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I’m with Bale

February 3, 2009

Apparently there was a bit of a row on the set of Terminator 4 last summer. Christian Bale blew his top at the DP, apparently for walking onto the set during a take. And now TMZ, that perfect encapsulation of our celebrity-obsessed culture, has the audio.

First impression: that audio is really clean.

Second impression: I’m siding with Bale.

Now, I wasn’t there. I don’t know what really went on. And I know a lot of people hear that audio and think “Holy shit, what a fucking diva asshole. I would never work with that dick and I’ve lost a ton of respect for him.” But quite honestly, I disagree.

Acting is hard. If you want to do it well, it’s hard. You’ve got to live in the space, you’ve got to really believe everything you’re saying every moment that the camera is on you. Worse yet, in the film world, you have to believe it in five minute chunks, aka takes. You’ve got to know your lines, take direction, make sure you’re made up, make sure you hit your marks, and maneuver around the lumbering apparatus that is a shooting crew — while simultaneously looking like you aren’t doing any of that at all. While looking like the character you’re playing a real person in a real situation.

Gary Oldman has lamented the fact that the crew gets to take hours to do their jobs, and yet he’s expected to show up, say his lines, get it right the first couple times and move on. Everybody always makes a big thing about how an actor in a biopic — whether it be Carrey in Man on the Moon or Langella in Frost/Nixon — never breaks character while on set. The fact is that this is the only way they can be sure they’re doing their job properly. If they don’t focus themselves wholeheartedly to respectful personification, it is far, far too easy in the staccato world of production to just fall into impersonation. The actor’s job is to forget that they are acting, so that you, in turn, can also forget that they are acting. Sometimes, with very complex characters, that means they have to never acknowledge they are acting as long as they are on the set, or else they will not be able to maintain the character’s reality before the cameras.

On a big-budget picture, I imagine the pressure is immense. There’s an awareness that you are burning cash at a terrifying rate just by standing there. You’ve only got the brief period between “action” and “cut” to actually focus in and put yourself in the world. You need to use that time to immerse yourself in the fantasy world of the film. Because you care about doing a good job, doing the best job. The quality of your work matters to you no matter what the project, so within the limitations you are going to cast everything out of your mind, and just be in that other world, with everything you’ve got.

So imagine, that in that brief period between “action” and “cut” that is yours, that moment you need everyone to disappear from your awareness so you can be that character, imagine that the DP goes wandering onto the set, right in your line of sight, right in the middle of the scene. And he thinks it’s okay because the camera can’t see him.

He’s showing total disrespect for your craft, to the extent that he doesn’t even seem to acknowledge that your work is important — doesn’t acknowledge that you’re even working at all. Listen to his excuse — he’s “checking the light.” You can’t wait for “cut,” guy? You can’t just look at the frigging monitor?

If you’re an actor that cares about the quality of your work, how do you NOT go apeshit over something like that?

From → filmmaking

15 Comments
  1. Phillip Gibb permalink

    Oh wow, I can’t say I condone the swearing but good grief who does that? who walks on the set like that? In the middle of a friggin scene!!
    Good that Bale made himself clear in the flaming. Poor DP probably had what he would think of as the most empty headed moment in his life – and probably because he too was just so caught up in the job.

  2. Rachel permalink

    Bale has issues. There is something called professionalism. Granted the DP was in the wrong but their is a chain of ways to communicate to someone. Bale was on last straw mode first.

  3. TheGamut permalink

    People make mistakes. People should still pay for their mistakes.

    When someone does something that is rude to someone else, they’re taking the chance that they’ll receive a load of pent-up frustration. This also applies to mistakes.

    Both guys made mistakes. One will get total absolution while the other will get total condemnation. It’s not fair, but it’ll happen because the people out here will likely not attempt to mentally walk in the shoes of the people involved.

    It’s obvious (to me) that there’s more to this story, but all we were shown was this result. We think, “Nobody should rant like that.” We fail to recognize that it happens to many people all of the time. We might even do it ourselves, and we’ll feel justified doing it, but we separate actors out to live by special conditions because we don’t believe they exist in the same world we do.

    How can we condemn someone for being Human?

  4. TheGamut permalink

    As for the swearing: If I was in a mindset for vulgar language (as in a so-called gritty production), I’d probably use it a lot more than other situations.

    Actors work hard not to lose that zone.

  5. Rin permalink

    Bale did loose his temper, but honestly does the act of loosing your temper make you a bad person? For the reasons Dorkman mentioned I agree the DP was in the wrong. I mean what the hell is going to do if the DP finds the light isn’t doing what its supposed to do, adjust it DURING a take? It seems too easy these days to blame things like this on “another a douche actor being a crybaby.”

    I can understand Bale’s frustration. There are many ways to deal with frustration thou, so I’m not completely giving him a pass. But seriously the DP should have known better. It seems like the DP didn’t care that they were burning up their budget every second they were on set.

  6. TheGamut permalink

    Frustration is trying to convince someone that what they’ve done is far worse than what they think they’ve done. If it were me, there would probably have been physical violence. (That’s one of the reasons why I decided to walk away from the biz.)

    In my brain, I see this scenario, but most of it is just conjecture (but it makes the most sense to me).

    To the DP: I was just checking a light. Sheesh! Give it a rest, already.

    To Mr. Bale: I was this close to making this scene work, and now, I have to start over because some numbnut forgot I was trying to concentrate out here! Great! Now, he doesn’t get what he’s done wrong! Why won’t he understand?! This is important! Gah!

    This is what people won’t see, but as it’s not necessarily true, people won’t have to see it. 😦

  7. *_*Antoine*_* permalink

    And I would say I disagree. Bale should not have gone of like that at all, however angry he was. What he needed to do was to give the DP a little scolding … a little “WTF” and then keep doing his job … he shouldn’t have gone off on him for however long and waste even MORE time.

  8. Phillip Gibb permalink

    yeah, actually that was a long waste of time.
    he must have been at breaking point – he was probably trying to be at breaking point (in character) when it happened

  9. TheGamut permalink

    Case in Point Phillip. We don’t know what was going on. It could have been a lot of things or it could have been nothing. We’re often too quick to assume nothing deserved such a tirade because we can’t imagine what an actor would face on the set to cause something like that.

    We’re also often quick to say “Nothing would ever make me act like that.” 🙂 How can we be so sure when we haven’t encountered everything yet?

  10. Katie permalink

    It seems as though this has happened several times. Bale says a few times that this keeps happening, and if the DP does it one MORE time, he’ll make sure he gets fired. I honestly can’t blame him, but I can imagine that the DP must have felt TERRIBLE.

    Either way, yeah, I’m with Bale.

  11. Armin permalink

    From what I understand about acting is that actors have to feel a lot of what their characters are supposed to feel, so I guess the character “John Connor” just might be an angry and no-shit-kinda character, don’t you think? When Bale is right in the middle of the scene, isn’t it understandable that he lost it MAYBE BECAUSE he’s just an amazingly great actor and he just FELT like that?

    By the way, there’s a section in Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” that deals with how every facial expression is BI-DIRECTIONALLY linked to an emotion (and the evolutionary reason why that is). That’s right, if you’re feeling low and down and you get the right facial muscles to move into the position they’d be in if you were happy you eventually WILL feel happy. Maybe we should take that into account too.

  12. HUKI365 permalink

    I absolutely agree with you. However one must not forget that Bale was accused of verbally assaulting his mother and sister.

    Its obvious that he has a problem. And while he might be in the right, it was not in anyway “professional” to rip him apart.

    Its something that would get him thrown out of almost any other workplace.

  13. Phillip Gibb permalink

    Bale rocks!!! And Bale is human. Just because he is high profile he is under more scrutiny. I have lost by cool before – especially watching sport (punching walls, swearing, …) and I am a Christian.
    If he has issues, it’s certainly not our problem – I hope he sorts them out, but I doubt that he needs to. He is an actor and he puts himself on the emotional edge a lot, to breaking point because it is his job, and sometimes it is carried thru to real life.

  14. Dan permalink

    There is no excuse for anyone going off like that in a professional situation. Absolutely none. Bale’s job is hard? Bullshit, so is the DP’s job. So is the director’s job which now just got a lot harder due to this situation. Bale should be ashamed of himself. Talk about lack of respect for those around you. Everyone within ear shot of this exchange had a bad day at work that day.

  15. Phillip Gibb permalink

    Anybody get to hear his public apology?

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