In Defense of Christian BaleComplications Ensue
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Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Christian Bale rant has been going around, and now he's released a contrite apology...

You know what? The d.p. was resetting lights while he was acting. Bale is a pretty intense actor, and he had got himself into some intense emotional state in order to be able to do his thing. And he needs to be totally focused, and believe that he is alone with the other actor in some fictional place, while sixty people are staring at him. And he needs to trust that no one is going to interfere with that.

And this idiot was resetting lights during a take.

To me, that's like tickling Michael Phelps while he's swimming a race. If you touched Michael Phelps while he was in a race, he would probably break your nose. The rest of the time he might be a nice, quiet, stoned kinda guy. But during a race, he's pumped.

The d.p. has the advantage here, because he has access to the footage. So he gets to air the moment where Bale went off. He doesn't air the five or six times that Bale no doubt told him, "Don't move the lights around while I'm trying to act, okay?"

Everyone on a set who counts is pumped. The director is pumped. The actors are pumped. The d.p. is pumped. They are all into their own thing, which means they don't always listen. Sometimes, in order to get their point across, people have to yell. And actors usually can't write dialog to save their lives, so Bale cursed a lot.

Though by Hollywood standards, he didn't really. When I lived in LA, my mouth got really foul. Years and kids later, I'm still trying to clean up.

I suspect that Bale will have no trouble getting his next job. We expect actors to be emotional. If they weren't, they wouldn't be able to act. I suspect that the d.p. will run into some resistance getting his next job. Not only does he move lights around during the take, but he stabs everyone in the back by releasing a recording (or letting it be known that he wouldn't mind if a recording were released) of what should have been a private moment in the temporary family that is a film set.

I'm not a screamer, myself. If I were ever to find myself a star of Bale's magnitude, I still wouldn't scream, I hope. But I have a very high tolerance for screamers. My first boss in showbiz was a screamer, and I worked for him for four and a half years because I was learning a lot; hey, it was his problem. I would much rather work with a screamer than a hack; and I'd work with either of those before I'd willingly work with a flake.



Agree completely with you.

People are so scared of aggression and conflict. Sometimes aggression is necessary. A tool, even.

By Blogger TC JAKOBSEN, at 10:17 AM  

Everyone's been calling this rant unprofessional...First of all, who believes that lawyers and executives, etc, don't ever scream when employees screw up in a way that hurts their performance.

Secondly, which is the most unprofessional of these actions: Bale yelling at a coworker who's doing something disrespectful and hurting his performance, the DP changing the lights DURING THE SHOT, or the person who leaked the tape, which according to some reports was at the insurance company, and likely left that company open to massive liability.

By Blogger Dan, at 10:35 AM  

Sorry but he was still out of line.

By Blogger Kevin, at 11:54 AM  

I understand Bale being in his element, but I'm not going to rush to his defense. What the d.p was stupid and amateurish, I agree, but Bale's verbal tirade went on and on for five minutes. After the second minute, it was like, "yeah, okay, we get it." After the third, it was just bullying. Time is money, and humans have feelings. :)

Saying that, I'm pretty sure I'll take the worst crap just to get ahead, haha. Then again, I wouldn't walk on set during a take.

By Blogger Will, at 1:21 PM  

What the DP did was an excuse to get angry, not an excuse to throw a four-minute temper tantrum on the set.

Bale acted like my five-year-old nephew and now he deserves to be treated like one.

No, he won't have any trouble getting work, but that has more to do with how much Hollywood bends over for actors than it does anything else. Shia LaBeouf crashed his truck while driving drunk -- rolled it over causing significant damage to his hand in the process and coming who knows how close to murdering somebody -- and they bent over backwards to accommodate his recovery for the latest Indiana Jones flick.

Drugs, alcohol, theft, there's almost nothing you can do as an actor that will cause either L.A. police or Hollywood to treat you as anything other than royalty if your star is rising.

So, Bale's little fit? As reports have said, most people on the set think he's some kind of hero now. That's our culture, our industry. Overreact like a spoiled, rotten little child, and you're a hero -- the victim, actually. Bale could have physically assaulted the guy and they'd love him even more.

I don't doubt that most of us would have been that upset if someone were doing that to us. The difference is how we act, that is what separates the professional from everyone else. Pros get angry, but pros keep their game face on and work through it.

That's what made Bale's tirade so hypocritical.


It's not a matter of degree where one can be excused by the other. Both men acted irresponsibly and both should be ashamed of themselves.

None of what happened is remotely defensible.

By Blogger Paul William Tenny, at 1:48 PM  

I think the whole thing isn't that much of an issue anymore, the apology was professional, fair and I assume both people will keep being a productive, well respected part of the industry.

But since you brought it up:

OF COURSE it is unprofessional to fix the lights while shooting. No-brainer. But it's a completely different category, a completely different WORLD of unprofessional behaviour to turn a factual work problem into a highly offensive ad hominem rant, excoriating a co-worker in front of the staff.

Turning into an a-hole for something foolish - no good idea. It's acting, not heart surgery.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:02 PM  

For what it's worth, someone called into the Stephanie Miller radio show who claimed to be working on the Terminator movie. He said that the reason Bale went after the DP so hard, was because that DP was a jerk to everyone beneath him and treated everyone like crap. Bale was one of the few people on set able to call him on the carpet, and when he crossed Bale, Bale did exactly that. What goes around comes around.

By Blogger David, at 3:05 PM  

Also, what's with this "foul language" bullshit?! Are we living in the fucking Plymouth colony or the goddamned 21st century? Can we knock off these horseshit moral prescriptions based on a dumbass sect of an ancient, retarded religion?

(I feel better now.)

By Blogger David, at 3:08 PM  

David, I'm fairly certain you just crossed a line by bringing a rant that ridicules religion into this.

Now on topic... What the DP did was stupid. There's no denying that. But there's a point when one's rant becomes bullying. It took him only a minute to drive his point home. Far less than that, even. Anything beyond it was unnecessary and just as disrespectful to the DP as that DP was to him.

I have no problem with swearing. I really don't. I tend to swear like a sailor when I get pissed. But there are times in which one can take it just a little to far.

Multiple times the DP tried to defend himself by speaking up. You could tell when Bale told him to shut up and stop talking. Well, Christian, maybe you should have shut up and stopped talking, and let the damn guy defend himself instead of laying down a blitzkrieg of a tirade on his ass.

There's yelling and being angry about something...and then there's being a dick about it. In this instance, Christian became a dick about about it. Because nothing, barring someone killing your mother or some other family member, warrants a three minute and forty second long diatribe on how or why one is a "fucking prick."

By Blogger Nicholas, at 3:48 PM  

Only 3:40? My mistake.

By Blogger Will, at 5:43 PM  

When you listen to it you can hear that Christian Bale doesn't completely lose it until about half way. I've been there; the guy deserved chewing out - maybe not that badly, but you start to enjoy the feeling of complete justification and the flow of fo-cussed anger. He's apologised, good for him. Maybe the dp learnt something.

By Blogger blogward, at 7:12 PM  

I'm really surprised this is still being discussed and especially, Bale being judged or criticized. I wrote about this right after the tape was leaked...

We all have no idea of the context or cirmcumstances leading up to incident. And like the Alec Baldwin phone message he left for his daughter, this Bale business was personal and not for public consumption. I find everyone's continued interest...baffling.

By Blogger wcdixon, at 7:37 PM  

I have a relative that works in the industry. A fellow co-worker of his was on the set the day the rant took place. He told me that Christians rant was mild compared to some of the things that happen on the sets. Things that we never see or hear about. I can see where it would be distracting for Christian to have the DP changing the lighting during the shooting of the scene. There has been talk about signing agreements that no unauthorized video filmed via any means shall leave the set for any reason with out some type of legal repercussions.

By Blogger Twowire, at 8:33 PM  


It's a free country and a freer internet, and I can render any opinion I want about a religion. "God knows," the cultural effects of these anti-intellectual superstitions imping on my life every day.

By Blogger David, at 10:08 PM  

I think it reflects most poorly on the director. Why didn't McG step in and either defuse the situation, make peace, or otherwise get control of HIS set? He should have called a 5-minute break and talked privately to both his star and DP.

By Blogger daveednyc, at 10:09 PM  

I LOVE THIS DISCUSSION! But I have to say, Alex... Bale was TOTALLY out of line, as would be any lawyer, investment banker, stockbroker, plumber, etc.

The notion that actors have to go to "intense places" to do their thing is bogus. Yes-- actors are paid to go to deeply emotional places. But they are also ADULTS.

I remember reading an article (or maybe hearing from a friend, so don't quote me on this) that Daniel Day Lewis spent several months living alone, away from his wife and kid, in order to get into character for "There Will Be Blood." And when this story broke, I remember being with a group of people who were completely impressed with his commitment, saying "THAT'S acting.

I totally disagree.

I think the fact that he had to do that makes him LESS of an actor. He gave a GREAT performance in that movie, but if I ditched the real world to live on my own for 6 months or a year, I think I could do some impressive work, too. I think anyone could.

If a doctor stopped seeing other patients just to concentrate on ONE PATIENT full-time, that patient would probably show some significant improvements.

If an electrician dedicated all his time to wiring and repairing only ONE house, that house would certainly have fewer electrical problems than any other house.

The point is: I don't applaud actors who have some weird, fucked-up method for delivering great performances. There are plenty of other great actors who show up, act professionally, and DO THEIR JOB.

There is nothing special about Bale, or any other artist-- actor, painter, writer, dancer-- or even any other professional-- banker, accountant, surgeon, construction worker-- that gives them license to act like total douchebags... or even just weirdos... on the condition that they do great work.

We live in a world of adults. Bale should act like one.

By Blogger Chad Gervich - Script Notes, at 10:28 PM  

daveednyc touched upon a very important point here. The director is ultimately responsible for everything that happens on the set. With this DP being accused (accused, folks, we don't know what really happened) of adjusting the lights on a regular basis, Bale should have complained the first or second time, and McG should have put an end to it right then and there.

He should never have let it get to that point.

By Blogger Paul William Tenny, at 10:35 PM  

Personally, I've never really understood how people can form such a strong opinion on something they were not a part of and don't fully understand. I, personally, was not on the set, so I don't know what transpired before or after the event. All I have heard is an audio clip heard completely out of context. Certainly not enough to make any judgements. I can make assumptions, but that's all they are.

That said, I've heard enough stories from people on the sets of other films that what Bale said doesn't seem to me to be unheard of, that's for sure.

By Blogger Tim W., at 1:46 AM  

I think a lot of this has to do with the institutional culture in which such a reaming takes place. One would be shocked and devastated to have your banker or therapist talk to you in such a way. But from experience, it wasn't uncommon at all to have my football coach or Army drill seargent jump on my peers in such a way. Yeah it sucked, but it wasn't as painful as it would be in the former scenarios. You just shook it off. Everyone there had gotten reamed out at one point or other, so you know you're not the only one.

Maybe some of the people insisting that Christian Bale is an ADULT have never put themselves in a situation in which an adult is climbing right up your ass and is fully vindicated for doing so.

By Blogger David, at 7:26 AM  

OOOOoooooooo does this burn me up.

No way, no how was that bullshit warranted. There's a lot at play here in terms of best set practices and you speak to most of it in your post. I agree with the issues - staying out of eyelines during performances, giving actors their time etc - but I'm fed up with this kind of crap. I've been in that position and sometimes it's a DP's job to save a take in whatever way he/she can and if Bale is knocking it out of the park and the DP assesses that the take will be useless unless he puts him in light then it is his job to do so. If Bale stumbles in that instance then we back it up and go again. If Bale is really incensed then he takes the DP off to the side and gives him a licking - if that's his way - out of earshot of the rest of the crew. Because if that DP loses the crew's confidence the whole house of cards tumbles. It's a karmic thing if nothing else; Love Guru anyone?

If the issue here is professionalism then why not assume that sometimes we gotta eat it for the sake of the team, to help one another collectively be better pros than we are individually.

Aggression may be necessary sometimes but abuse isn't. This rant was plain and simply abusive and if that were my set Bale would have been dressed the f@#k down. Except that that would never happen because Bale's reputation precedes him ergo I'd not be working with him in the first place.

I was hoping that this situation would be the straw that broke the camel's back re. 'Star' behaviour. I was hoping actually that 2009 would be the year of outing and destroying the accommodation of despicable behaviour from people in 'higher status' positions from banks to B List actors.

We are an industry and should behave like one. HR is an integral part of formula and no one is better than the sum of the machine's parts. We don't take it from middle managers at McCains, pest hockey players in Dallas, and we sure as hell shouldn't take it from Mr. Christian 'American Psycho' Bale.

If I acted like that on set my momma'd have my hide. But then she's not afraid she might get the back of my hand for speaking out.

By Blogger Billy Buck, at 9:33 AM  

I think it's incredibly sad that this is the kind of thing that gets over 20 comments.

By Blogger DMc, at 9:55 AM  

If we're talking professionalism then whoever leaked the tape should be canned. And people become actors so thy don't HAVE to be adults.

By Blogger blogward, at 5:15 PM  

The simple fact is that if I had been at work and gone off at a co-worker like that, I'd have been kicked out before my 4 mins of screaming and swearing (plus almost assault) was up.

Bale was out of line, but he gets away with it cos he's Christian Bale.

By Blogger Neil, at 8:14 AM  

Sorry, but he was totally out of line and the fact that you are defending that kind of behavior is pretty disturbing to me. It's NOT okay to be a dickhead like Bale was.

People in Hollywood acting like complete assholes is why the majority of the country finds the film industry morally suspect. You mention that you got a foul mouth when you lived in L.A. and are now curbing it on account of your kids. That's because you don't want to raise an bunch of little assholes yourself. Which is a GOOD thing.

I personally could give a rat's ass what people choose to do and say in their free time, but if I was working with this guy there's no way I would put up with being talked to like that. Nobody should.

By Blogger Xina, at 3:39 PM  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

By Blogger sex, at 3:22 PM  

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