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Christian Bale Talks About "The Prestige"

Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman Play Rival Magicians in "The Prestige"

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Christian Bale Talks About

Christian Bale stars in "The Prestige."

© Touchstone Pictures
Christian Bale reunites with his Batman Begins director Christopher Nolan for the dramatic thriller, The Prestige, co-starring Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansson. Bale and Jackman square off in The Prestige, not as Batman versus Wolverine but as two rival magicians.

The story follows Robert Angier (Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Bale), two magicians who began their professional lives working as young assistants employed by the same magician. As the two fledgling magicians work separately to build up their own repertoire of tricks, their dislike for one another escalates. With each trying to best the other, their rivalry morphs into something dangerous and deadly.

The Appeal of The Prestige: “I didn’t actually really read it during Batman. I had spoken with Chris about it before we started shooting on ‘Batman,’ but just casual conversation. Nothing to do with the whole me doing it whatsoever – he was talking to other actors at the time. But, then we worked very well. I read The Prestige again after I finished Batman, but I wasn’t sure if Chris just wanted to keep me as Bruce Wayne in his eyes and that was it, and he wouldn’t want to work on anything else. So, I contacted him and raised that question. I really liked the character of Borden and just told him, ‘Hey look, this would be great. I could really do this very well.’ And he did believe me, so we got crackin’.”

It was nice as well in the way that, obviously, actors are shape shifters, and those are the ones that I admire most. [But] Chris was a shape shifter in the way he went to very different styles of directing from Batman to this. He really wanted to be able to move very quickly, spin on a dime, and have us all ready to approach different scenes in different ways. ‘Maybe we are going to do this scene today, maybe we’re going to do this one instead.’ Whereas with something like Batman, because it’s such enormous kind of set up, you really know that here is what we have to do. Any changes require an awful lot of time to switch around. So, it was nice to be working in a much more spontaneous manner. Hand-held cameras a lot.

I thought it helped so much with the fact that it was period. Most people immediately hear ‘period movies’ and they start falling asleep. I think the reason for that is that also so many period movies - a lot of actors act like other people in period movies, because it’s the best reference they have. All it took was somebody to do something wrong at the beginning and everyone else is imitating that for ever after. We purposely said let’s avoid [that], and especially with my character you are dealing with a much more working-class background where usually the upper-classes are much more represented in period movies. These are just people. We really wanted to make sure that they are just people who everyone could just relate to. The same ambitions, desires that we all have nowadays and that really helped with dealing with doing the kind of hand-held stuff. It’s much more fluid. You don’t have to be hitting all these marks all the time. You can change it up. You can do one take one way and another a totally different way. And you know, we could really hit the ground running. Not only Chris, but obviously Wally Pfister – the DP. Much of the crew, we’d all worked together before so there wasn’t that kind of breaking in period.”

Christian Bale Won’t Be Giving Up Acting to Become a Magician: “I’m bloody awful. Everyone thinks I’d be good, and I know the beginning of it and I know the end of it, but our advisors, they would never teach me the entire trick. You know? And I respected this very much in them that they recognize, as my character says in the movie, ‘The value of magic is in the mystery.’ You tell people how it’s done and that’s it. It’s not only not interesting anymore, it’s bloody annoying once you find out how it’s done. The only different kind of trick, I would say, is slight of hand. Because, that, I found it even more stunning when they showed me how they were doing it. There are a few things like that I had to learn, which we didn’t end up using in the movie anyway. But, I admired that immensely. Just the hours, the commitment, basically a lifetime of commitment these guys devote to it.”

Magic sort of runs in Bale’s family. “Yeah, my grandfather was a magician. I never saw him perform or anything, but he always remembers the magic circle in London. By the time I kind of knew that, he had a few old tricks in a chest up in the attic and he would pull it down now and then, but most of them were busted so he’d describe how they were done before. But, certainly, he very much enjoyed that.”

Page 2: Magic, Rivalry, Hugh Jackman, and the Next Batman Movie

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