Contactmusic speaks to Christian Bale about one of his latest films Public Enemies, the true story of bank robber John
CM: You choose your roles very carefully. What attracted you to Public
Bale: Three people: Melvin Purvis, John Dillinger and Michael
CM: What kind of a man was Melvin Purvis?
Bale: He was very dynamic, though ultimately tragic. Purvis was from a Southern Patrician family. He wanted a job in the State Department, but joined the Justice Department because they were they only ones that had available positions at the time.
CM: Does this movie show us who he really was?
Bale: Well, what we see in the film is only the tip of the iceberg of his life, which was truly fascinating.
CM: How successful was he?
Bale: He rose very quickly in his career, so that in his late 20's he became a special agent in Chicago -the hot spot in America at that time.
CM: How would you describe his relationship with the man who created and ended up directing the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI) for decades, J. Edgar Hoover?
Bale: Purvis believed greatly in Hoover and in his vision, but ended up disillusioned with his mentor and with what he was asking of him in order to achieve success, which ultimately resolved in him quitting the Bureau soon after taking down John Dillinger.
CM: Do you believe Purvis had a personal reason to take down Dillinger?
Bale: I never believed -and that's how I played him- that Melvin Purvis had anything personal against Dillinger, though he did see him as a stepping-stone to achieve what was asked of him by Hoover, who he viewed as a brilliant man.
CM: What kind of life did he lead after leaving the FBI?
Bale: Melvin Purvis led a very rich life following his days in the Bureau. But I do believe -by his family and friend's accounts- that he was haunted by those years and remained confused about Hoover's attitude towards him.
CM: How did you prepare this role?
Bale: I visited the FBI, did a lot of research on Purvis, and met his son.
CM: What was Alston Purvis like?
A: He was very hospitable. And he wrote an excellent book called The Vendetta about the contentious relationship between his father and Hoover, which is hinted in the movie.
CM: And you even visited his home town?
Bale: Yes, I went to Melvin's home town, met his remaining family members and even got to know some of his old friends. Then I just sat and heard stories of Melvin and picked their brains about him. My visited coincided with the anniversary of his death.
CM: And who was, in your opinion, John Dillinger?
Bale: Dillinger had great charisma and was a product of his time. In those tough times he championed many people's feelings of wanting to have some control over their lives and take it back for themselves. And he was very aware of that image.
CM: What did you think of Johnny
Bale: John Dillinger was a unique character and Johnny does an extraordinary job in portraying him.
CM: You are constantly pursuing him, which is why you actually have only a few moments together with Johnny on screen. Bale: Yes, there is only really one scene where we interact, as normally we are just shooting at each other.
CM: But what would you say Dillinger and Purvis had in common?
Bale: I think they were both very successful at whatever they set their minds to do, and were lonely characters that shared a sense of integrity. Both were also certainly fascinating to the media and became "media darlings" of their time, though I believe Dillinger liked it more than Purvis.
CM: And what can you tell us about the experience of working with Michael Mann?
Bale: He is fantastic and one of the finest filmmakers I know. I had a great experience working with him.
CM: How relevant is this movie today?
Bale: Well, it talks about subjects that are relevant, like the lack of communication between intelligence and law enforcement agencies and the injustice provoked by the banking system.
CM: It isn't clear who are the good guys and the bad guys in Public Enemies.
Bale: That is true, though Dillinger made the mistake of associating himself with killers like Baby Face Nelson.
CM: Is it less fun to play the good guy than to play the bad guy?
Bale: That's normally the case, because playing the good guys can be trickier. But I have never seen my job as a competition between actors, although I know some roles are more colorful than others. Nevertheless, sometimes the quieter ones interest me more.
CM: After shooting The Dark
Bale: You're able to shoot a movie like Public Enemies -where the action takes place in the 30's- in the actual locations because it hasn't changed a lot, and then equally make a movie like The Dark Knight with all the glass and steel architecture to give it a contemporary look. So, the old and the new are side by side in Chicago.
CM: Dillinger walked into a theatre without being recognized. Can you do that?
Bale: I do it all the time!
CM: How do you shake off a character after a movie?
Bale: Usually just a change of location does it for me.