Christian Bale talks The Machinist
Christian Bale is a shadow of his former, and future self in The Machinist. Wasted away to 121 pounds of skin and bones, this is neither American Psycho nor Batman. Bale plays an anorexic, insomniac factory worker who thinks he’s seeing ghosts. But for an indie movie that really not a lot of people are ever going to see, is that kind of physical sacrifice worth it?
“I feel that it was as long as I don't ever find out that there's ever been any permanent damage because of it,” Bale said. “I'd really, really kick myself for that because at that point it'd just become stupidity, and certainly wouldn't be worth it. But I feel fine. So right now I do feel like it was worth it. I think that it was also just an endeavor where I kind of just wanted to see if I could set myself a challenge and achieve it and have the mental discipline not to waver from it. The way that I thought of it is just that it's only actually eight weeks of filming and I'd done the preparation beforehand, but I've had many six months of my life which I can almost remember nothing particularly that I did during that time. It's fairly unremarkable. So I felt, 'Well this is really only six months. Why not really do something that defines that time?' And it would've been ridiculous if it was for a movie that I didn't think it was worth it, but I felt that it was essential for playing this part. I understand that a number of people have also said to me, 'Well, this isn't going to be a mainstream movie. You're not going to get many people to go and see it. So why did you do it?' Well look, it's not for that. To me a movie doesn't become better just because a lot of people go see it at all. My primary satisfaction for making movies is actually in the making of the movie. So in those terms, absolutely, I feel like it was worth it.”
Okay, so it was worth it, but it must have been hell, right? “I didn’t feel terrible to be honest. I felt quite fine once I got beyond the pangs of hunger, et cetera. Your stomach shrinks and you get used to it. And interestingly, I did find that mentally it was very, very calming being that skinny, because you really didn’t have any energy for expending on unnecessary things, so you just kept it simple. Life became very simple. Much like when you are ill, you just do what is essential and that’s it. But I actually never felt sick really. That really happened actually in putting the weight back on. It wasn’t in losing it, it was putting the weight back on. I was a little bit too eager to eat afterwards and I rushed that. That wasn’t wise.”
Even before he bulked up for Batman Begins, Bale rushed to enjoy the fruits of his labors, literally. You won’t believe what his big comfort food was after filming wrapped. “Bizarrely, apples. You’d kind of think it would be something a little bit more indulgent than that, but it was them. It was apples that I really wanted. I dreamed about them. Any kind. There were all sorts of different apples that they had in Spain and I was really into them and interested in finding out about all the different kinds of apples. And then different crew members would bring me different apples to try. And I’ve never liked apples particularly in my life, but it must have been I guess the vitamin A I believe that’s in apples that my body was craving.”
Though the film does not explore the complexities of factory machine work, or lack thereof, Bale attempted to go method and do some hardcore machinist research. “I attempted to more than actually succeeded at. o I did contact a number of different machine shops. Most of them weren’t really interesting. They kind of just gave me comments like, ‘Look, we’re actually working here. We’re not here to entertain actors who are pretending to work.’ And so I went along to a place which actually does training, myself and the writer, Scott Kosar. We went around in the valley. We stopped at various small kind of family run machine shops which have much more basic machines, but tended to be on the small side whereas we were looking at larger machines for the movie. But in America, it’s become a much more technologically advanced profession where most of it is guided by computers, so most of it actually really just involves pressing buttons and you’re not physically laboring, working the machines as much any longer, much for safety. So I realized that it really wasn’t actually going to get what I was looking for, and ultimately, it ended up to be completely useless anyway because we used a genuine machine shop on the outskirts of Barcelona where they had these very antiquated looking machines which each machine seemed to have its own personality to it.”
Looking ahead, Bale will appear much more full figured as the caped crusader in Batman Begins. Though he wants The Machinist to get its due attention now, he did reveal a few cool details about the Batmobile, bat gadgets and batsuit.
On the Batmobile: “I think they did a really wonderful job with it. I’m quite in awe of the men who engineered and designed the whole thing because I’m not really good at any of that kind of thing. And they created actually a one of a kind car that can actually genuinely do all of the things in the movie. That was very much the aim of everybody on the set, that we wanted to use as little CGI or models as possible.”
On the gadgets: “I don't think it’s quite as gadget heavy. We have the introduction of how he acquires all of these. We’re very much interested in looking into the hows Bruce Wayne manages to acquire everything. And I guess there’s a grappling gun which is the kind of most commonly used one. That was the one I actually had in hand each and every day.”
On the costume: “[A] very extensive, very laborious [process] but ending up with it fitting absolutely perfectly. There’s a whole team of people whose job it is just to make sure that it is looking right and working right and there’s a conveyor belt process of creating these suits. It’s very involved and it has progressed since the first movie.”
The Machinist opens October 22.
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The Machinist was released October 22nd, 2004 and stars Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, John Sharian, Michael Ironside, Larry Gilliard Jr., Reg E. Cathey, Anna Massey. The film is directed by Brad Anderson.