Christian Bale: There’s great pleasure in playing villain

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Christian Bale: Thereâs great pleasure in playing villain

Christian Bale is magnetic and unrecognizable as the main bad guy in Thor: Love and Thunder. The Oscar-winning actor plays Gorr the god butcher that Chris Hemsworth, a.k.a. Thor himself, declared as his “favorite villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”

During an advance screening for the Marvel Studios film that premieres in Philippine cinemas on July 6, it took the end credits for clueless folks like yours truly to realize it was the English actor known not just for his string of great roles, but also extreme body transformations in films like The Fighter, American Hustle, The Machinist, Vice, etc.

The Oscar-winning actor is magnetic and unrecognizable as the main bad guy, Gorr the god butcher (above photo), in the Marvel Studios film Thor: Love and Thunder. Bale accepted the role also because of his kids.
Marvel Studios, Associated Press

In the press notes, director Taika Waititi said they wanted a foe more formidable than the countless enemies Thor faced in the past, “and we found that in Gorr, who is played by the remarkable Christian Bale.”

His transformation “physically, emotionally and mentally,” as well as his thoughts about his character, were among the main questions asked during the film’s global virtual presscon on Saturday.

“I think in Gorr, they looked for an actor that was a polar opposite (of Hemsworth). Someone not relatable, a bit of a loner, creepy, someone no one wants to be around, and nobody wants to see his a**. And so, I think they went, ‘Yeah, we found it in Bale,’” he mused.

With co-stars Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman
Film’s official Twitter account

When asked what he had to hone in on his character, Christian noted it was actually easier playing a villain than a hero. “Of course, look, there’s great pleasure in playing a villain. It’s a lot easier to play a villain than it is to play a hero. Chris had a much tougher job, you know. Everyone is fascinated with bad guys, right? Immediately.

“And then, the beauty of it is that Taika can make it bloody hilarious and then really moving as well in this story. I don’t know if it’s pushing it too much to say sympathy, but certainly you sort of understand maybe why this guy is making awful decisions. He is a monster, he is a butcher, but yeah, it’s possibly a little understanding of why he came to be that way.”

Bale also spoke of his filming experience under the direction of Taika who, according to the cast, enjoyed having improvisation and a wacky set.

“What I liked a lot is that emotion comes through the ears, right, and he plays music nonstop… on the set, and that was fantastic,” he said, adding it was “very helpful” in doing the movie that blended comedy and tragedy. (If you’ve seen his MCU directorial debut Thor: Ragnarok in 2017, the filmmaker said his Love and Thunder is similar in terms of tone and style.)

Meanwhile, when Bale saw himself as Gorr for the first time, a transformation that would take four hours of makeup, he said, “Loved it because you don’t really know exactly what you’re doing with a character like that. Until you see it completely, it’s in your imagination. And we didn’t have that long, you know, we talked about it during quarantine and in an abstract way. But then, put it on and it worked out all right.”

He continued, “This was a pious man with tattoos and he’s cut those off, and so would have all those scars. And that’s when you really get to start playing with it and experiment as you film. You know, you discover it as you go.”

Interestingly, Bale decided to accept the Gorr role and head to Australia to film Thor: Love and Thunder upon the encouragement of his children. “I explained (that) it would mean leaving Los Angeles, and my kids said, ‘We’re going!’” he recalled in a separate interview. “This is really the only film that my entire family has said I have to do.”

He was also attracted to “just the notion of this guy … I mean, he’s Gorr the god butcher, right? The name kind of tells you who he is. Straight away, you know he’s a serial killer bent on killing gods. But it’s a lovely tale, actually. He’s upset and confused, and comes to an epiphany.”

Bale’s co-stars — from Hemsworth, Natalie Portman as The Mighty Thor, to Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie — were all praises for his “mesmerizing” performance.

Said Hemsworth, “There’s so much drama and insanity around Gorr, but Christian Bale managed to pull the focus right into each moment. You can’t take your eyes off him. The character is fascinating because, like all good villains, Gorr has a point.”


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