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When it comes to method acting, Christian Bale is your guy. Need him to go from bulked-up Batman to a crackhead boxer and back again? No problem!
It seems like his latest film, "The Flowers of War," has gotten under his skin in a similar manner.
In "The Flowers of War," he plays a priest living in China during the Nanking Massacre, a brutal period in 1937 when Japanese soldiers tortured and killed thousands of Chinese citizens. It's still a very sensitive topic between the two countries, and the film has been criticized for being anti-Japanese, something that Bale refutes.
During a promotional press tour, Bale tried to get in to see the famous Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, who lives under house arrest. When unidentified men, assumed to be government guards known for stopping any visitors to Guangcheng, stopped Bale and the TV crew from CNN, things got a little hairy. You can see an interview with him on CNN, intercut with snippets from the incident, here.
Guangcheng's case has caught the attention of human rights groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, whose recent report on the activist reads, "According to media reports, supporters and local human rights groups, 100 guards are employed to keep watch on the family around the clock, and surveillance cameras have been installed around the village." It's definitely a hot topic, and while government officials like Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton have tried to call attention to the situation, a high-profile actor taking up the cause couldn't hurt.
Although "The Dark Knight Returns" is getting the most ink and pixels these days, "The Flowers of War" is China's official submission to the Oscars. It would be somewhat cynical to suggest that Bale's visit was simply part of a press tour and not something that has become important to the actor, who's known for immersing himself in his roles. On the other hand, it's getting a very limited run so it can be eligible for Oscar consideration that starts in NYC on Dec. 16 and goes to L.A. and San Francisco next week.
Will this be the kind of thing that lures in Oscar voters or calls attention to the film's controversy in a bad way? I guess we'll see come in January.