INTERVIEW: Christian Bale Explores ‘The New World’


He’s the newest Black Knight, Christian Bale. But when I spoke to him, he wasn’t promoting the second Batman film; he was talking about The New World, directed by Terrence Malick.

It’s the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, nothing different than any other film about the two historic people. But Malick took over with his cinematography to make 2005 Jamestown, Virginia look like 1605. Smith is played by Colin Farrell, and the performance of Pocahontas is from newcomer Q’Orianka Kilcher.

Malick definitely had an effect on Bale; every time he answered a question about the film, he mentioned something better about the director. Terrence has a reputation of shooting thousands and thousands of feet of footage of film, but only using hundreds on the big screen.

But that didn’t mean much for Christian; he knew most of his work would be used in post production:

Christian Bale: “I think that was a product of Terry being required to bring the movie down to two and a half hours. So a number of the dialogue scenes had to be taken out and so many times it was almost like a silent movie, but we were accustomed to that on the set because many times he would say to us ‘Here’s the scene, here’s the dialogue, and we might change it at the last minute.’ Then with the voice over it was really quite fascinating; Terry would sometimes send me thirty pages of voice over and it was fascinating, he’s a wonderful writer. He just likes to amass as much interesting [content] as possible, and then unfortunately has to condense it and lose a great deal. You know what, this is a highly unusual director, someone that I very much want to work with and so I’ll just enjoy the actual working process and keep fingers crossed that there’ll be something of me in the finished product.”

I don’t know about you, but if I were shooting a movie for months, I’d want to be in it. But once again, Christian defended his director:

Christian Bale: “Everything with Terry just seems to kind of slide like sliding into warm water. He doesn’t make big exclamations; it just kind of happens. It gradually happened, and it was like ‘So, what would you think if I did ask you to play one of the roles in the movie?’ ‘Oh, yeah? I think that would be quite nice, yeah.’ It’s all very low key and quiet, and I think that as an actor that you’re not in the editing room unless you’re on there as a producer as well, but you’re not in there. And so it’s always part luck about what exactly is going to be in there, and so often you find that your personal favorite scene isn’t going to be in the movie. You just have to understand that even if the scene is really remarkable it might not fit the time allowed and it might not be absolutely essential to the storyline, then it might have to go. So you’re always, as an actor, at the mercy of the director and editor at that point, and hopefully they make some nice decisions [so] you didn’t waste your time completely.”

But, of course, I couldn’t go without asking about Batman. Really, there was nothing else to talk about after the movie. I tried to go subtle and ease him in with questions about Chris Nolan, but he swung the situation around to talk about Malick again:

Christian Bale: “On The New World, we didn’t have artificial lighting whatsoever; if we did have anything when we were doing interiors they would set it up in the morning and it wouldn’t move all day, that was it. So you never had down time like when you’re waiting for lights to be reapplied. So what that meant was that you had a real great sense of momentum because you never had to stop filming. Obviously with something like Batman, it’s on a much grander scale and there’s the fantasy of the piece, which is essential. So there are of course times if I had decided to walk ten feet over to the left it would’ve been panning over and we would’ve had an hour of lighting that we would have to do because I wanted to walk over there. But I’m working with Chris on something else now which is very much the antithesis of Batman experience.”

Since production for the second Batman won’t be starting till at least next year, Christian wasn’t able to give our too much information about the script, but he talked about adjusting to the comic celebrity:

Christian Bale: “I have to say that I always like the idea of not knowing if people are going to like it and then that gives me a certain drive to improve what I believe the correct way of bringing the character about. I like the slightly self-destructive notion of if I’m going to do this regardless, and if people don’t like it then well I’m out; that’s it. I’m kind of enjoying that possibility and that will always be there, but we can’t help that recognize that we’re probably on slightly safer ground now with the second one. But in doing that there’s the great danger of becoming too comfortable and obviously with the second one you have to outdo the first one. You have to keep on moving forward and pressing on and finding new and impressive character points and storylines, but I’ve got real confidence. I have great faith in him that he will be pulling something out of the hat that will be even better than the first one.”

Christian is currently shooting another film with Nolan, The Prestige, about two magicians. Christian and Hugh Jackman are competing for trade secrets amongst the magic world. Learning tricks are going to come in handy for Christian, but pulling them off after shooting is complete may be a little harder:

Christian Bale: “I think that there is a great deal that genuine magicians use for television to be able to do tricks that you wouldn’t be able to do with for the naked eye. At one time, you’ve got the one eyed spectator of the camera which can be a very difficult spectator to convince and on the other hand it does afford opportunities as well where you can appear to be much better than you actually are. But something that I love very much about acting is that I see an actor as someone who in a very short amount of time attempt to learn the skills and mannerisms of other people. And so I’m trying my best to actually be able to do as much as possible, but believe me it takes many hours each and everyday. There’s much frustration, but also much satisfaction when it does actually come through and work and I’m working with a couple of really remarkable magicians who are advising on the movie.”

With Colin Farrell in rehab, Christian was the only big name to promote The New World. But Christian didn’t want people to mistake him for the main star in the The New World; Colin is the main star of the movie, Christian being a secondary character. He made it very clear that he didn’t want to be the main face:

Christian Bale: “He’s a good guy. As to what he’s going through now I haven’t spoken with him in more than a year, but I wish him all the best. I mean, you’ve seen the movie. I think that you can see that it would be kind of inappropriate for me to be the kind of front man when I’m so clearly not the front man. I don’t come into the movie until after something like two hours or something into it. So I think that it would only be appropriate to do the amount of press that is appropriate to the character that I’m playing. Otherwise I think that you’re misleading the public, so that’s been my position on that.”

You can check out Christian in The Prestige when it comes to theaters sometime in 2006; the Batman sequel is scheduled for release in 2008.

The New World opens in limited theaters December 25th and wide release January 13th, 2006; it’s rated PG-13, click here for pics, trailers and more.

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