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Save the Future with Christian Bale
The star of Terminator: Salvation speaks up
By Rob Vaux
May 21, 2009
John Connor (Christian Bale) must save mankind against the machines in TERMINATOR SALVATION(2009).
© Mania.com/Robert Trate
Christian Bale's reputation for intensity certainly shows through when speaking to the press. But so too does his thoughtfulness, his thoroughness and his passion for acting as a craft. His full schedule speaks to that dedication: following his second appearance as Batman in The Dark Knight, he's starring as John Connor in this week's Terminator Salvation and real-life FBI Agent Melvin Purvis in Public Enemies later this summer. He spoke about all three projects--as well as a few of the less asinine controversies surrounding them--at the Terminator press junket.
Question: There were reports that you were originally unhappy with the Terminator script. At what point did it become good enough for you to change your mind?
Christian Bale: I've read in a few places that I was unhappy with the original script. I wasn't the only one. Everyone was saying that there needed to be changes made to it. I was happy to do it if the story could become something worthy of reviving this mythology. We had a few writers because of the whole situation with the writer's strike, but we were very lucky that my friend Jonah Nolan came in for the short time he was able to work on it. John Connor wasn't involved much in the original script. So Jonah asked me, "do you want me to write this with the same involvement that Connor has in the first films, or do you want me to increase his involvement?" I said, "I don't mind what you do. Just write the best story." I don't want to work for one week--which all that I was originally meant to do--on a movie that has no chance. He couldn't find a way to do it that made sense and that formed a connection to the previous movies without having Connor more involved. So Connor's role became bigger.
Q: When was the first time you saw The Terminator?
CB: The first time I saw the first movie, it was a number of years after its original release. It had a strong impact. But when I first saw T2, I was seventeen and had just come out to the States. And that was very memorable. It was opening weekend, and I couldn't hear a damn thing onscreen because everyone was screaming so much. So it was an introduction to American audiences, but also to a movie that made everyone crazy in that way, and I really enjoyed that. The idea of doing another one didn't seem too smart to me, but it also seemed that way with the initial idea of reviving the Batman movies. And even though the two franchises come from very different sensibilities, I came to believe that there were some more potentially good stories in The Terminator, and I enjoyed it enough to want to see it revived.
Q: Are you an Arnold Schwarzenegger fan? Did you like his films growing up?
CB: I think it's always admirable when you're the originator. We've sort of moved on from the 1980s and movies with big beefy guys, but he was pretty much the first. So hats off to him. And if you look at what that guy's achieved, it's phenomenal. There's a thrill at being a part of his legacy.
Q: These films are very technophobic. There's a fear of technology run amok. Are there technological devices in our society now that make you uneasy?
CB: Home security systems where people have cameras set up all over their homes. I'm convinced that there's somebody watching and listening. Things like that. What's it called, GM's online car monitor? Onstar? You can press a button and speak to someone and they can hear you? Yeah, like they're not listening in an awful lot. It's very Big Brother. Fascinating but very Big Brother.
Q: The irony of that is that Onstar commercials used to feature Batman.
Q: Author J.G. Ballard, who you played in Empire of the Sun, recently passed away. Could you share some of your thoughts on him?
CB: It was such a surprise, his death. I had had indirect contact with him recently because a director friend of mine and myself were looking into optioning one of his books. He's such a great mind, such a great writer. So unique. It was surprisingly emotional for me when I read that. I consider him to have been at the beginning of my decision to become an actor. It's a great shame. If we get to adapt this novel of his, I'll miss being able to catch up with him as a man rather than a thirteen-year-old boy.
Q: Can you say which novel it is?
CB: We've not secured rights yet, so I shouldn't say.
Q: Any thoughts on another Batman film? Will Christopher Nolan be doing a third entry after he makes this next film?
CB: I've learned my lesson there. I don't mention anything until Chris has mentioned it first.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the experience of making Public Enemies?
CB: Absolutely fantastic. Michael Mann is one of the finest filmmakers around. His ability with all aspects of filmmaking is stunning. His thoroughness. I loved the research, the attention to detail, and his perception of exactly what each actor is doing at any given moment.
Q: And your costar [Johnny Depp]?
CB: Johnny? He's a superb actor. There's nobody else like him, but we don't know each other in the slightest. I met him at the script read-through and we chatted for five or ten minutes. Other than that, I just had two scenes with him. I have a tendency--and he's the same way--to not talk unless we're doing a scene. I enjoy it that way.
Q: Most of your films have a very dark tone. Have you ever considered working on lighter films? A comedy or the like?
CB: Hey, Terminator's a lighter movie, don't you think? We intend people to have a good time with this. It's a summer movie. It should be watched with a crowd. I'd call that light. No matter how gritty and dark you might want to make it, it's essentially a movie to have fun with.
Q: Would you say that about The Dark Knight?
CB: [Pauses and thinks.] With The Dark Knight, Chris managed to delve into uncomfortable ethical questions. But his talent with that is that he delivered it with a duality to it. You could engage it on that level and come away with some really substantial questions. But you can also just watch it for pure entertainment and spectacle. That's Chris's talent, being able to balance those two.
For our interviews with the Terminator Salvation supporting cast ,co-star Sam Worthington and director McG, click here, here and here.