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Christian Bale hates talking about acting: 'I just want to push a pencil through my eyeball'




Christian Bale with Cate Blanchett and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki.
Christian Bale with Cate Blanchett and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki.
Melinda Sue Gordon/Knight of Cups

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While working on "Knight of Cups," Terrence Malik's latest film, Christian Bale didn't have much to work with. 

"We would get on the set, they're already filming me [and] I don't know what we're doing," said Bale. "The only research that Terry really gave me other than our conversations — which were extensive — was the book by Walker Percy, 'The Moviegoer,' where he's on a search for who knows exactly what, but you know you must be on that search."

Bale, who's best known for his roles in the Batman series, "The Fighter" and his Oscar-nominated turn in "The Big Short," plays a decidedly different character this time: a screenwriter named Rick that has lost his way, spiritually and emotionally.

He spoke to Take Two about the film, which is set in Los Angeles, touching on the director's unique methods, filming with a confused cast, how conversations about acting make him feel and more. Listen to the full conversation above (he does a great Fabio impression). But here are the highlights:

On Terrence Malik's style:

He talked about how he wants to start to move towards films where there's just no script whatsoever. Making a film that is more like, more akin to a piece of music or to literature where the audience [have] their own feelings about the film rather than being dictated to about what they should be feeling... A lot of times he loves the fact that you didn't say your lines. It's always just about being absolutely sincere and truthful.

On conversations about acting:

It always sounds boring as hell talking about acting. Even to me, I just want to push a pencil through my eyeball and slowly just destroy my brain talking about acting. But with this one, there's no sense of goals needing to be achieved. There's a greater sense of let's discover it with Terry. And then he'll figure out what does it mean later on, what does it mean in the context of the film.

On filming with the cast of 'Knight of Cups':

[Fabio] kept walking up to me. Lovely bloke. You know, shirt down to his navel, the Fabio stuff. He kept walking up to me and going "Christian, is this your house?" I think he thought we were making a reality show or something. I kind of go, "No Fabio, it's not my house. And I'm Rick." And about five minutes later we come back up and [he says], "Christian" — and we're on film, you know. — "great party man. Thanks for inviting me." Then I just went, "You're welcome mate."

Everybody involved was confused about, "Was this real? Or were we inventing this for a film?" And you got that kind of confusion, which I think works beautifully for the film.

On Los Angeles:

I hated it when I first came out here. I came out here to work because it was the only place I was getting any work. And the second I could leave, I was leaving straight away. I did that for a few years.

And then gradually it dawned on me just how plentiful Los Angeles is and I love it now. And of course I love it now because my children were born here and my wife is from here. I've got real deep roots to the place.

But even without that, I see the film as quite an homage actually to Los Angeles. And all of the ugly architecture, and all of the ugly people that appear beautiful but when you look up close, it's kind of like "Gulliver's Travels." You look up close, it's kind of nauseous and you want to vomit. But there is so much within that as well. And that's what Rick is trying to figure out and discover.

This story has been updated.