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Oscar Nominee Christian Bale Holds His Roles to a High Standard, from 'American Hustle' to 'Out of the Furnace,' on DVD/Blu-ray March 11

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood February 4, 2014 at 11:59AM

Christian Bale has shown intensity, shape-shifting and commitment in roles that are more consistently memorable than most actors can claim over a long career. He doesn't agree-- a sign of the high standards to which he holds himself. Clearly he knows how to pick roles-- and deliver. He finally landed a Best Actor nomination for "American Hustle."
Amy Adams and Christian Bale in 'American Hustle.'
Amy Adams and Christian Bale in 'American Hustle.'

You just do what feels right, from a subjective point of view. The director has to tell you, "stop doing that," and you have to go, "I'm going to do it anyway." Whatever you want to do. But the thing is, it just requires, ideally, like I said, "it's a living." There are times when you go to work and you take the best available and it's not alway so good. Look at my filmography. 

Then you get certain ones like "Out of the Furnace," which didn't look like it was going to happen. There was something about it. It wasn't an articulated thing. It was just a feeling. There's something there. I liked Scott. He's sincere and he's dogged as well. He stuck to it. "I'm not doing it without you." And when I saw a few months opened up, I said, "that guy is different." I called him up and said I wanted to do it. He needs to work. He's got a family. "Let's do it." I shot for 27 days. We didn't have a lot of prep but it was perfect.

You had a great cast, opposite Casey Affleck, who you could have played.

We talked about that a little bit. Once we mentioned Casey it became another thing. If it's not him, forget it. It's got to be him and he gives such a wonderful performance as do the other actors. It attracted such great actors. You've got to be careful with that, because once you go from a piece where you can disappear into that world to a piece where there are all these cameos coming up. I look at it and I go, man, the quality of actors was such that you just buy every single character. You're not jumped out of it by the cameo roles. You can really feel a much larger life with each of them.

Do you weigh in on post-production? Or do you just let the director do his thing?

If I was a director I'd want to be able to do my own thing completely. So I will respect that with other people and that's the price you pay as an actor, that they may be cutting your very best scenes. Why did you pick that? If you don't like that, become a director or become a producer and tell them to put those scenes in. But I don't have any interest in doing that. I believe in just accepting what you're doing. But Scott invited me. I was in the edit room the whole time. It's through no sense of needing guidance. It's through a sense of he's got so much confidence that he's really happy to hear all my thoughts about it. And he'll reject them or accept them. So I saw the film go through different guises over many months and I liked every choice that he made. 

What's going on with the two Malick films? 

With "Knight of Cups" I was there the whole time. The other one I unfortunately wasn't able to do everything I was meant to do, so I ended up doing like three, four days on that. Which in Terry's world means you're never going to see me in it.

Do you think "Knight of Cups" is heading toward some kind of finish? Are they asking you to do post-production sound or anything like that?

Yeah. I've been doing that for months. Terry is on fire. They're both going to get finished. There's no doubt about it. WHEN, I can't tell you. But they're both going to get finished. He's just lit up. He's possessed. 

So the Batkid. What was that all about?

I didn't know anything about it but then I just looked on the news this morning. What a great thing. I've never been on Twitter or anything like that but you know what a wonderful thing that was, that he managed to create that. What a day for that kid. Fantastic and to me, look, way beyond anything to do with the "Batman" thing and my association with that, it's just a symbol. It's irrelevant who's playing him. It doesn't matter. He's so much bigger than that. This little kid is having the best day of his life. Everyone went far beyond what anyone would have expected and what a joyous moment. Just phenomenal to see that.

This article is related to: Batman, Christian Bale, Out of the Furnace, American Hustle, David O. Russell, David O. Russell, Scott Cooper, Scott Cooper, Casey Affleck, Awards, Awards Season Roundup, Awards, Oscars

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.