining that it was very important to figure out what elements of Moses’ life could play up some levity and also to make sure that he didn’t overplay the more serious scenes.

Roughly 25 minutes of footage was screened, introduced by producer Jenno Topping. To her, the core of Exodus: Gods and Kings is an identity crisis. Moses is caught between royalty and the common man.

“He really was a very troubled and tumultuous man,” says Bale. “He was very mercurial.”

Although Topping joked that Scott wanted his on-screen credit to read “Directed by Ridley Scott… in 74 days,” there wasn’t any sign of a rushed production in the footage showcased and, thanks to the film’s impressive sets and six native 3D cameras, Exodus may mark one of Scott’s most immersive historical epics to date. What really shines in the seven scenes showcased is a dedication to historical accuracy.

“I did a glam rock film before,” Bale laughs. “So I was already quite good at putting on eyeliner.”

Although Exodus has one foot firmly planted in history, there’s also a stylish supernatural element to the story and fans are likely to get a kick out of Scott’s take on the ten plagues. One scene in particularly made use of hundreds and hundreds of frogs and offers a taste of Scott in horror-movie mode.

Bale gets to play in the film opposite actors like Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Paul and Ben Kingsley (who, himself, played Moses in a 1995 televison miniseries that Bale went out of his way to avoid, fearing that he’d just wind up stealing Kingsley’s performance), but it’s the dramatic tension between Bale’s Moses and Joel Edgerton’s Ramses that drives the story, following two brothers torn apart and ultimately turned against one another. One early scene has Ramses’ and Moses’ father present them with ornate swords. Ramses takes a look at the hieroglyphs on the hilt and realizes he’s carrying one marked for Moses. That, their father explains, is so that they’ll always remember their bond.

Exodus: Gods and Kings hits theaters December 12. Check back soon for the film’s new trailer!