Christian Bale is starring in what’s touted as the most expensive Chinese film in history (at an estimated $94 million). The film also is the country’s official submission to the Oscars.
As director Yimou notes in a joint interview with Bale prior to the China visit, Bale looks to play a significant role in Chinese popular culture with the release of the film.
“Everyone in China is really familiar with his work,” says Yimou, speaking through a translator. “But after this movie, Christian is going to be a really big star. Everyone is going to fall in love with him.”
The film, which received a Golden Globe nomination last week, features Bale as a selfish Westerner who turns sacrificing protector to a motley crew of schoolgirls and courtesans during the brutal Japanese occupation of Nanking during World War II.
Yimou says he was inspired to cast Bale for his film after visiting Spielberg’s home in 2010.
“Steven read the script and said it was like the Schindler’s List of China,” says Yimou. “He said, ‘You have to cast Christian for this!’ He even wrote a personal note to Christian. It was destiny.”
Bale jokes that the casting conversation went a different way. “(Spielberg) probably said, ‘Do not do it,’ ” says Bale, laughing. “But it was probably just translated incorrectly.”
The actor found time before the production of the Batman saga Dark Knight Rises (due next summer) to shoot Flowers in Nanking and immediately was blown away. Yimou had overseen the production of an elaborate set, including a nearly full-size re-creation of a cathedral.
“In China, there is no union. So everyone works. There are no days off whatsoever,” says Yimou. “Christian actually sacrificed his weekends and resting time to keep on working.”
The actor had to get used to many cultural differences on the set. He was asked to mentor the actors (“It would have been rude not to,” he says), which he found difficult to get used to. Away from the set, Bale was constantly pleading for restraint from his well-meaning but highly intimidating bodyguard, whose presence was mandated by the filmmakers.
“He would pick people up and move them out of the way on the street,” says Bale. “I was like, ‘Don’t do that. I am just walking down the street.’ (The bodyguard) was like, ‘Respectfully, this is what I must do.’ ”
Bale certainly set a great example on the set as the rare Hollywood actor in a Chinese domestic film. He had no entourage during his time in China (normally, even minor Chinese stars have multiple assistants) and went beyond expectations to aid the film’s completion.
Says Yimou: “He set an example for Chinese people to understand Western people and actors. …We’re a little bit spoiled now.”
See our interview with Zhang Yimou for Curse of the Golden Flower. We need to interview him again and get our first interview with Christian Bale!
Read rest at USAToday