Christian Bale is late. It’s not that the Bat-Signal just flashed across his backyard, though it has been a tough month in Los Angeles.
“I had the kids in the car at school and as we pulled up, we realized it was pajama day,” said The Dark Knight, referring to Emme and Joseph. “What could I do? We had to go all the way home, put on PJs and then go back to school.”
“You do what you gotta do,” said Bale who was almost unrecognizable with 40 pounds packed on his frame to play former Vice President Dick Cheney in an upcoming biopic.
On the big screen these days, the Welsh-born Bale, 44, is lean and mean in “Hostiles,” where he plays Army Captain Joseph J. Blocker, who in 1892 reluctantly agreed to escort a dying Cheyenne chief (Wes Studi) and his family through hostile territory in order to reach his reservation.
“ ‘Hostiles’ is an investigation of hatred. How you come to be somebody so filled with hatred. And how do you stop that?” he said.
RJ: What is a typical Sunday like?
Bale: There isn’t a lot of sleeping late for either me or (my wife) Sibi, and we love it that way. I love running around playing with the kids. We like to spend Sundays outdoors, wrestling, climbing, running.
Do your kids think it’s cool that their dad was Batman?
My kids do enjoy the fact that I put on the cape, but they haven’t seen anything I’ve made. They’re not really interested in my career.
Did you have a Native American chief bless the New Mexico set of “Hostiles” each day?
Chief Phillip was key. He taught me how to speak the Cheyenne language, which was important. But equally crucial was that he would bless the set and us every single day. Usually on a film set, everyone is rushing, rushing, rushing. But the chief slowed us down and that created this bond. It actually allowed us to get more done in our day because we felt present and respectful toward each other.
“Hostiles” has a strong message about Native Americans vs. the immigrants on their land. How is that timely today?
The film became more and more relevant as we were filming and then since filming. It’s about division, but also filled with hope, redemption and reconciliation. You look at politicians and their own self-interests and lack of empathy with the people in need. Does that ever change? We’re still having an argument regarding what America is. It’s a melting pot. We’re a nation of immigrants. Some people want to change what America stands for, but it has always been about the immigrants. With this movie, I also hope we recognize the horrors we’ve inflicted on Native Americans.
What does it feel like to get that deeply into character — and can you just let it go after wrapping?
It does get into my consciousness and you have to rid yourself of certain characters. It’s like a sickness I love. But if my children came to me someday and said, “I want to be an actor,” they would need to have the talent where they could turn on emotion and then turn it off. I don’t know how to do it. That’s why certain scenes and characters like this one seep in.
What’s the oddest thing about acting?
Most of the time between takes, I sit in a room quietly and stare at a wall. It’s one of the few jobs where you can actually say I’m working right now when you’re staring at a wall. But you’re not just staring. You’re trying to get into that right place.
You filmed Terrence Malick’s “Knight of Cups” partly in Vegas. What do you remember the most about your time in Sin City?
I loved working in Vegas. I remember walking around the streets between takes and improvising a lot as I just talked to the tourists who didn’t seem to know me. A few people said, “You look like Christian Bale,” and I would just smile.
Did you have any unusual Vegas experiences?
I do remember standing around in a parking lot on the Strip in the early, early morning hours. A few pimps came up to see what we were doing, so I stopped and chatted with them.
What would surprise people about you?
I’m really a big softie. My wife is actually the strongest person I know.
You just finished playing former VP Dick Cheney in the upcoming Adam McKay movie “Backseat,” with Amy Adams as his wife, Lynne. How did you get in that headspace?
I just came out of that headspace a few days ago… and frankly my head is still there. I can’t really put it into words just yet. All I can tell you is this is not your average biopic. It’s an Adam McKay film. I wouldn’t have done the film if it hadn’t been for Adam. Frankly, I thought he was crazy for asking me. Then I came to understand how this can be made to work. It was a fascinating piece.
You gained 40 pounds to play Cheney. Why torture yourself?
I’m just mental. I’m just a demented individual. You get used to gaining and losing weight for movies. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I don’t know if it’s the healthiest.
Does your wife mind if you pack on a few pounds for a role?
Not at all. It just makes her look skinnier.