Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Give Batman a break

By now much ado has been made about Christian Bale's explosion/meltdown on the set of the new Terminator movie. A lot of people are talking about it as though it's evidence that the guy is actually a bit of a jerk. After all, he's yelling at a guy and tossing out a lot of F-bombs. He even goes so far as to say that he's going to kick the guy's ass.

Personally, I don't care if Christian Bale is a jerk or not. I'm a fan, but I'm a fan of his movies and the roles that he chooses to take. Pretty much everything he does is at least interesting, and of course, he gets a lot of respect from me for revitalizing Batman (setting aside how he kinda oversells the voice a little in parts). I saw him once in person at WonderCon when he talked about the then-upcoming Batman Begins. He was gracious enough to answer questions from fans, and he showed genuine respect for them and the original source material. Even with all that though, I couldn't care less if he's a jerk on a personal level.

However, if he is a jerk, then this audio of him having a meltdown is not sufficient evidence that he is one. Apparently, he's flying off the handle because some guy is walking on to the set in order to tinker with the lights while Bale was doing a scene. Also, from what I gather from the audio, the guy had been asked repeatedly not to do that already.

Now, I'm not an actor, and I don't have any kind of inside knowledge on how movies are filmed. However, I do have some sense and some empathy. Actors try to create a convincing world - at least, any actor who cares about what he's doing does that. In order to do that, they need to be in the moment and get into the heads of their characters. If some guy is tinkering with the lights, that will pull them right out of the role. And from what I understand, this particular scene was one that was heavy on emotion, so we can surmise that Bale was already pretty charged up for the role, and then it basically all got redirected at the guy to whom he was yelling.

I can't imagine that it's easy to just be "on" like that - to quickly make yourself go through various emotions. I can relate on a very distant level, as I do indeed have to be "on" while dealing with students. Also, there's a bit of acting/performance art in teaching - especially if I'm reading out loud from a play or a novel. And I can tell you, it's annoying when you're reading an emotional scene and some kid gets up to sharpen his pencil. I can't say that I want to blow up at them like Bale did, but that's because I'm pretty much prepared for students to do thoughtless things like this. Bale, however, was trying to work in a professional environment where he expected everybody else to behave similarly. If anything, this outburst from him shows that he cares about what he's doing, and he cares about giving the audience the best performance that he can give. At least, that's what I get out of it anyway.

In all honesty, while I don't think that yelling and cursing is the best way to handle such problems, I can honestly say that I could see myself doing the same thing in his shoes. Of course, I don't really know the whole story. Maybe he yells like this all the time and he really is a jerk. However, it doesn't seem to be the same kind of hissy fit that Bill O'Reilly had years ago. With that, O'Reilly's anger seemed to come more from confusion and stupidity on his part. Bale seems to be frustrated at a guy who's interfering with his job.

So, is Christian Bale a jerk? I don't know. Maybe he is. I just don't think that this is a damning piece of evidence for that conclusion is all.


Anonymous said...

Alright, since no one else called you out on this, I guess it must be my turn.

First off, I call shenanigans on your “I couldn’t care less” statement. The fact that you wrote a blog about this indicates that there are more careless states for you to be in (like the one where you write about rainbows instead).

I don’t know anything about the incident outside of what I heard on the audio tape, so if your research offers more clues, I defer to your authority. But I believe his response is indicative of someone who believes himself above his coworkers. Clearly his behavior, while ranting about the professionalism of others, is not professional. What office permits such behavior? Would your school permit it? You say that you have inclinations towards such outbursts at your students, but avoid it by being prepared for the situation. Is that not what a professional would do? Shouldn’t the professional, Bale, have been prepared to handle this guy? Or at least act in an appropriate manner? Everything he says on the tape points to his belief that he’s on a different level than everyone else: from the hypocritical professionalism, to the threat of no working with the guy anymore (implication is that that should upset the guy because Bale is so important), to just the fact that the Bale thought it reasonable for the entire set to stop and take ten minutes (?) of down time for his outburst complaining about the fact that someone’s actions cost him (just him?) extra burden/time. In my book, imposing your feelings of self importance on those around you equates to jerkiness.

Judging from the other people on the tape, it sounds like his hissy fit is not typical of all actors. They all sound serious when trying to calm him down. If they thought of it as "just the typical three o'clock movie star flip out," I would expect less concern. “Yes, yes, Bale. We’re all idiots and you’ll never work with us again. Can we do another take now?” Or maybe a better indication that he is an outlier on the jerk scale is the fact that someone bothered to leak the tape and it became newsworthy. I don’t remember hearing about DeNiro’s tantrum. Brad Pitt is constantly in the news, but even when scraping the bottom of the news barrel on him (Pitt has love child with alien depicted in Neanderthal cave painting! – see page 6), they still don’t talk about his poor work relationships with the crew.

Finally, he’s yelling at the Director of Photography, who does apologize and admit to making a mistake. But really, if the DP thinks that the shot needs more or less light, then that probably should be done. His mistake was probably not getting it done beforehand, and he probably could have solved it better (maybe better communication with the director/actors?). But if he did need to make changes and he let Bale finish his take, would it even be usable if the lighting is off? Should he comfort Bale’s sensitive sanity by letting him finish his take, wasting the pay of the hundred crew members on set and eating into the shoot schedule for the day for a pointless take, or should Bale just wait for the rest of the large production (of which he is one tiny part) to be ready before getting into the scene?

And the fact that you don’t think he’s a jerk makes you a jerk, jerk.

- The Jakes

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I hear you, but my point had more to do that I can understand on some level why he'd react that way. And as I did state, I don't know the whole story - and neither do you. We're both doing a bit of assuming when it comes to reaching a conclusion on this issue.

Anonymous said...

And my point is that he has no excuse. He cried out. An apology was made. He dismissed and cried again. Another apology. He dismissed and threatened physical violence. That right there should be enough to indicate that he was being unreasonable. One of my points was that the unknown whole story is irrelevant. Annoyances, emotionally charged scenes, fine. But other professional actors aren’t producing similar outbursts; they find better ways of dealing with the situation. Do you think the whole story involves something extraordinary that other actors haven’t dealt with? Did Heimdall sound the Gjallarhorn announcing the onset of Ragnarok? What is there to excuse or to empathize with? We’re not monkeys flopping around in a sea of emotion. We always have the ability to deal with each other in reasonable manner. Timshel, Lance! Timshel! And he timshelled ‘jerk’.

- The Jakes

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I think that you're confusing the word "understanding" with "condoning." I don't disagree with anything that you said. However, I know that sometimes I don't always make the right choice.

Also, how do you know that other actors weren't yelling at this guy?

As for Heimdall - now you're just being silly.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think you are confused on the denotation of those words. If you make the wrong choice, then there is a consequence. In this case, the consequence is being labeled with having made the wrong choice (ie ‘jerk’). Your blog’s opening issue is about whether or not this guy is a jerk, and even your title is explicitly asking the reader to “Give Batman a break.” If you are claiming that he is not a jerk for whatever reason (yours being because you can understand what motivated his behavior (which given our common biology, is usually just that his behavior wasn’t disease driven)), then you are condoning his action. You are saying he should not pay the consequences (being labeled a jerk) for what he’s done.

Heimdall can hear the grass grow and heard you type ‘silly’ in the same sentence as his name. No! Now you’ve made me do it, too. Odin help us both.

- The Jakes

Lance Christian Johnson said...

By your logic then, everybody who's ever behaved in an inappropriate way should be labled as a jerk. I'm just saying that one bad move shouldn't define a person.

After all, you used to throw bits of paper in a certain kid's poofy hair. Are you a jerk? Wait a sec - he even defined you as a jerk, when he said "Bye bye...jerks."

Okay, fair enough. You're a jerk. But you're in good company, as Batman is one too.