Maybe the Dark Knight has found the lightness of being“Come on. Who cares about acting in comparison to being a parent?”
THE RED BULLETIN: You’ve played iconic figures, such as Batman and American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman. Next we’ll see you in December as Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings. Who are your real-life heroes?
Christian Bale: It always has been and it always will be my father. He was a hell of a guy, who was entertaining, never boring and a believer in forging his own path. I had a very interesting childhood growing up with him as my inspiration.
Another inspiration was acting, which you took up when you were a kid. How important was that?
The discovery I made was that it is very healthy for kids to act—and that it’s desperately unhealthy for kids to act professionally, because of the amount of responsibility involved. I didn’t enjoy the public attention I got through acting, so in my personal life I tried to be very quiet and became very internal and reclusive. I once did a movie with Chinese children and I asked them, “Do you want to continue doing this?” And they said, “God, no.” I replied, “You know, when I was 13, I said the same thing. Look at me now. So watch out!”
Is that a lesson you’ll teach your daughter?
Yes, she won’t be acting. She is 8 now. She understands what I am doing, and she finds it so boring.
You’re expecting your second child soon. What is the best thing about being a father?
You learn humour. I think my daughter is the funniest girl in the world, and it has helped me so much. Because you put aside all that nonsense, all the crap that you thought was important before. You say, “Come on, get real, get on with life.”
And how essential is this compared to your job?
Come on. Who cares about acting in comparison to being a parent?
Isn’t acting supposed to give you a sense of purpose in life?
I wouldn’t be comfortable saying that. My purpose in life is with the people that I choose to spend my life with. Acting is not my purpose. But isn’t your profession part of your identity? Completely true. I wouldn’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t able to do it. Ultimately, I only kept on acting because I have a very vivid imagination and because I love to tell stories. But I don’t like the pretentiousness of making it sound like it was important to anybody but myself. I feel full in every way when I am actually working on something that is creative. Although not everything is.
What do you mean by that?
I mean I have made mistakes. I have done things that were horrendous or where I acted badly because of miscommunication between people, and bad judgment as well. It’s feeling like you’re creating something while in fact you are wasting your own time and probably everybody else’s time when they see the final result. But when you do get a sense of harmony with the other people that you are working with, it’s very satisfying. But I think acting pales in comparison to writing or composing or painting. I don’t think there is the same satisfaction for actors as what people get from other artistic expressions.
So what other things give you satisfaction? You’re known as an avid biker.
I still enjoy doing that. I have really taken to racing motorcycles on the track. You get to experience moments of full immersion where you go, “Wow.” Unfortunately, I had to put it on hold because I had an accident about a year ago.
Would you consider yourself a tough guy?
I have my limits. I have trained with pro boxers and felt I was going to die from a heart attack. Now I get beaten up by my daughter and her friends.
And what happens if you have to deal with a colleague that you can’t stand?
Then I say to myself, “Let’s tolerate each other and not let our true selves get in the way of the movie.” Like I said: I have learned to put aside all that bullshit.