Welsh-born actor Christian Bale quite literally lights up the screen in the post-apocalyptic-world-infested-with-dragons-who-like-to-consume-humans feature REIGN OF FIRE. Today, Bale continues his discussion of the film, focusing on how he managed to go toe-to-toe with Matthew McConaughey, who took his role as the dragon slayer Van Zan very seriously.
"Matthew was punching people non-stop in Dublin at the boxing gym," explains Bale. "He was sparring constantly. I actually arrived in Ireland having dieted quite considerably because I thought Quinn should probably be pretty gaunt and skinny. Then I saw Matthew and I realized that I actually had to be competition for him. I had to be somebody that people had to believe could go toe-to-toe with him and not just psychologically, so I kind of did a crazy couple of weeks of desperate working out to try and at least look like I could stand a few minutes in the ring with Matthew."
Bale enjoyed the fact that McConaughey was able to stay in character for the duration of the shoot and has a great deal of respect for actors who have the ability to fully immerse themselves in the psychological realms of their characters.
"I really enjoy when people do that," says Bale. "I like seeing that amount of immersion. Matthew is a real character. I really liked working with him. I like him a great deal. Obviously, Van Zan is an insane character and a warrior and Matthew really kind of took that on throughout. In my mind, I think that being an actor gives you an opportunity to behave like that with the excuse that it's your job. So I take advantage of that fully and I like it when other people do as well."
Bale, however, only opts to immerse himself in a character when he feels it is necessary or beneficial for the performance. And when he does take this approach, he has no strict method of helping him achieve this.
"I tend to find that I do whatever I feel is necessary," says Bale. "There will be some parts where, I don't have any sort of technique or style that I always adhere to, but there are some times when I feel that it is necessary to stay in character a bit and there are other times when I feel that it is the last thing on Earth that is necessary. I try to do it day-to-day."
While Bale's character, Quinn, by no means has the same tough guy demeanor as McConaughey's Van Zan, Bale did feel he was on the same physical level with his adversary-turned-ally. That is, until he saw himself on-screen.
"Well, I kind of thought I was [competitive with Matthew]," says Bale. "When we were doing the fight sequence, I was like, 'Yeah that was a good fight between the two of us.' Then I would watch it and be like, 'What was I thinking? I just get creamed!' I thought that I was being competitive, but I am just not, he walks all over me."
And one instance of Matthew's "walking all over" Christian actually happened in real life and managed to make its way into the film.
"He head-butted me and that's what you see in the movie," says Bale. "It's a genuine head-butt, and then I stood up and genuinely punched him because he had just genuinely head-butted me. But I think that he got the better shot in."
Aside from the nasty head-butt, there were other day-to-day hazards that Bale was forced to contend with, like trying to avoid the massive amounts of fire used onset.
"There were a couple of times when we got pretty close to it," says Bale. "Obviously though, they had all kinds of fire retardants that they would douse us with. But then, you know, its fire and they can control it to a point. At the end of the day, its still fire and there's one scene that I think is in the movie when I kind of went running up and there was a ball of flame that went rebounding off a wall and came right back over me again. You know, you feel heat for an instant, but there's flame retardant stuff that stops you from being scorched."
Overall, Bale is happy with his work in the film, as well as the picture's overall look.
"There were a number of scenes that did end up on the cutting room floor, which always happens," says Bale. "But there's nothing that I watched and thought, 'That's a loss that that one was gone.'"
Since his acting debut as Jim in Steven Spielberg's EMPIRE OF THE SUN, Bale has certainly had his shares of ups and downs, but he continues to push himself as an actor in a very competitive profession one that he has both loved and hated.
"I have hated it and liked it, and wanted to quit and wanted nothing to do with it and everything in-between in those times," says Bale. "I haven't ever sought out anything controversial. I've never liked that it seems to be a pattern that many people will take some risks at the beginning of their career and then later on, everything is played very safe. Everything becomes very predictable, but I don't ever want to be turning something down because I am afraid to do it because of some idea of image or whatever. That was never what I set out to do. In fact, [I want to do] the opposite. I always want to confuse people in terms of any kind of image. I want to be unpredictable in what kind of movie I want to make."