It’s hard to think of many actors more serious and respected than Christian Bale. The Welsh actor has a history of working with some of the most respected filmmakers in the business, starting with his breakout in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun at just 13 years old. Since then, Bale has earned praise and awards for his intense and mercurial performances in movies such as American Psycho, The Big Short, and The Fighter, the last of which earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. In pursuit of his art, Bale has been willing to put his body on the line, famously dropping to an unhealthy weight for The Machinist and 3:10 to Yuma and then putting on pounds of muscle for Batman Begins, and pounds of girth for Vice.
But as much as Bale can put his body through extremes in pursuit of an effective performance, he couldn’t imagine going method for his Marvel debut in Thor: Love and Thunder. “That would’ve been a pitiful attempt to do that,” Bale told GQ when discussing his role as Gorr the God Butcher.
Bale doesn’t criticize the approach of other actors who favor method acting in superhero movies (one might rhyme with “Flared Fleto”) as much as he does his own style. He chuckled at the idea of him trying to be the maniacal and driven Gorr even “as I’m trying to get help getting the fangs in and out and explaining I’ve broken a nail, or I’m tripping over the tunic.” More than anything else, Bale points to the difficulty of working in the Marvel machine, especially the studio’s heavy use of green screens.
“That’s the first time I’ve done that,” Bale said of green screen acting, calling it “the definition of it is monotony.” Although he admitted that the movie had “good people,” including “actors who are far more experienced at it than me,” who found most of the experience baffling. “Can you differentiate one day from the next?” Bale asked rhetorically, before answering himself. “No. Absolutely not. You have no idea what to do. I couldn’t even differentiate one stage from the next.”
Bale also rejected method while playing Batman for Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, which did not require nearly as much green screen acting. Bale described shooting his scenes as Batman and then “I’m going off to Ralphs, the supermarket, to get bananas.” Given the critical and commercial success of those films, it’s hard to argue that he made the wrong choice. Will that dissuade other actors from method acting in superhero movies? We’ll have to wait for Morbius 2: More Morbin’ to know for sure.