Christian Bale is an A-list asshole. And he's awesome. A-W-E-S-O-M-E!
Outburst? Actually, it was more of an expletive-laden ass-reaming as he carpet-bombed the poor shmuck of a cinematographer with F-bombs.
Bale was shooting a difficult scene with Bryce Dallas Howard, the moment between the two reportedly very emotional and soul-bearing. (Uh, emotional and soul-bearing? This is a killer robot movie being directed by the guy with a name like a Happy Meal who made the Charlie's Angels movies, but o-kay.)
At some point, cinematographer Shane Hurlbut (Semi-Pro, Drumline) started tweaking some of the lights and getting in Bale's line of sight and being a general distraction. Bale, channelling a bit of Patrick Bateman, went batshit insane on Hurlbut and then threatened to walk off the set if Hurlbut wasn't fired. The tirade lasted three minutes and 45 seconds!
Now, I've heard two different versions of this story.
- That Hurlbut had a habit of screwing with the lights during filming and that Bale had warned him about it several times before finally snapping like a dry twig.
- That Bale and Howard were merely rehearsing the scene, as no cinematographer would futz with lighting during an actual shot, but Bale, high-strung fellow that he is, lost it.
Either way, who cares?
Yes, it was unprofessional of Bale to chew the guy out no matter the circumstances. Besides, isn't that McG's job? He's the director fer chrissake. Sam Peckinpah or Stanley Kubrick certainly wouldn't have stood for any of this shit, from either Hurlbut or Bale.
(According to the audio recording, when Bale asked McG if he had "fuckin' something to say to this prick?" McG replied, "I didn't see it happen." Makes me wonder who's actually watching what's going on in front of the cameras and, you know, directing the movie.)
If anything, it just demonstrates how childish actors can be - which is no surprise considering they get paid (and paid well) to play make believe for a living.
At the same time, Bale's little David O. Russell moment [video] made me like him even more.
Call it the Oprah's Couch Effect.
When Tom Cruise started bouncing up and down on Oprah's cushions, I liked him a whole lot more. Suddenly, the perfectly prefabricated Hollywood image slipped away to reveal the absolute nutbar underneath. Cruise is crazy, but at least he's human. Sorta. And that makes him far more entertaining to watch, both in films and interviews. Especially interviews. What do I care what Cruise believes about psychiatry or space aliens? He says some funny shit.
Similarly, Bale has always seemed like the perfect, polite gentleman in interviews, a bit serious, perhaps, and a little intense, but approachable and professional. And before you start screaming about how he assaulted his mother last year, know this: verbal abuse is a crime in England, he didn't strike or shove her, and the charges were dismissed for lack of evidence. So he yelled at his mom. Who hasn't had a shouting match with a family member? She just decided to call the cops. Again, not excusing his behaviour, but since we don't really know what happened, let's not blow it out of proportion here.
And while making Terminator: Salvation he shouted at a fellow employee. Not exactly an uncommon workplace phenomenon.
It just makes him more interesting, a bit more human. And way more entertaining.
Don't know about you, but I'm certainly looking forward to the press interviews he does to promote Terminator 4. "So, Christian, that whole ‘I'm going to fucking kick your fucking ass" rant - what was that about? Forget your meds? Lose sight of your happy place?"
Let's be clear, as well - Bale's blowup is not the same thing as other superstar implosions. He didn't clock a hotel concierge with a phone (Russell Crowe), didn't call his 11-year-old daughter a "thoughtless little pig" for missing his court-approved phone time with her (Alec Baldwin), didn't spew racial or gay epithets (Michael Richards and Isaiah Washington respectively), didn't spank it to porno in public (Peewee Herman), didn't pick up a hooker (Hugh Grant), didn't pick up a transvestite hooker (Eddie Murphy). He just lost his cool. Not cool, but it happens. To all of us.
All this attention - including an awesome techno remix of the Bale rant - will have one effect on Bale's career.
Until now, he's been a good actor with a few decent film roles. He also happened to star in the second-biggest movie of all time, but Bale didn't make Batman a hit. There are a dozen other actors out there who could've done what Bale did in Dark Knight (hell, Rich Little and Jim Carrey both do pretty mean Clint Eastwood impressions too). And I can't think of a single film in which its success or failure rests solely on Bale. American Psycho comes closest, I suppose.
Billion-dollar hit like Dark Knight or not, Bale is not a star. People don't go to movies because he's in them. He's not Will Smith or George Clooney, who can "open" movies with boffo box office opening weekend. He doesn't feed the publicity machine either, doesn't get photographed at parties with this starlet or that pop diva. He's not tabloid material. Until now.
Now, he has a chance to make himself into a star, which is really about whoring your personal life for the likes of TMZ and Access Hollywood, maybe a People magazine cover story decaring "I'm not a bad guy. Really."
And then he should choose his next role carefully. Forget about the serious, angry stuff for a while and lighten the fuck up. Hook up with Seth Rogen or Paul Rudd or one of the Wilson brothers for a bromantic comedy. Take another page from Tom Cruise, who rebounded from bad press with a movie-stealing turn in Tropic Thunder as a fat, bald, obnoxious hip-hop-loving studio executive. Or maybe make a romance, something with Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie, show a softer side. Embrace stardom. Hollywood loves a bad boy, after all.
In the end, the most disturbing part of this whole thing is discovering that the director of photography on T4, a mega-budget post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, action, epic, franchise reboot with plenty of doom and gloom and explosions and computer-generated effects is the same guy who shot Drumline.