Both actors give Oscar winning performances in the film adaptation of the short story by Elmore Leonard about infamous badass outlaw Ben Wade (Crowe) who finally gets captured and struggling rancher Dan Evans (Bale) desperate for the reward money offers to take him to the train which takes prisoners to the courthouse.
ComingSoon.net talked to the pair about their latest project and of course tried to get Bale to talk about The Dark Knight.
ComingSoon.net: You’ve played American roles before, but were you surprised to be asked to be in a Western?
Christian Bale: Not for a second, no.
Russell Crowe: No, it didn’t surprise me. I’d spent quite a bit of time with Jim Mangold about six years ago. I was recording an album in the studio at the time, and he was spending time with me because he was prepping “Walk the Line.” I didn’t realize that at the time, but we became conversational friends. So when he sent me the script I read it and I enjoyed the dynamics between the two characters, so that’s basically decision made, you know.
CS: Russell, you’re known as an actor who does a lot of research and preparation for period roles, what’s the real story of the level of work you put into things like this?
Crowe: Well, I think we should decide not to talk about preparation just this once, because then it just all becomes about the preparation and not about the movie. The thing is, I was working on another movie right up ’til this, and then promoting another film in Europe, so I didn’t really do that much preparation, but as you may know I have a working farm, so there’s a lot of things on this movie that’s just part of my day to day.
CS: Would it be okay to ask if there was anything from the other Western you did, “The Quick and the Dead” that also applied here?
Crowe: I had the good fortune of working with a guy called Thell Reed who was an armorer on “Quick and the Dead” in a period in my life where I’d never actually touched a handgun, so he utilized that, put a lot of information in my head because he didn’t have to get past things that my dad had taught me incorrectly, or my uncles had taught me badly, as he finds with a lot of American actors when he works with period guns. So it was just a matter of taking that same information and refreshing it in my mind and then changing the style of how this particular guy killed people.
CS: Can you guys talk about being in New Mexico and filming on location and also working together?
Crowe: You’ve been silent for a while Batman – I’m going to do that all day you know.
Bale: I was kind of guessing that. New Mexico, now that I think about it I have no recollections of Santa Fe particularly, but the canyons, being out in the high desert that was nice; being out, riding your horse, shooting your guns, that’s a lot of fun.
Crowe: It was really cold.
Bale: It got to be bloody freezing, especially some of the night shoots; it got cold.
Crowe: Terrifyingly cold
Bale: We had the worst winter storm in recorded history came in.
Crowe: And we were surrounded by four and a half feet of snow doing scenes that talk about the drought. It was one of those sort of movie experiences.
Bale: And he (meaning Crowe) was just a real bastard to work with.
Crowe: And Peter Fonda started something that I think SAG should pick up on. One day he actually said that he couldn’t act in period costume, on location, below 13 degrees.
Bale: Which is superb, I’m having that put in my contracts.
Crowe: I reckon SAG should work on it. You shouldn’t do Shakespeare in a draughty hall in tights below, say, eight degrees, there should be a whole scale.
CS: Christian, you had just come from a very uncomfortable location for this when you were shooting “Rescue Dawn,” was that more uncomfortable than this one or was this one a little more challenging for you?
Bale: I kind of like movies where I just get to just be dirty and crawling in the mud, “Rescue Dawn” it was all very primordial stuff, and with this one it was all about wearing the same clothes day after day and getting sweaty and dirty and sun exposure, and it’s meant to be like that; Westerns are meant to be dirty, they shouldn’t be all nice and clean. And I like getting my hand dirty.
CS: Russell did you like the fact that the bad boy had a conscience?
Crowe: I didn’t really read it that way. He’s just very efficient at surviving whatever situation that he’s in. The end result is an example of that. Obviously that group of men that he’s gathered together, they’re probably a little dangerous now, so let’s just move on and clean the slate.
CS: It’s known that you love horses and since you work so closely with them in this film, how would you explain that relationship with them?
Crowe: Well I’m an absolute horse lover. It’s a very complex and long answer in its full sense, but I’ve always found that even from the time you’re a little kid they’re just like people, there are some horses that you have a deeper connection with immediately, and you can work on that over time. I found over the years the antithesis of some other people’s thought processes, the gentler that you are, and the most constant you are with the horse, the deeper that connection gets. And it’s funny doing these sort of movies, and I’ve done a few with animals, because you get really actually close, because the working relationship is quite intense, 10, 12 hours a day for a number of months, so it’s hard to say goodbye.
CS: Your character was using the whistle, do you have something in your personal life that you use?
Crowe: Yeah, yeah. It would depend on what the situation was, mainly just a series of mouth clicks actually.
CS: What makes your character the way he is, suddenly killing his friends?
Crowe: As I was saying, he just responds in the situation to what’s around him in order to survive. So he’s just that kind of animal himself.
CS: What makes him like that?
Crowe: Well, there’s a history that’s talked about in the film, whether or not that’s the complete version of his life story, that’s a different thing. You can throw out a lot of assumed experiences that an abandoned child might have in the old west, and all of those things will add up to where he is. I think one of the important things because we’ve had no history of Wade being we don’t know his future, we don’t know if he gets captured and all that sort of stuff, so I was always taking the attitude that he was actually very successful at what he did, and this is probably the fourth or fifth version of his ‘gang.’ And when they become too proficient, the gang members around him and the things that he taught them, that’s probably the time to clean the slate and move on and go and get himself another gang. There’s a story in “The Princess Bride” when they’re talking about the dread pirate robbers changing hands and that would go through my mind in terms of how to explain him.
CS: Can you talk a little more about each other, had you met before and if not, what surprised you about each other?
Bale: No, we’d never met before at all. Whenever people asked me what I was doing next, and I said I was going to be working with Russell, they kind of looked like (oh no), ‘You’re going to be in for a tough ride with him.’ And it’s absolutely true. (Russell laughs) No, Russell was I don’t mean to talk out of school, but a lot of actors, they sort of complain and winge and do everything to avoid actually getting on with the work, you know, so it’s nice when you’re working with somebody like Russell where you can just get to the point and you can have blunt conversations about the scenes, and it just makes it easy. He’s obviously, you don’t have to be told, he’s a bloody good actor and it’s a pleasure to work with somebody as good as that.
Crowe: Right from the first time we did a reading I could see that he had a sense of humor and was very balanced about what the job is, and all that sort of stuff. Once you’ve worn the cape, it must be hard to keep your feet on the ground.
Bale: This ain’t going to go away all bloody day!
Crowe: And you can tell there’s a lot of base jealousy coming from me about the fact that he gets to wear the cape.
Bale: I bought him his own special rubber outfit.
Crowe: Which I appreciate. I appreciate it greatly.
Bale: You’ll be seeing him in the meat district in Manhattan.
Crowe: We found it really easy to get on and when you’re dealing with I mean, some of the days, we talked about Peter pulling out at 13 degrees, but actually some of the days were -15 and stuff like that, so it’s really nice to have an easy rapport when you’re trying to do complicated things in rough conditions.
Bale: Even though your jaw can’t move because it’s too cold to talk.
Crowe: The thing is it was easy, and the thing I think I said to him on the last night when we were finishing up, I just said to him that he’s all class, on a daily basis, always ready, got great questions, his choices with his weapons, the way he approached the horse riding, it’s all good. From my perspective, to know that the guy that you’re working with has put the effort in, is switched on, is ready to go regardless of the conditions and the hours and all that sort of stuff, just makes you feel like you’re in the right place.
Bale: We were both a number of drinks down the line by that time of course.
Crowe: Which is also a good thing; being able to simply finish a day’s work and have a regular conversation with a bloke over a beer without it being some big to do, breaking some sort of contemporary taboo or something, we don’t do that in Los Angeles.
CS: Can you talk about working on Batman right now?
Bale: Russell’s going to be actually in the new Batman movie, which is a big surprise and I want to reveal it to everybody right now!
3:10 to Yuma hits theaters on September 7.