A Biblical effort
Actor Christian Bale speaks to Insights about his role as Moses in the upcoming Biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings
Taking on the role of the prophet Moses in a Biblical epic is no mean feat, but actor Christian Bale (The Dark Knight, American Psycho) stepped up to the role with gusto. The 40-year-old stars in Ridley Scott’s hotly anticipated new movie Exodus: Gods and Kings, which is released in Australia on 4 December.
“It’s a big task. He’s an incredibly important prophet,” admits Bale, who stars alongside Ben Kingsley, Sigourney Weaver and Aaron Paul in the blockbuster. “And of course we are taking our license with it, because every Bible movie takes their license.”
The married father-of-two put a lot of effort into preparing for the role by reading The Bible, The Torah, Legends of the Jews and parts of The Koran that were pertinent to Moses. “They are essentially interpretations, because everything is an interpretation if you are not reading it in the original language,” he says. His preparation also included watching the Monty Python religious satire Life of Brian and the Mel Brooks comedy History of the World, in which the comedian plays Moses.
Director Ridley Scott has said that, for him, Bale was the definition of Moses, but Bale is unsure of whether to take that as a compliment.
“I respect completely that he is the major prophet in Judaism, and a major prophet in Islam and Christianity, and the story is one which is just beyond resonant in human history,” says Bale.
“I mean, he did phenomenal things and it’s a story of revolution,” he says, “and he did free these slaves who were being kept in a fascist state as slave labourers – it was sort of genocide by slave labour. They’d just throw them at these monuments and if they died, who cares, much like American labour with Chinese on the railroads, and German Nazis with Jews in World War Two.”
The Welsh-born actor admits that audiences will have a lot of expectations when it comes to the story of The Bible and that this movie may divide opinion.
“It’s in the same thing that you get when doing a Shakespearian play,” he says. “You get the first two rows of the audience sitting there saying the lines, so they know any time anybody messes up. And it’s the same thing but more so from The Bible. It requires a belief and a code of ethics on how to live your life, and so they are looking for what have you included and what have you not included. Inevitably, there will be very important parts of The Bible that Ridley has chosen not to include which would be important to some audience members. But Ridley always said to me from the get go: ‘I don’t want to make this an overtly biblical story, I want to look at that story and then translate it into a film about this rivalry between the two brothers, that’s what I am interested in making.’”
As an actor who has gone to extremes of losing and gaining weight for roles, it seems that Bale tries to give everything for his art. He famously lost 60lbs for his role as insomniac Trevor Reznik in The Machinist, then gained 40lbs of flab to play the sleazy con artist Irving Rosenfeld in American Hustle.
“I do believe in the idea of you can push it as far as you can go. I mean, why not?” he says. “The only thing that I’m in control of is that, because I can’t control the movie as far as if it’s going to be any good or not. I can’t control which takes the editor and director pick. I’ve got no say so over anything in terms of that stuff. All I can do is go, ‘Hey, here I am,’ and the small amount of control I have is over the character I’m playing. I just like really pushing it. To me that’s worthwhile and fun.”
Exodus: Gods and Kings is released on 4 December 2014
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