Thursday, July 19, 2012

Christian Bale – Movies Spotlight – July 2012

Christian Bale, 38, is one of the most prolific and talented actors working today. He is probably best known for his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. This month he stars in the last chapter of the trilogy: The Dark Knight Rises. The film also stars Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marion Cotillard (making up one of the best casts of the year). It tells the story of Batman’s return to Gotham to save the city from the grip of the terrorist Bane. The Dark Knight Rises has the potential to be the summer’s biggest and best film (make sure to see it in IMAX).

Early Career:

Bale got his start in 1986 taking a supporting role in the TV movie Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna. A year later, his first breakthrough came when Steven Spielberg cast him as the lead in Empire of the Sun – the story of a young English boy who struggles to survive when the Japanese occupy China during WWII. Bale’s performance won him recognition from many critics. He next took a small supporting role in Kenneth Branagh’s excellent Shakespeare adaptation Henry V. Bale next started to take on more family oriented films starting with the 1990 TV movie Treasure Island – playing the lead Jim Hawkins. He followed that with the Disney live-action musical Newsies in 1992. Working again with Disney, Bale took a supporting voice-role in Pocahontas (funny enough, ten years later he would again star in a Pocahontas related narrative). In 1998, Bale decided to return to more provocative material taking one of the three principal roles in Todd Haynes’s glam rock drama Velvet Goldmine – which chronicles (using pseudonyms) the careers of David Bowie and Iggy Pop during the 1970s. Bale plays a reporter investigating the intertwining careers of Brian Slade and Curt Wild (Bowie and Iggy Pop respectively).

American Psycho – Breakthrough:

Bale’s big breakthrough came in 2000 with American Psycho, but it almost did not happen. Lionsgate wanted Leonardo DiCaprio, but writer-director Mary Harron wanted Bale. Lionsgate made an offer to DiCaprio and he accepted and Harron left the project. Oliver Stone signed on to directed, but the project fell apart when DiCaprio left to make The Beach and Stone’s budget got out of hand. Thus, Lionsgate rehired Harron and Bale was again cast as Patrick Bateman. However, Lionsgate wanted Harron to cast two known stars in supporting roles, and so she obliged with Willem Dafoe and Reese Witherspoon. Bateman is brilliantly played by Bale, capturing the sadness and madness wonderfully – he reportedly based his performance on Tom Cruise, seeing him on the Late Show with David Letterman and thinking that he looked dead behind the eyes. Bale had always been a fantastic character and method actor, but American Psycho made him a leading man in Hollywood and showcased his ability to become characters (something he would continually showcase over the next decade). Bale coming off the success of American Psycho made a number of mediocre Hollywood and independent films: Shaft, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Laurel Canyon, and Reign of Fire. His next critically acclaimed hit came with Kurt Wimmer’s highly stylized action sci-fi drama Equilibrium (a must-see for fans of The Matrix-like action films). Bale then completely altered his body to take the lead in Brad Anderson’s The Machinist about an industrial worker who has not slept in a year and doubts his own sanity. It is a profound performance. Bale also voiced Howl in the English dub of Howl’s Moving Castle in 2004.

Batman – Stardom:

In 2005, Bale became a bona fide star with the release of Batman Begins. Along with Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Alfonso Cuaron’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Batman Begins cemented that a new generation of auteur filmmakers had taken over and were making genre films that were not just box office successes but also among the best films of their respective years. Bale and director Nolan also brought a new much more serious and grounded approach to the character completely changing the expectations of what a Batman film could and should be. In short, they changed the game. With the success of Batman (both box office and especially critically), Bale had his pick of projects – and he made some great films starting with David Ayer’s cop drama Harsh Times. Next he starred in (his second Pocahontas narrative) The New World, written and directed by Terrence Malick. It is an absolutely beautiful and powerful film. Continuing his string of working with great directors and giving brilliant performances, Bale starred in Werner Herzog’s Vietnam prisoner of war drama Rescue Dawn. He again needed to alter is body to become his character. Working again with Nolan in 2006, Bale starred in The Prestige – a wonderful film about rival magicians. In 2007, Bale starred in the action western (remake) 3:10 to Yuma and Todd Haynes’s Bob Dylan biography I’m Not There. Then, in 2008, he returned to the Batman franchise and director Nolan for The Dark Knight – a genre film so good that the Oscars changed their rules (from five Best Picture nominees to ten) after the embarrassment of not nominating it (the best film of the year). Along with being probably the most critically acclaimed comic-book film, it also played to the third best US box office of all-time (now fourth, as The Avengers has surged to number two). Finishing up the decade, Bale starred as John Connor in Terminator Salvation and Melvin Purvis (the FBI agent who lead the team that killed John Dillinger) in Michael Mann’s fantastic (and highly underrated) Public Enemies.

The Fighter – Elite Actor:

Bale has shown his ability to completely and utterly inhabit his characters, usually staying in character throughout the duration of filming. He even did all his press for Batman Begins with the American accent that he had developed for the film (he is Welch). In 2010, Bale finally got his recognition winning an Oscar for his work in David O. Russell’s The Fighter. As with many of his performances, Bale the man is unrecognizable leaving only Dicky Eklund the character. Earlier this year, Bale starred in the Chinese film The Flowers of War, directed by (China’s Steven Spielberg) Yimou Zhang. Praised in China, the film was not as heralded in the States.

Upcoming Projects:

Following The Dark Knight Rises, Bale has three films with scheduled 2013 releases. Up first, he stars with Zoe Saldana, Willem Dafoe, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker, and Sam Shepard in Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace – a revenge thriller about an ex-con who tries to blend into his new surroundings (in the form of a small Indiana town), but is haunted by a figure from his past. After that, Bale has two films with Terrence Malick. The first, still untitled, is about two intersecting love triangles ripe with obsession and betrayal set against the music scene in Austin, Texas. Boasting a great cast, it co-stars Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Haley Bennett, and maybe Wes Bentley. The second, which also stars Portman, Blanchett and Bentley in addition to Bale, called Knight of Cups is about a man in search of love and truth (like all Malick films). It also co-stars Freida Pinto, Teresa Palmer, Isabel Lucas, Imogen Poots, and Justin Wheelon. This is just a guess, but I think these films are probably related and share the same characters. I am really looking forward to these two Malick films, and Bale’s work in them.

Career Highlights:

1)      Empire of the Sun (1987) – lead (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
2)      Henry V (1989) – supporting (DVD)
3)      Velvet Goldmine (1998) – supporting (Blu-ray, DVD)
4)      American Psycho (2000)* – lead (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
5)      Equilibrium (2002) – lead (Blu-ray, DVD)
6)      The Machinist (2004) – lead (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
7)      Batman Begins (2005)* – lead (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
8)      Harsh Times (2005) – lead (Blu-ray, DVD)
9)      The New World (2005)* – lead (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
10)   Rescue Dawn (2006) – lead (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
11)   The Prestige (2006)* – lead (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
12)   3:10 to Yuma (2007) – lead (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
13)   The Dark Knight (2008)* – lead (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
14)   Public Enemies (2009) – supporting (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
15)   The Fighter (2010) – supporting (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
*Editor’s picks


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