Christian Bale, one of Hollywood's hottest young actors faces ferocious fire breathing dragons in the spectacular, visually stunning and action packed summer blockbuster, Reign Of Fire. He stars as the tough but compassionate Fire Chief Quinn Abercrombie responsible for protecting a small community from the terrifying dragons who have devastated much of the modern world. Set in post-apocalyptic Britain, Bale along with Matthew McConnaughey are the heroes with the daunting task of saving humanity.
The formidably talented star was born in Wales and has been acting since he was 9. His film debut at age 13 was as big as they get: he won rave reviews for a brilliant performance in Steven Spielberg's World War II epic, Empire Of The Sun. Recognized for his chameleon-like versatility he has appeared in a wide range of movies from Little Women opposite Winona Ryder who hand picked him for the role, to A Midsummer Night's Dream with Calista Flockhart, and recently the controversial and highly acclaimed American Psycho.
Tall and good looking, with light brown hair and green eyes, it's easy to see why Bale, 28, has a reputation as a serious heartthrob. He's soft spoken and unassuming with a great sense of humour. An animal lover and environmental campaigner he lives in LA with his wife, film producer. Sibi Blazic.
You're known for small independent films and artistic dramas, what made you go for the big budget special effects laden action movie?
“It was a different kind of challenge to anything I'd ever done. I was actually surprised initially that they were interested in me for the part because I hadn't been approached for anything like this before. It was the risk of a dragon movie that was exciting. I recall enjoying Pete's Dragon as a kid but that's not quite the same. I don't recall seeing a decent dragon movie that genuinely plays on the fears of the dragon as a superior predator rather than as slightly silly. I always like to do different kinds of movies and never be thought of as predictable. To me I'll do it if it's a good story that I'd be interested in going to see myself and I love a huge roller coaster of a movie like this where I can be purely entertained."
Were there any concerns about making a dragon movie?
“I met with Rob (Bowman) the director and we both had a lot of concerns about what could go wrong. With any movie it's a leap of faith and a gamble, especially with this kind of budget and with dragons as the stars. So I had trust he was a director who was not going to be pressured into creating silly dragons with smiley faces flying across the sky that would mean I'd end up mortified. He made a promise that he wouldn't do that. And he kept it.”
Was it exciting to be in a blockbuster like this? You've done so many smaller independent films?
“Yes very, it's quite amusing to me. Seeing the billboards around town and hearing everyone talking about the opening. It's unlike anything I've ever worked on before and I'm enjoying it. It was different from my usual movies because Reign Of Fire took twenty weeks to make which is by far the longest shoot I've worked on. I'm used to movies that take 30 days. And there's a difference in that the location sets are vast, huge with a crew of hundreds instead of a handful. But just like my other films, it seems that regardless of how many weeks are scheduled you always feel you're rushing, that there's not enough time. As far as character dialogue is concerned I expected it to be very rigid, but just like independent films, you're changing things all the time and rewriting things and trying things out and that surprised me. I enjoyed it.”
How did you see Quinn, who's the hero of the story?
“This is meant to be a thrill ride exciting adventure action movie and we've also got dragons which everyone knows don't really exist So I thought my job was to make Quinn really believable, interesting and gritty then it would help the audience believe in the dragons. If you don't know who's the one who's going to get toasted and who'll survive it's more interesting. It's not intended to be a character movie but you have to be able to tell who this person is."
You and Matthew who plays the tough American dragon slayer, Van Zan seem two very different kind of characters and leaders, would you agree?
“The basic differences between Quinn and Van Zan aren't that great actually. They become adversaries in the movie but it's less that disagree about what they want survival and defeat of the dragons and more that they can't agree on the means to achieve that goal. Some people see Van Zan as a mercenary but the difference is that Van Zan believes absolutely in what he's doing. He doesn't see himself as a gun-for-hire, he sees himself on a mission from God.”
Did you get hurt in any of the fighting with Matthew; he looked pretty beefy and pumped up in the film. It all seemed realistic and looked painful?
“There were a number of real punches landed yes. There was certainly one from me to Matthew right after he head-butted me full on which is actually in the movie. Everybody said it echoed on the castle walls and sounded like a watermelon being smashed. I was dazed for a few seconds. I didn't mind and I don't think Matthew did either. Matthew was living down at the boxing gym where we were on location in Dublin. He was in formidable shape.”
There is one scene without your shirt on and you look in pretty good shape too?
“I kind of had to scramble to try and become somebody who could compete with Matthew. (laughs). I'd actually arrived on location with the intention of being gaunt. I thought these people would be really skinny because there isn't a whole lot of food going round in the world. And I see Matthew and go Oh sh.. I better look like somebody who can at least challenge him so that it doesn't turn into a ridiculous comedy.' So I suddenly said to Matthew 'what's that boxing gym you go to? I'm going to see you down there.'"
Are you normally pretty fit?
“No not really I can do that if I have to for work. If I don't have a deadline or role I just sit there going 'you know I could be doing other things right now that I might be enjoy with my wife rather than being at the gym working out.' If I do work out I tend to be obsessive and do it to the extreme or not at all.”
A lot of women will be disappointed that you don't take your shirt off more? You're becoming quite a sex symbol, how do you deal with that?
“I find it funny and I think to me if people can perceive an actor as all sorts of characters including a hunk or whatever, that's great. Of course I don't see myself as a heartthrob but I've given up trying to work out why people see me in that way. Variety is interesting to me so I have no problems with that whatsoever; I find it quite exciting really. But it makes you feel kinda strange, it's part of the whole thing of being an actor. But if I can confuse people as much as possible that really is my goal because I've got no interest in becoming a stereotypical actor.”
Will it go to your head - the sexiest star in Hollywood kind of labels? You have an immense world wide following particularly on the Internet?
“It very well may do. No seriously it absolutely won't .I realized very young that I really enjoyed making the movies and what happened after that, the fame and publicity and media was something that I had to deal with but didn't enjoy very much, so I always try to keep it at a distance from my life. I've spoken to actors in their 50s who said when they were in their twenties they used to make movies and afterwards they'd be asked 'Would you like to do an interview?' And they'd say 'No'. And that would be it. But you know I want people to see the movie, so I don't mind at all really. And I appreciate it; I just try to keep a distance. I've always felt if you know too much about an artist it somehow lessens their ability to do their work well.”
Can you talk a little about your next film with Kate Beckinsale, Laurel Canyon?
“Laurel Canyon is certainly very different with no special effects whatsoever. It's a character movie, an independent; it was just the opposite of Reign Of Fire really. No action whatsoever, relationships, people sitting in rooms talking and fighting which was exactly why I wanted to do it.”
You've worked with some great directors like Steven Spielberg you were just a little boy was that memorable.
“In terms of the scale of the project Reign Of Fire is the most similar one I've made to Empire Of The Sun in terms of budget, locations size of the sets etc. But obviously a very different kind of movie. The similarities being that you have to have a strong character in any movie particularly when you have such a large budget with so many people biting their nails as to how it turns out. “
You and your wife are based in LA now?
“We are, we were travelling for the first couple of years of our marriage we didn't have a house at all. I was just working non-stop so we'd stay wherever we were and we had great times. . We would just rent a car and drive until I knew what the next job was. “
Do you prefer LA to Britain?
“It's not so much what I prefer. I've grown to really enjoy myself here in LA, but growing up I was accustomed to moving an awful lot with my family so I'm pretty nomadic and with the nature of my job I settle very easily wherever I am. But LA is certainly where there is more work and this is where my wife grew up so it's become much more of a home to me since meeting her.”
What do you miss about your home, Britain?
“I miss the excitement over The World Cup. That's what I really miss being in America. I never knew when the games were on because nobody was talking about it over here whatsoever.”
You're an animal rights activist, how ironic was it to be slaying dragons?
“Well I'm starting a campaign for Save The Dragon! (laughs). The ultimate irony was that I have found myself to be on the board of an organization called the Ark Trust which is all to do with animal rights and they asked me to present an award and I couldn't do it at the time because I was busy stabbing a homeless man and stomping on a stray dog that very evening. But seriously, basically I find it very dull when people try to moralize about the character they're playing in a film. I might have my own beliefs but it doesn't mean everybody shares that. I would find my career really dull if I only played people I had respect for or who I agreed with. I want to play interesting characters.”
Reign of Fire is due for Region 2 DVD release on 9th June 2003. More information on the DVD release can be found in our news article