Like all Terrence Malick movies (the director who brought such esoteric films as Tree of Life, and the Thin Red Line) Knight of Cups is certainly not what you could describe as straight-forward. Christian Bale stars opposite Cate Blanchett in this drama which evokes myriad emotions for the audience.
Bale is married to former model, Sibi, and they are raising their two children: Emmaline, 10, and Joseph, 2.
In Los Angeles to promote the movie, he is in a jovial mood this afternoon and reveals some surprising facts about his life.
In what ways are you different from your character in this movie?
The thing that is very different from him is that I have family. I have my children, I have deep roots with them and I have my wife. I think that his journey is something that everybody can relate to regardless of the environment or the level of success, because essentially I think what he’s searching for is something he already knew about when he was younger.
He deals with a lot of temptation in Los Angeles.
Yes. He’s had beauty presented to him by being in this incredibly surreal glamorous life inside of Los Angeles but it’s not meaningful to him any longer. He’s indulged in every single vice imaginable.
And what was it like when you moved to LA?
I remember when I first came out here, which is very different to Rick’s story, but I did arrive in LA and I did get involved in the film business. When I first moved out here I’d get invited to all sorts of parties and I was amazed at and the people I was seeing. I came from hanging out under freeways and suddenly I was in Malibu and but I didn’t linger like Rick did with all of that.
How do you stay grounded?
Nobody keeps me grounded and I do everything (laughs) you know what I mean? Absolutely everything you can imagine, I’m like Dorian Gray. I’ve got a portrait in my attic which is just hideous. Are you waiting for a proper answer?
(laughs). Ah, I thought that would be it. Well, I’ve got something which is more meaningful than anything else at all. I’ve got my children, my family.
Speaking of family, you’ve mentioned in earlier interviews that your daughter isn’t interested in going into the business but how would you react if she said to you one day, ‘Dad, I want to be an actress’
I’d probably just fake a heart attack, go on the floor and pretend I was having a seizure and hope that she never brings it up again. I would support whatever dreams she has but I wouldn’t allow her to consider any sort of a career other than amateur stuff until she was a lot older. I just don’t think kids should have a job or career unless it’s absolutely essential to supporting the family.
Acting is a tough job and difficult to find success
But that’s part of the test of it, isn’t it? If you can’t put up with being told no a whole lot then you shouldn’t get into it and that’s why you get this rate of attrition. The longer you stick at it the less competition you have, if you want to view it as competition, because you’ve got to want something enough. I think that was good partly about growing up in England. I had everyone mocking me and teasing me going, ‘Who do you think you are?’ and teachers bringing me into the classroom for the sole purpose of humiliating me in front of the rest of the class, going, ‘What do you think you’re going to do? Go to the Oscar’s one day?’
So what was it like when you won an Oscar for The Fighter (2010)?
I though, ‘Fuck you!’ (laughs) Those teachers who I hope to God are still alive are watching it. And I guess growing up in England really helps with that, you’re just in every day life being told no, nonstop. In America things tend to be more positive, but yeah, it takes people with more character and who refuse to hear no and they keep on going with it anyway. I’ll always support her in her dreams as long as it’s for the right reasons. As long as it’s not precisely for being famous.
In this film I know Malick uses real people as well as actors. You see some homelessness in the film and it shows despair and regret. I was wondering, were the homeless guys real or extras?
No, no, it was all the real deal
Being around these less fortunate people, did you find a new appreciation for your good fortune in life?
I’m not so blinded that I don’t already know that it exists. It wasn’t like my eyes were being opened to this. I’ve been there before myself and I know this does exist and of course I’m always stunned and I think everybody who’s in any kind of a position that I’m in where you’re going, ‘Oh my God, people somehow seem to want me to keep being in films and somehow they don’t recognise that I don’t belong here at all in the slightest.’ Of course you’ve lost the plot if you don’t continually feel that there’s been a mistake made. And then yes, you appreciate this immensely but I think regardless of somebody who’s been homeless or whether you were talking about the parties, there’s always this great kind of thing, ‘Oh the parties!’ but there’s this intense solitude when you leave afterwards or waking up in the morning and feeling you can’t quite articulate it but that feeling that something wrong happened, do you know what I mean? And even after the Oscars, you wake up in the morning and you go, something terribly wrong happened last night, not about who got what, nothing about that, but just there’s something and you can’t say exactly what it is but it’s in your gut, it’s in your stomach. It’s in your bile, really.
You’re from Wales – do you go back there very often?
I haven’t gone back for years. Obviously I was born there and I’ve been back three or four times and that’s it