Christian Bale is one of the greatest actors of his generation, having been nominated for multiple Academy Awards. He submerges himself into a character and will often change his body to better play the part. In 2004’s The Machinist, he lost 63 pounds to play the emaciated title character. He gained 43 pounds to play a con artist in 2013’s American Hustle. Now, he is playing Bagheera the panther in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, a fantasy adventure based on the stories by Rudyard Kipling.
Screen Rant: Bagheera. Kind of an iconic role at this point. Did you look at past performances? Or listen to him?
Christian Bale: Well, I’d seen him, anyway. I didn’t see all of them. I was in India recently, and there was a series apparently there, with Freida Pinto, she was singing the jingle for. And I’d never seen that one before. But she said it’s what she grew up on. But, I’ve seen the animated films. Love ‘em. The more recent Disney iteration. Love ‘em. This is something new that you’ve never seen before. Because it’s much more true to Kipling’s original writings.
Screen Rant: Speaking about that, how was it received in India? You went there for a screening, correct?
Christian Bale: Yeah, yeah.
Screen Rant: How do they receive American films out there?
Christian Bale: A film’s a film, isn’t it? I mean, look, this is also– There’s no better place than to premiere it. We were in Mumbai, which was the birthplace of Kipling. And Hindi was Kipling’s first language. He adored India and it’s a very Indian story. There’s global themes. But you can’t remove it from India. And so, it’s absolutely appropriate and respectful that that’s where we premiered it. And also, fascinating for me to get to go visit.
Screen Rant: There’s the old saying in film, “You don’t work with animals, you don’t work with kids.”
Christian Bale: Right [chuckles]. So, instead of that, we just became the animals. But we were working with a kid, with Rohan. But man, what a kid. He is smart beyond his years and really fantastic.
Screen Rant: You don’t do a ton of voice work on your resume. But this was more performance acting.
Christian Bale: Yeah. With voice work, I’ve done two. I did Howl’s Moving Castle and Pocahontas. But, no, this isn’t voice work. Because you are in motion all the time. You are interacting with the other actors. You do have to, albeit they’re boxes that they turn into looking like trees and hills and you know, grassy lots and whatnot. And the jungle. You’re jumping on boxes and that, but you have to interact. And all of that is what you end up seeing in the film. Whatever position I end up sitting in, that is the position that Bagheera is going to end up in. Which is why Andy said to me, “Please go study panthers and their movements.”
Screen Rant: Interesting. So, you actually did go. Did you look at videos? Did you go to the zoo?
Christian Bale: Rohan out did me. Because he actually went to a wolf sanctuary and hung out with the wolves. He beat me on that one. I was just watching them on YouTube.
Screen Rant: Well, it’s a wonderful film. I know you just got done with something everyone else is talking about. This is a wonderful film. Vice will be coming out. You look amazing. I saw pictures of how you weighted up for that. How do you do this?
Christian Bale: You just enjoy life to the extreme, too much, to put on the weight, ahh, just never stop. And then you just go to bed hungry in a miserable, to lose weight. That’s the secret.