Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Good Actors Gone Wild

I know by posting this I'm encouraging people to listen to it...but I do have a point to make. The following is an audio excerpt of actor Christian Bale losing it and yelling at the DOP during the filming of Terminator: Salvation last summer. Yes it's NSFW, but I did enjoy Bale dropping the F-bomb effectively and with just the right amount of emphasis, over and over and over again. Hear the rant HERE.

What's most surprising to me isn't what's said or fact it was said on the floor of a film production (believe me, I've heard worse), but that so many of the commenters rip a strip off Bale for being an ass and a prima donna and so on. I suppose most would rather tear down stardom and celebrity than hold it up on high, but there's lots of missing context to consider here.

Bale could've just been in the middle of a very emotional scene that he'd spent days preparing for, and then gotten distracted at the worst possible time. The DOP could've been an arrogant tool who behaves like all actors are sheep and his disruptive behavior may have been going on for weeks and this was the time Bale went off on it. Or the DOP could be a sweetheart and just moved to the wrong place at the wrong time. Or Bale could be a completely dickwad and treats everyone like shit.

We don't know, we'll never know...but like the Alec Baldwin phone message to his daughter of a couple years ago, it's really none of our business and wasn't meant for public consumption... so, in fact, we shouldn't know.

A film set is an extremely intense and volatile environment. You've got upwards of sixty people moving about constantly, all with very specific and important job descriptions, all with their job on the line if they screw up. And then, for a few brief moments every half hour or so, everyone has to freeze after a director calls 'Action!', and wait for one or two actors to do something or say a few lines of dialogue.

Is that really so bad? A few minutes of stillness and silence an hour is all we're talking here...it's not unreasonable.

Actors are a funny lot. And yes, some do get a big head about themselves and what they're doing...but the reality is they are the ones physically putting themselves out there whenever they step in front of the lens. It's an incredibly vulnerable position to be in. They're also usually the most sensitive and insecure, with the most to lose and least to gain in their minds...and thus, as a crew member, you need to be cognisant of this truism. Yes it's a collaborative medium, and every job done well is crucial to a movie's success. But so much rides on the actors performance...that's something that will get seen and noticed by movie viewers. Whereas the dappled light across the back wall of the set that may be a half stop over, probably not so much.

I'm not condoning being a dick, or treating people like scum...professionalism and mutual respect should always the first priority. But in the high stakes, big-money tension-filled, ego-driven, very loud world of life on a film set...a little quiet now and then isn't too much to ask.

EDIT: And there's already a remix...very Colbertian


Good Dog said...

Doesn't Bale mention that the DoP had been wandering around like that in an earlier scene? So he had let the guy get away with it at least once.

As you say, it could have been a really emotional scene he was slap bang in the middle of and Bale usually gives good performances.

It's strange how people bumble about without seeing what folk are deeply concentrating on. At art school I had my Head of Department wander in to a rostrum camera room to chat while I was standing on a chair, stretching to close down the aperture a notch while I was right in the middle of filming some tricking animation. There I had to politely ask him if we could talk later.

Years later, a bored animator entered my digital department and started loudly goofing around with background artist while I was trying to program a bastard of a camera move with the clock ticking. There I let the poor sod have it, sending him out the room on a wave of invective. And damned if I was going to apologise after.

You get anyone at the absolute wrong time and it's "Duck and cover!"

jimhenshaw said...

I completely agree with you, Dix.

This kind of stuff happens when people are passionate about their work. And none of us have any idea of the context that led to the outburst in the first place.

Justified or not is for those involved to decide.

TMZ and their ilk only have a limited number of plays in their playbook and "the tempermental star" is getting a little tired and predictable.

Trevor Finn said...

I have also heard that Christian was working after 39 hours without sleep or something, and this was his last shot before going home, and that DOP kept screwing him up. He's a workaholic and very committed to his work from what I understand, so I think he probably expects other people to take their jobs seriously.

It is funny to listen to, though. Must be a nightmare right now for his publicist.

Trevor B. Cunningham said...

In the past, I have taught set-protocol classes. One of the first things I mention to every student...STAY OUT OF THE ACTOR'S EYELINE! When I First AD I call for quiet on set and hold the work. Not just when we are about to roll, but during blocking so you know what the hell is going on and rehearsal. To this day, it blows my mind when seasoned crew continue to 'tinker' or chat while quiet has been called for. At hour 16 on day 25 of a shoot, I'll admit I have blown my top more than once(though not as long or as bad a Bale)and been called an asshole for doing it. I would rather do it instead of the Director who must maintain a good relationship with most in front and behind the camera. What surprises me is that it was the DP. In my experience, it has been the gallery gathered around the monitor who are the biggest culprits (and no not the director).

And you nail it when we mention we have no context or history for this outburst. And as Good Dog mentions, the DP did this more than once. The truth we'll never know, but it was likely a bad cocktail of incidents and egos that caused this by more than one person.

Like you, I have seen and heard worse. And a lot of it coming from closed production office doors.

Diane Kristine said...

I liked this post so much I tweeted it, you twitter hater.

Tim T said...

I don't have much to add as I agree with everything, but what I will say that blows my mind is people saying they won't watch a movie with Bale in it, even if it's good!

I mean I think Scientology is batshit insane, but that isn't going to stop me from watching Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise(side note: anyone know of any similar cloak and dagger films with as much style?) And to not watch it just because of Bale is, in my opinion, giving the finger to everyone who put a ton of hard work into making the film.

Why this is even an issue, when it's already been
reported that Bale and the DP are all good, I dunno.

On yet another note, I saw your name in the paper Will! Something to do with super-channel and writers in residence. And you providing guidance on their projects. Very cool. Hope it goes well.

Trevor Finn said...

You've got to check this out, this is funny stuff:
The Christian Bale freakout remixes

wcdixon said...

Twitter!! Nooooo!!!!!!!

I hate to admit it, but some of those remixes are sweet awesomeness.


I admit I initially found the infamous Bale outburst somewhat disturbing. But then I wondered what context it happened within.

This site sheds a bit more light on that (pardon the pun):


Wpascoe said...

This is pure ugly.

After hearing this I was left wondering a few things...

Why wasn't the director protecting his actors better? Where was McG in all this?

Did Bale tell McG about the previous incidents of the DP moving lights during shots? If so, what was done about it?

The DP was playing with the lights during the shot (stupid thing to do) but this guy is no rookie. He's done some big films so its unlikely he wasn't aware of what was going on. This is a multi-million dollar film shoot. Not some no-budget student film where all kinds of short cuts unfortunately have to be taken just to get things done. So it should not have happened.

I wonder what the DP was actually saying...

Remember only Bale was mic'd. Everyone else was off-mic so we can't clearly hear what is happening. Plus there's no visual footage so we don't know if the DP was walking away or antagonizing Bale further throughout this situation.

I'm surprised it went on as long as it did, but we'll never know why since the whole thing is out of context.

It should NEVER have been leaked like this. A film set is a world that most people can't quite understand. Strange things happen, but its not stuff for public gossip.

Someone's head should roll for having this become so public.

chrisc said...

As a longtime AD, I have a couple of things to say:

1) When I first heard this story, I had no problem believing that Bale chewed into someone. I've seen lots of lesser and one greater actor do the same on other sets. For reasons everyone has stated and more.

2) What I could not believe is that a DP walked into a shot. I have NEVER heard of a DP wandering into a shot. EVER. Either they have an eye on the lens, are watching from camera, or on occasion watching at video village. But wandering around? WTF?!? As an AD I would have been chewing into him too. On the inside of course.

3) Don't know who recorded this, but I bet the sound guys won't be working on another Bale movie, ever.