Christian Bale: His Intensity Has Become Dangerous to Himself

         
 

22 December 2010| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Upfront I will say that Christian Bale deserves to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work in The Fighter. Perhaps he should have won already for “American Psycho” (2000), and perhaps he should have been at least nominated for “The Machinist” (2004), or “Rescue Dawn” (2006), or “The Dark Knight” (2008), or for his child acting debut in Steven Spielberg’s “Empire of the Sun” (1987). Great work. I don’t think of actors as friends, or I should say, personal friends. I am not a critic who is delusional. Some would-be critics actually show up to junkets to solicit photographs. Not me. I admire certain actors in their craft, maybe a few of them, I am in awe of them.

So although I am not a friend of Christian Bale, I am somehow finding myself worrying about him. Bale displays some insane talent in “The Fighter” as ex-boxer and full-time crack addict Dicky Ecklund. Bale went into emaciated mode again like he did for “The Machinist” when he lost 60 pounds for the part. When you see him as chronic insomniac Trevor Reznik with his shirt off in that earlier film, he makes you bend over in the barfing position. The film is effective psychodrama and his performance is debasement sucked in a vacuum. To have gone through that much pain for the part makes at least some kind of sense. Bale was still a rising star in Hollywood, no… a rising actor in the Method community and to have gone that far for Trevor was a means to consolidate his reputation. To build himself up as the hardest working actor in Hollywood.

But it’s not like he needed to go that far again for “The Fighter.” Not unless he wanted to show once and for all how talented he is in Hollywood. I hope he wins the Oscar so maybe he will stop punishing himself. Apparently he didn’t think so. “I’m a good 60 pounds heavier than a welterweight [boxer]. I can’t lose that much weight, because I wouldn’t be able to box and train and everything,” Bale explained to MTV News. “I just went down to what looked like might be the right body type for Dicky and the way that he fights as well.” I’d still say he went down 20 pounds too many, for health’s sake. In his first scene, Dicky is giving a direct camera interview to HBO documentary filmmakers while his rising star brother Micky Ward (played by lead Mark Wahlberg) humbly sits aside. It’s nearly impossible not to laugh at the bonkers enthusiasm of Bale as Dicky. Here’s a sight of a crack addict for a character and yet I was going into hysterics. I was probably reacting this way because I can’t believe the Method intensity of Bale: The zonked-out eyes, the crevasses in his facial lines, and the high-and-bouncy twitchiness of his behavior. In interviews Bale joked that he did “a lot of coke” to lose weight for the part.

Actors have tried many things over the years to get into their part. Method acting by nature is a technique where actors envelop themselves into the thoughts and emotions of their characters in ways akin to sensory deprivation. Sometimes actors take upon physical alterations to themselves. Robert DeNiro gained 60 pounds for the later scenes of “Raging Bull” (1980) and won an Oscar. Mariel Hemingway got breast implants for “Star 80” (1983). Daniel Day-Lewis lived painstakingly in a wheelchair to play an artist afflicted with cerebral palsy in “My Left Foot” (1989). Russell Crowe packed on nearly 50 pounds and dyed his hair gray to look old and paunchy in “The Insider” (1999). Tom Hanks lost 40 pounds to play a marooned island man in “Cast Away” (2000). Charlize Theron packed on 30 pounds (pic, right), had prosthetics to sag her eyelids and had upper and lower dentures to make her teeth look bad for her serial killer turn in “Monster” (2003).

Character Dicky Eklund is a drug addict, family joker, convict, rehabilitated inmate, and finally a straight-shooter who turns into a loyal trainer in “The Fighter.” Bale is just damn entertaining in every scene of the film. Just like “The Machinist” he will probably balloon back 50 or so odd pounds to play Batman again. The hazards of Bale jumping the weight scales include passing kidney stones and heart shrinkage. I hope he gets enough time to prepare before Batman because he could end up fainting on the set someday. Or worse, perhaps his way on taking on coke-addled characters could lead to his own casualty one day. I hope he gets exhausted by the whole process and just plays characters from now on who like to eat. Because it’s not the weight loss that makes us admire the work of Bale anyway, it’s his tenaciousness.

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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