Bale is on the war path

Dark Knight ac­tor plays a reporter ex­pos­ing Ar­me­nian geno­cide in The Prom­ise

The Observer (Sarnia) - - LIFE - BOB THOMP­SON

LOS AN­GE­LES — Chris­tian Bale tends to be as se­ri­ous-minded as the Dark Knight char­ac­ter he de­fined in three Bat­man films. But, he does have a light side.

When asked why he de­cided to play former Amer­i­can vice-pres­i­dent Dick Cheney in an up­com­ing un­ti­tled biopic, Bale smirks a lit­tle be­fore an­swer­ing.

“I made a mis­take — I thought they wanted me to be Lon Chaney,” says the 43-year-old, re­fer­ring to the hor­ror ac­tor known as the man of a thou­sand faces.

Hu­mour aside, Bale has made him­self avail­able to dis­cuss his role in the earnest his­tor­i­cal epic The Prom­ise. In the Terry Ge­orge film, the ac­tor por­trays a war cor­re­spon­dent based in 1914 Turkey dur­ing the last days of the Ot­toman Em­pire.

While ex­pos­ing the hor­ror of Ar­me­nian geno­cide hap­pen­ing around him at the on­set of the First World War, the jour­nal­ist finds him­self caught up in a love tri­an­gle be­tween his girl­friend (played by Char­lotte Le Bon) and an Ar­me­nian med­i­cal stu­dent (played by Oscar Isaac.)

The movie com­bines ac­tion, sus­pense and ro­mance along with a re­solve to ex­pose events that saw the sys­tem­atic elim­i­na­tion of 1.5 mil­lion Ar­me­ni­ans by the Ot­toman gov­ern­ment.

The mix is a daunt­ing one, but Bale says he had con­fi­dence in Ge­orge — the di­rec­tor’s film­mak­ing past in­cludes Ho­tel Rwanda, which fea­tures the same sort of so­cio-po­lit­i­cal dra­matic blend as The Prom­ise.

“You have no chance, once you start some­thing, to say, ‘I have no con­fi­dence in you pulling this off, I’m leav­ing,’ ” says Bale. “So, be­fore we got into film­ing, I talked to Terry and knew that he was well in­formed about this sub­ject, and I knew my place in it.”

And Ge­orge un­der­stood that Bale would be the ap­pro­pri­ate au­di­ence guide through the com­plex­i­ties of the Robin Swicord screen­play.

“I al­ways try to find the Every­man char­ac­ter in a film, and Bale’s char­ac­ter was it,” says Ge­orge.

In­deed, the reporter was based on as­sorted As­so­ci­ated Press staffers cov­er­ing the col­lapse of the Ot­toman Em­pire and the sub­se­quent Ar­me­nian Holo­caust dur­ing the war to end all wars.

For more spe­cific ref­er­ences, Bale re­searched writ­ers past and present — from the de­ter­mined Amer­i­can muck­rak­ing jour­nal­ist Lin­coln St­ef­fens in the early 1900s to the opin­ion­ated mod­ern-day English colum­nist Christo­pher Hitchens, who died in 2011.

“My char­ac­ter’s obli­ga­tion to in­voke a change is from St­ef­fens,” Bale says. “And Terry en­cour­aged me to look at Christo­pher Hitchens in terms of his fierce in­tel­li­gence and his ar­ro­gance.”

Con­nect­ing with his co-stars Le Bon and Isaac was a work in progress dur­ing the four-month shoot in mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions around Spain. In typ­i­cal Bale style, he was aloof off cam­era with the cast and crew and tended to save his en­ergy for per­form­ing on cam­era.

“I find if I start laugh­ing a lot and get to know the peo­ple around me too much, I can’t act,” he says. “So I al­ways try to keep a lit­tle bit of dis­tance.”

Isaac, Le Bon and Bale did have time for a brief re­hearsal pe­riod be­fore prin­ci­ple pho­tog­ra­phy be­gan.

“We did as much re­hearsal as ever helps,” he says. “And we were on set work­ing as things were be­ing re-writ­ten, and we did get things down, but we were also al­lowed to ex­per­i­ment with things on the day.”

Bale’s en­thu­si­as­tic about the fact that The Prom­ise’s box of­fice earn­ings will be fun­nelled to­ward hu­man­i­tar­ian and hu­man rights groups. And a pub­lic­ity cam­paign will ed­u­cate the public on mass atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted in 20th and 21st cen­turies.

“I am em­bar­rassed to say I knew noth­ing of the (Ar­me­nian) geno­cide be­fore the film,” Bale says. “I do know now and I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the great al­tru­ism be­hind Terry’s in­tent.”

SUPPLIED PHOTO

Chris­tian Bale stars in The Prom­ise.

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