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Christian Bale Talks About Discovering "The New World" with Terrence Malick

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Christian Bale stars in The New World

Christian Bale stars as John Rolfe in Terrence Malick's "The New World"

© New Line Cinema
You have to wait until fairly deep into "The New World" to finally see Christian Bale onscreen. The first part of the film is taken up telling the story of Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell) and his fateful meeting with, and eventual romance of, Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher). After Smith's out of the picture, Bale takes over the lead as tobacco farmer John Rolfe. He also takes over for Smith as Pocahontas' suitor.

"The New World" has long held director Terrence Malick's interest. He meticulously researched the film's subjects, and made sure all the buildings and everything used in the film were as authentic as possible, down to the minutest detail. That attention to detail and Malick's ability to collaborate with actors were huge selling points for Christian Bale who took on a supporting role in "The New World."

Christian Bale on the Attraction of Working with Terrence Malick: Malick’s notorious for shooting much, much more than he needs and for cutting actors out of his films entirely. Knowing that going in, Bale said it’s really just the opportunity to be on the set with Malick that appeals to actors. “I think that truly with him it is that. He's such an unusual and rare bird that you want to do it.

I just liked him a great deal. We'd met a few times, not actually talking about me being in the movie. Sometimes they just sort of ask actors to go in and read the script through so that the director can sit and listen to it. And then we just met up socially when I was in London. Everything with Terry just seems to kind of slide - like sliding into warm water. He doesn't make big exclamations. It just kind of happens. It gradually happened, and it was like, 'So what would you think if I did ask you to play one of the roles in the movie?' 'Oh, yeah? I think that would be quite nice. Yeah.' It's all very low key and quiet.

I think that as an actor that you're not in the editing room, unless you're on there as a producer well. But you're not in there and so it's always part luck about what exactly is going to be in there. So often you find that your personal favorite scene isn't going to be in the movie. You just have to understand that even if the scene is really remarkable, it might not fit the time allowed. It might be absolutely essential to the storyline then it might have to go. So you're always, as an actor, at the mercy of the director and editor at that point. Hopefully they just make some nice decisions, like you didn't waste your time completely. But I really wouldn't have felt like that regardless on this situation.

I found his way of working to be so interesting, that it was actually possible to work that way. I think forever I'll be trying to edge other directors into adopting the same attitude that he always had on the set, which made it so very easy in each and every scene. And absolutely, truly trusting in the actor. He let us do whatever we felt like. Whereas often other directors say that, but they don't really mean it. You'll end up doing something that you feel like doing and you look at them and their furious with you at the end of it. Well, that's not really being honest about letting the actor have free reign whereas Terry truly is.”

Bale says that Malick’s style of directing wouldn’t have worked on “Batman Begins” because it’s a totally different animal. Bale said, “Well, you have to also remember that different styles of movies requires different styles of working. On 'The New World' we didn't have artificial lighting whatsoever. If we did have anything when we were doing interiors, they would set it up in the morning and it wouldn't move all day. That was it. So you never had down time like when you're waiting for lights to be reapplied. So what that meant was that you had a real great sense of momentum because you never had to stop filming. You could move around everywhere and do whatever you wanted and you never stopped filming.

I would also just stay on the set the whole time. Terry liked that. Sometimes he would just be sitting there, and you didn't have the regular actor chairs. Everything would be over the period and so you might just be hanging out on a period chair and suddenly realize that they'd been filming you for the last ten minutes and you didn't even realize it. It was very nice. It was very nice working in that way.

Obviously with something like 'Batman' it's on a much grander scale and there's the fantasy of the piece which is essential. So there are, of course, times if I had decided to walk ten feet over to the left it would've been panning over and we would've had an hour of lighting that we would have to do because I wanted to walk over there. But I'm working with Chris [Nolan, “Batman Begins” director] on something else now [they’re working on “The Prestige”] which is very much the antithesis of the 'Batman' experience.”

Page 2: Christian Bale on Research and Working with Newcomer Q'Orianka Kilcher

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