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Posted at 1:45 PM ET, 11/18/2010

Christian Bale in Esquire: Should his attitude cost him an Oscar?

By Jen Chaney

Christian Bale, a "Fighter" in Esquire.
(Reuters file photo)

Christian Bale is undeniably a phenomenal actor. But the celebrity thing? Well, he doesn't care for that so much.

In an interview with Esquire magazine that recently arrived online and will appear in the magazine's December issue, Bale makes it clear just how much he hates the entire interview, movie promotion and general talking-about-himself process that his career often requires. Steve Pond of The Wrap is already asking if this attitude could cost him an Oscar nomination for "The Fighter." But really, should it?

Before delving into that question, let's provide a little taste of that interview.

When Esquire writer John H. Richardson -- who shows remarkable determination here -- tells Bale he doesn't like being forced to write his profile in a Q&A format as the actor often requires, this exchange ensues.

BALE: You don't like that?

ESQUIRE: No! I don't like being told what to do.

BALE: I'll tell you why. Basically, it's somebody who got stuck having to interview me who really wants to be a novelist, so they're writing these novellas and I was like, "It's not true, that didn't happen, they just made all that up! Why don't they just go ahead and be a novelist instead of bothering with interviewing me?"

So you want to be perceived accurately, but you also don't want to give any details. You realize that those two things contradict each other.

BALE: No, it's simpler than that. I want to be able to just act and never do any interview, but I don't have the balls to stand up to the studio and say, "I'm never doing another interview in my life!" So I tip my hat and go, "Okay mister! All right mister! I'll go do the salesman job!"

ESQUIRE: And you don't want to talk about your personal life or family background either.

BALE: Look, I've got incredible pride for my family. I've absolutely fallen into that cliché of a dad who could just happily talk about my daughter endlessly. But it's not what I'm about in terms of being an actor. I don't want people to know about that.

ESQUIRE: Why not?

BALE: I don't want people to know me.

ESQUIRE: Why not?

BALE: Because that buggers up my job.

The interview unfolds like this in several stretches, leading the average reader to conclude that Bale is more than worthy of that diplomatic word often used to describe pain-in-the-butt actors: "difficult."

Clearly this is hardly the ideal approach from an image-branding perspective, especially if he's trying to recuperate from the whole rant episode, not to mention his arrest in 2008 for allegedly assaulting his mother and sister, charges that were subsequently dropped. (That Esquire headline, "Christian Bale May Kill Someone Yet," definitely is not going to help.) But as someone who respects Bale's immense acting talent, part of me says: Hey, keep handling things however you need to if it allows you to deliver such strong performances.

Pond's suggested possibility that Bale might miss out an Academy Award nod (criminally, Bale has never been nominated) because of his failure to always play nice is not surprising. But if that actually happens, it also would not be fair. The Oscars, like everything in life, are very much about politics. We all know this. But they are supposed to be about the performances.

At this time last year, Mo'Nique, who went on to win the Oscar for Best Actress, also was making some wonder whether she'd screw up her award season chances by not happily glad-handing at every film festival and industry event normally attended by statuette coveters. Clearly, that didn't hurt her at all, a fact she praised Academy members for during her acceptance speech. "I would like to thank the Academy for showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics," she said that night, as she clutched her well-deserved stautette.

The same rules should apply to Bale -- and any actor or fillmmaker -- too.

Could the Dark Knight perhaps stand to lighten up a bit and play the interview game more graciously? Absolutely. Based on that Esquire interview, does he appear to lack some sense of perspective? Uh, yeah. But that doesn't make me think less of his work. In fact, that singular sense of focus on his art may be what makes him such a consistently great actor, even if it doesn't exactly endear him to journalists or, perhaps, the public.

What do you think? Does Bale need to get nicer, or at least use his considerable acting skill to make us think he's nice? Or are his performances enough to speak for themselves? Post a comment and share your thoughts.

By Jen Chaney  | November 18, 2010; 1:45 PM ET
Categories:  Celebrities  
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I would be quite content for the media never to interview Christian Bale again.

Or to ask him only about his acting and leave his personal life out of it. Acting is a just a job, he's entitled to have privacy. Besides, it's not like he's the Queen or anything.

Posted by: agog1 | November 18, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I want to be able to just act and never do any interview, but I don't have the balls to stand up to the studio and say, "I'm never doing another interview in my life!"
Yet he has the balls to say it in print in Esquire?

Sorry Christian, once you put on that Batsuit & took that Bat-paycheck, it ceased to be about your "craft."

Posted by: wadejg | November 18, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Poor Christian. Rosebud!

Posted by: cfow1 | November 18, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I posted this same comment on The Wrap's story on the same subject. I don't think actors should have to kiss ass all over Hollywood in order to get an Oscar. Voters should base their opinion solely on the performance on screen rather than what the actor says or does in his or her spare time, or on what their particular temperament happens to be.

I had forgotten about Mo'Nique last year not campaigning for herself. I respect her for that. And she rightfully won based on a believable, heart-wrenching performance.

In Bale's case, I respect him because he says it like it is, and he doesn't try to please anyone. He's genuine, and that's not a common attribute in the film industry in general. I found the Esquire interview to be quite humorous and entertaining. Bale is a witty guy. And as an actor, well, he's convincing in every role he has played.

Posted by: MariaDH | November 18, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

The Academy Awards are a popularity contest - no more, no less. (Okay, they're also a fashion show.)

John Malkovich hasn't won an Oscar, and has only been nominated twice. That he wasn't even nominated for his portrayal of Lennie in "Of Mice and Men" or Valmont in "Dangerous Liaisons" (but Tom Hanks in "Big" was!) shows that people would rather nominate and vote for personable actors over ones that may be prickly in person, but riveting on screen.

(Don't get me started on Gwyneth Paltrow in "Shakespeare in Love" beating Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth" - that was a travesty that showed how much influence a campaign has on the results.)

Christian Bale is one of those actors that takes his job seriously. I don't know if I was an actor or actress that I would enjoy the whole media/promotion circus that goes with movie making either. And he's right - the less you know about his personal life, the more you can believe him in whatever role he chooses.

He's generally good in whatever movie he's in, so ultimately, I think he'll give a performance that can't be ignored. And that can rise above campaigning. In the meantime, he'll just have to live with the fact that his attitude will keep him from getting the statuette. But then again, look what actors like Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Adrien Brody have done with their wins in recent years.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | November 18, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

I think he's a very talented actor who has every right to tell the media as much or as little as he wants to about himself and his family. I couldn't care less whether he gets an Oscar - let his work speak for itself. The artists I most respect are the ones we don't read about in the gossip sheets.

Posted by: ikeaboy | November 19, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

So...Christian should give up his independent thought and become one of the corporate brown noser zombies that most of Hollywood has become? If that is what earns an award then it is not an award for excellence in performance on the big screen. It is really a contest among those who have huge egos and complete detachment from reality and who preen and pose and pretend to be something they are not: TALENTED! The comforting thing is Christian Bale is actually so much more talented than the rest and will continue to surprise us because he exists outside of this alternate universe of delusional people. Awards only matter to them, not the end product or work put into it.

Posted by: cari631 | November 21, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

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