September 29, 2022 - 7:35 am
“A lot of eggs, a lot of coffee,” Christian Bale says. The English actor isn’t ordering breakfast during this Zoom interview from New York. He’s describing the process of collaborating on “Amsterdam,” hitting theaters Oct. 7, with director-writer David O. Russell.
The two met several times a week over a five-year period at Fromin’s Deli in Santa Monica, California, where they took pages from history and turned them into a movie.
This went on for so long over so many years that shape-shifter Bale had to change his order depending on what he was filming at the moment.
“Christian would go off and shoot films in between, so his breakfasts would change. When he was making ‘Vice,’ he had to eat a ton,” Russell recalls.
“We wrote so much during those sessions that I have cabinets full of 14 different versions of the script,” the 48-year-old Bale says. “The other day, I was in my sock drawer and I found two more scripts.”
Those diner work sessions produced “Amsterdam,” a post-World War I movie about three best friends (portrayed by Bale, Margot Robbie and John David Washington) — fixers who can handle any situation. The three, who meet during the war, find themselves in the middle of a shocking secret plot being hatched in America. Bale plays Dr. Burt Berendsen, who loses an eye, and almost his life, while unraveling a new mystery.
The star-laden cast also includes Robert De Niro, Mike Myers, Michael Shannon, Chris Rock, Taylor Swift and Rami Malek.
Next up for Bale is “The Pale Blue Eye,” about a veteran detective who investigates a murder with a young cadet who will go on to become a world renowned author, Edgar Allan Poe.
Review-Journal: What was the draw to spend so many years working on “Amsterdam?”
Christian Bale: It was wonderful to be involved from the start for five or even six years and watch how the script evolved. You get to the point where it really consumes you. The subject matter was so fascinating. This is a movie about dealing with adversity wrapped up in an epic journey.
Is the message that friendship is the most important thing in life?
It’s about how we as people deal with hope and pain. You can choose to deal with your suffering with optimism and hope. It’s about not becoming broken by life — and friends certainly help along the way, as does family.
Speaking of family, your grandmother lived through the Blitz in England during World War II. What lessons did she teach you about those times?
She told me that it was the best time of her life. Yes, it was dangerous. You didn’t know if you would survive another night. But it was the best time of her life because she truly lived for each day.
You’ve worked with David O. Russell several times, including “The Fighter and “American Hustle.” What brings you back?
Like any great filmmaker, David is very unique. He’s very special and has his own perspective. The perspective is what makes great filmmakers fascinating. I love that he invites me back. … It’s always a journey, but this time I was there for the entire trip including sitting in diners and writing on napkins and being gobsmacked by actual events in history — things I had never heard of — ever.
What kind of prep did you do to get into this historical mood?
I was listening to period music, watching documentaries and reading books. It was a joy from beginning to end.
What was it like to wear a fake eye?
It was up to Chris Galahad, my makeup dude, to create the prosthetic eye. It was Robert De Niro who stopped my fake eye from growing into my real eye. I had it on too long. I joke that egg whites were growing around this thing.
What is key to you choosing a role?
It’s about immersion. What can I immerse myself in next? And it’s about emotion. When I read a script and think about it, it’s about the feeling I have and if I can bring that feeling to the screen. I never say no because I’m afraid to do it. I think you’re fearless when you recognize why you might be scared of this thing, but you do it anyway. You don’t know the edge until you’ve gone over it.
But you find the whole film star thing to be seriously overrated?
I’m not very big on being the center of attention. I don’t really like it, unless I’m acting and then the character can be the center of attention. I’m a very low-key-life kind of guy. It’s odd to hear the word movie star. I’m an actor. I’m not cut from the cloth of the movie star.
The time spent in Amsterdam during the war was the most electric and awakening for these characters. What is your own personal Amsterdam?
I think my Amsterdam is anything that allows me to become so obsessed in a healthy way with something that I can’t think about anything else. I get that from working with great directors and having wonderful filmmaking experiences. I get that from my family. And I get that from motorcycles.
What is your idea of a wonderful Sunday if you’re not working?
Of course, family — and a motorcycle ride. I like to just cruise around and see where the day might take me. It’s the anticipation that makes a great day.