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Was Christian Bale a total jagoff in his Esquire profile?

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I was fully prepared to ream Christina Bale for his Esquire Magazine cover interview after I had only read the first two pages - the first two pages is where he’s trying to come across like he’s this hardcore artiste too special and amazing and butch and tough to talk about “process”. He and the interviewer get into a pissing contest (metaphorically) and the Esquire dude basically tells him to stop being such a f-cking jagoff. After that, the interview gets a lot better. But first, the douchey parts, where Bale comes across as a total bastard, and like he’s incredibly stuck up his own ass, which alone is… expected. It’s just that at first he refuses to talk about nearly anything which caused me to think, “Just sit at home and be a misanthropic jackass and scream obscenities at your dog and don‘t ever talk to the press.”

Anyway, it took about ten lines for Bale’s Esquire cover profile to get good and bitchy (full Esquire piece here). The Esquire interviewer (John H. Richardson) and Bale get into a fight about access what topics they can discuss, and what format the piece will be in, and although Bale does have a point (he really does), that point is drowned out by his narcissism and bullsh-t. The fight starts when Richardson is trying to ask Bale about process and how he works and finds a character, and Bale is only interested in talking about how much he hates talking about process. Like this: “I find that with particular projects, I kinda know in the back of my head why I’m doing it and what I find interesting, but I never wanna bring it to the front and verbalize it. Because the minute I do that, I’m done. I’ve stuck a fork in that one! I’m bored! So you have to treat yourself like a mushroom to some degree, in order to keep on discovering things… It should just happen. It should just happen. If something’s true and sincere, it happens regardless of marketing. The more I talk about it, the more I’m telling people how they should react. And that is an asshole.” And that’s when the fight starts:

ESQUIRE: Not to argue, but that’s not really true.

BALE: Are you calling me a liar? Am I lying?

ESQUIRE: Sometimes the ground needs to be prepared. And you’ve laid down these onerous rules on me — all I can do is a Q&A.

Actually, these are forbidden words that you are reading right now. Bale is in the habit of requesting that his media interviews be printed in a Q&A format. He also prefers to conduct them at the same five-star luxury hotel in Los Angeles, and makes it known that he dislikes personal questions.

BALE: You don’t like that?

ESQUIRE: No! I don’t like being told what to do.

BALE: I’ll tell you why. Basically, it’s somebody who got stuck having to interview me who really wants to be a novelist, so they’re writing these novellas and I was like, “It’s not true, that didn’t happen, they just made all that up! Why don’t they just go ahead and be a novelist instead of bothering with interviewing me?”

ESQUIRE: So you want to be perceived accurately, but you also don’t want to give any details. You realize that those two things contradict each other.

BALE: No, it’s simpler than that. I want to be able to just act and never do any interview, but I don’t have the balls to stand up to the studio and say, “I’m never doing another interview in my life!” So I tip my hat and go, “Okay mister! All right mister! I’ll go do the salesman job!”

ESQUIRE: And you don’t want to talk about your personal life or family background either.

BALE: Look, I’ve got incredible pride for my family. I’ve absolutely fallen into that cliché of a dad who could just happily talk about my daughter endlessly. But it’s not what I’m about in terms of being an actor. I don’t want people to know about that.

ESQUIRE: Why not?

BALE: I don’t want people to know me.

ESQUIRE: Why not?

BALE: Because that buggers up my job.

ESQUIRE: How does it do that?

BALE: Because if you know something about somebody, it gets in the way of just watching the guy as the character.

ESQUIRE: But that’s not really true. If you really disappeared into your role, people wouldn’t realize it was the same guy from movie to movie.

BALE: No! It’s like painting behind the radiator — I’d know about it even if nobody else does.

ESQUIRE: But for the audience, that’s part of the pleasure. “Wow! He’s a great actor! He’s so different than he was in Julius Caesar.”

BALE: Well, it’s also just I’m bored shitless with myself.

***

ESQUIRE: You don’t want to be a vain movie star, I totally get it, I respect it. But there’s nothing that’s more of a dick movie-star move than to say, “It has to be printed as a Q&A.” That’s movie star. You and Tom Cruise back in the day are the only people who do that shit.

BALE: That’s not true! [laughing] We’re not the only ones. And it was like I said yesterday, it came from a couple of interviews where they just made up a whole bunch of crap in their effort to practice writing their novel.

ESQUIRE: That’s very patronizing and insulting, you realize that?

BALE: What, that?

ESQUIRE: Yeah.

BALE: But these guys lied.

ESQUIRE: Has anybody in the movie business ever lied to you?

BALE: Oh man, listen, that’s not restricted to any one line of work, is it?

ESQUIRE: But you’re still in the movie business, right?

BALE: You really wanna be freed up from just doing the Q&A, don’t ya?

ESQUIRE: I went back to my hotel last night thinking, This guy’s very cool and he doesn’t wanna act like a poncy movie star, he wants to be a regular bloke, but he’s got instructions on what format the fucking story should take. He’s delusional!

Bale is laughing…

ESQUIRE: Poor guy! He actually thinks he’s normal!

BALE: I do love people ripping the shit out of me. I don’t know what that’s about, but I love it. The more crap you give me, the happier I get.

[From Esquire]

Yeah, and he’s also boring me sh-tless. For all of those people preparing to defend him, just pay attention to the mechanics of this: he agreed to do an interview with Esquire Magazine, and he somehow managed to get them to agree to his “Q&A” terms, including no discussion of his family or anything personal. When he was asked a series of questions about his process, he has a meltdown and says that he doesn’t want to talk about process or the work. Anyway, after that, the piece gets a lot better - here are some other highlights:

Bale on promoting his work: “Everybody talks about the process too much. The interesting thing about a movie is the movie. I don’t get it when you get so much openness about the way movies are made, and the special effects and the behind-the-scenes stuff and all of that. I can’t help but feel like this reduces it a little bit. It’s something that shouldn’t just be handed out as an extra on a DVD. It should be sought out by serious potential filmmakers who wanna learn how to do it.”

Bale on the word “should”: “Somebody tells me I “should read Dickens,” I’ll be fucked if I’m ever gonna pick up Dickens. That word should just kills it. I’ll never feel a personal connection to it.”

On cringing at his child actor past: “I spent many years trying to pretend I wasn’t…. Because it’s embarrassing. Well, it’s embarrassing to be a star. Most people look at you like, “That’s not a fucking job, is it?” And then on top of that, you learn very quickly that you’re just a tool — other people are manipulating everything you do, you’re at the mercy of editors, and there’s nothing you can do. But I learned that there’s a certain character that can be built from embarrassing yourself endlessly. If you can sit happy with embarrassment, there’s not much else that can really get to ya.

On his character in The Fighter: “He’s a sweet crackhead, isn’t he? I’m so fond of Dickie. I was just talking with him today. He just loves people so much, and then he messes up.”

On losing 63 pounds for a role: “That was just a kind of an asshole seeing if he could have the discipline to mentally control himself for an amount of time.”

On having a “sissy job”: “I have a very sissy job, where I go to work and get my hair done, and people do my makeup, and I go and say lines and people spoil me rotten. And everyone has that kind of curiosity of how far can you go, how far can you take it. I think it’s always good testing yourself. With various things that could be incredibly unimpressive to other people, but there’s some meaning to it within yourself — and also stupid, which many people called me during that time [laughs].”

On whether he‘s dark in real life: “I’m still singing and dancing and happy. I just don’t like musicals, that’s all. [Or romantic comedies.] I just don’t find them very romantic or funny much of the time.”

On his favorite films: “And Chris Farley was just phenomenal. Beverly Hills Ninja will always remain one of my tops. I have watched that movie. One time I sat down and watched it two nights in a row, and cried with laughter both times. The guy just was a phenomenon, and is missed dearly in my household.”

Bale on embarrassment, and yes, process: “I primarily felt embarrassment through most of my performances. I’m not sure. I never put my finger on it. But there was a love for it at the same time — and I don’t think it’s amazing to have those contradictions. None of us are sound bites, you know… Believe me, I have things I revel in without any hesitation. This is just not something to be quite as proud of as many people would have you believe… Art is something to be proud of. Art is no compromise. As an actor, you’re giving it up, you’re at the mercy of so many other people. So are you truly reaching the lofty goals? No, of course you’re not. And there are some movies where that was never the aim anyway… You know, I’ve been doing this quite a long time. It doesn’t make me feel special. But I actually love it more for the reality of how it is done, the sinew and the bone of how it’s really put together. One word: immersion. It doesn’t matter whether I would be acting or doing anything else. It’s about taking things a little too far. It’s about you don’t know the edge until you’ve gone over it. That fascinates me. I’m not on a couch having therapy. And it’s very limiting if I have to be able to relate every damn thing in somebody else’s life to something that’s happened in mine. At the end of the day, I’m faking it. Pure imagination, and it’s only phony if you don’t go far enough with it. You can become obsessive and it can get to the point where you’re almost losing yourself. You’ve become a vessel. And holy shit, things start happening. And I’m hating the way I’m sounding right now, because I sound like a tosser, but that’s my secret ambition.”

What would Bale do if he wasn’t acting? “I think I probably would have tried to experience my own stories in the way my father did — the sort of travel, the randomness of life, educating himself through experiences. [Bale's father was a swashbuckling figure who flew planes, sold jeans and skateboards, worked as an animal-rights activist, and married three women — including, late in life, Gloria Steinem.] I think I get that partially through acting, but you have to make an effort to be in an unprotected environment because everyone thinks you’re a completely incapable idiot who couldn’t possibly brush his teeth without an assistant. You have to make an effort in order to be able to actually experience the country that you’re in.”

On his 5=year-old daughter: “I spent most of the morning being the audience for my daughter’s singing and dancing today…. she just does her own thing. She just makes up her own stuff and performs for us. Yeah, it’s a whole different party circuit that you find yourself in. I love the bouncy-castle party circuit right now. The last few years of my life have been spent just watching animation — for my daughter — and getting a kick out of that. I love anything that she likes. If she’s getting a kick out of it, I love it. I find myself tearing up at the most ridiculous things now, sitting next to my daughter while she’s watching a movie. Me and my wife look across at each other like, “Oh my God! Are we really doing this? Yes we are! [An example]…Up.”

[From Esquire]

So, at the end of it, I kind of liked him after wanting to shoot him in the face for two pages. Bale: he’ll get you worked up.

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Photos courtesy of Esquire.




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