Interview: Christian Bale on Terminator Salvation, Public Enemies, and Batman

Here's what I can tell you about Christian Bale from my few brief experiences with him: he doesn't smile. Now, this might be because he hates journalists, but the truth of the matter is, how many times have you seen him smile offscreen? If he does, it's kind of creepy. Hell, when he does it on-screen, it's kind of creepy. Think the wide smiles he used in American Psycho, a movie he played a serial killer in -- creepy, right? Anyway, I sat down with The Man Who Doesn't Like to Smile recently to discuss his role as mankind's savior John Connor in Terminator Salvation, the threequel to the revolutionary original that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as a pissed-off cyborg from the future out to prevent Connor's birth. Oh, and we talked about Batman. Of course.

Cole Haddon: Do you remember the first time you saw The Terminator?

Christian Bale: The first time I saw the first movie, which would have been a number of years after it got released, it was fun. Not something that had a strong impact. But when I was 17 and I just came out to the states, I went to see T2, and that was very memorable. It was opening weekend. I couldn't hear a damn thing that was said in the movie because everybody was screaming so much throughout it. So it was an introduction to American audiences, but also to a movie that seemed to just make everybody crazy in that way. I really enjoyed that. The idea of doing another one didn't seem to be smart to me. There are no other similarities between the movies, and I don't mean to compare, I don't like to compare. But it's seen that way with the initial idea of reviving the Batman movies. And even though they're very different sensibilities, I came to believe that there were some potentially good stories here. I enjoyed it enough that I would like to see it revived.

CH: Can you talk about why you wanted to play John Connor rather than Marcus Wright, the first role you were offered when approached about Terminator Salvation and whom Sam Worthington ended up playing opposite you?

CB: I can't really remember why, why the difference between those two characters in that choice. I'd read it in a few places that people said that I was unhappy with the original script. And I wasn't the only one. Everybody was saying that there needed to be changes made to it. Connor was a character who appeared very, very briefly in the original [script]. Which I was happy to do, if the story could become something worthy of reviving this mythology. However, we had a few writers, because of the whole situation with the writer's strike, and coming off of that. But we were very lucky for the short time ... that my friend Jonathan Nolan came in [to work on it]. And Jonah said to me, "Christian, do you want me to write this with the same involvement that Connor has in the original one, or do you want me to increase you?" And I said, "I don't mind what you do. Just whatever the best story is. And I don't want to work for one week" -- which was originally all I was meant to do -- "on a movie that has no chance." So I said, "Just do whatever it is you need to do, whatever makes the best story. Bring it to me after, and we'll work it out." I think it was true. He couldn't find a way that made sense, and that also gave a connection to the previous movies, without having Connor involved more than was in the original [screenplay].

CH: These movies are so much about the dangers of modern technology. What technology that you see now do you find a little bit frightening?

CB: The photo downloads where it will tell you where every single picture [was taken], you know? Down to every damn street, it feels very Big Brother. It's fascinating, but it's very Big Brother as well. The whole security systems [too], where people have all the cameras set up in their homes. I'm convinced that there is somebody watching and listening the entire time. Things like that -- what's it called -- OnStar? You can press a button, and you can speak with somebody, and they can hear you. Oh yeah, like they're not listening in an awful lot.

CH: If you had to be stranded on an island with either John Connor or Batman, who would it be?

CB: I wouldn't want to be stranded with either. They're men.

CH: Fair enough. But if you had to pick one?

CB: Does either of them have a gun? Shoot one of them, and then I'm much happier. I don't think they're good guys for hanging out with on a beach.

CB: Absolutely fantastic. Michael Mann I think to be one of the finest filmmakers around. His ability for all aspects of filming is stunning. His thoroughness ... I just loved the research, the attention to detail, his perception of exactly what each actor is doing at any given moment. It's truly stunning. I liked my experience working with him as much as any that I've ever been through. I would certainly hope to repeat that because you don't get people with his kind of talent very often.

CH: What about working with co-star Johnny Depp?

CB: I think Johnny is a superb actor, and what I like so much about him is that there's nobody else like him. We don't know each other in the slightest. I met him at the script read-through. We chatted for five or ten minutes. Other than that, I had two scenes with him, one in which he's in a jail cell. I have a tendency -- and it seemed like he was happy to do the same -- I have a tendency to not really wish to talk unless we're doing the scene. I enjoy it that way. And then it just happened that the other scene we were doing, we were about 200 feet away from each other. He was a silhouette in a window, and I was shooting at him. I was behind a tree and he was shooting at me, and that was the closest we got that evening, you know? So I'll get to know Johnny somewhere down the track because it certainly didn't happen on the movie.

CH: Finally, the question you get all the time, I'm sure. Do you think Christopher Nolan might come around to doing another Batman after his next project?

CB: I've learned my lesson there. I don't mention anything until Chris has mentioned it first.

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