Summer Film Season Heats Up With Studs, Fire-Breathing Dragons

Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale fight centuries-old beasts in the future

Summer is in full swing, which means an all-out onslaught of high-energy

fantasy films.

Perhaps no film embodies summer escapism more than "Reign of Fire," a

post-apocalyptic dragon-slaying tale full of explosions, muscles and

courageous bravado courtesy of Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale. Set

roughly 20 years from now, "Reign of Fire" depicts a world ravaged by a

centuries-old dragon and her offspring, accidentally awakened by

construction in London.

For McConaughey, who earned his reputation taking on heavy-duty subject

matter in 1996's "A Time to Kill" and 1997's "Amistad," making "Reign of

Fire" was a chance to blow off some steam.

"It was a lot of fun," Matthew said of playing dragon-slayer Denton Van Zan.

"I mean, there was no rules to it, slaying dragons in the future — go

be the man of action, the badass, the get physical, run through something

instead of around it, eat it instead of smell it [type of character]."

On the other hand, getting in shape to meet the physical demands of playing

Van Zan wasn't all fun and games.

"I worked out on the ranch a couple of months," he said, referring to the

property he owns in Texas. "[I] did a lot of running, did a lot of building,

wrestled with the cows a little bit. Anything I could pick up or carry

somewhere, I would do that instead of put in the back of a truck. ...

Boxing, running around barefoot. And when it was 110 degrees in the sun, I

started running miles and miles barefoot to get the soles of my feet

toughened up."

McConaughey's co-star, who portrayed a deranged yuppie obsessed with his

physique in the Bret Easton Ellis novel-turned-movie "American Psycho," had

other ideas about what the role would require.

"I actually dieted," Bale said. "Because I can't imagine [my character] as

being pretty [big], because I thought they are going through a food

shortage, these people are probably going to be scrawny. I arrived in

Ireland, though, and I saw Matthew [as] Van Zan. And I just looked at him

and just went, 'Holy sh--!'

"You know a whole dynamic of this movie is the two of us clashing and us

both being leaders and sort of control freaks. And I have to really look

like I can be psychologically and physically a challenge to his character.

And he was in such incredible shape. I kind of desperately worked out for a

couple of weeks, to try and look like I could, you know, face off against

him."

Audiences will be able to see Bale face off against McConaughey and a whole

mess of fire-breathing dragons when "Reign of Fire" hits theaters July 12.