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Christian Bale Stalked Random Strangers To Prepare For Amsterdam Role

Amsterdam leading man Christian Bale lets audiences in on the quirks of his process in preparation to play an early 20th-century veteran and doctor.


Christian Bale followed strangers to prepare for his role in David O. Russell’s upcoming film Amsterdam. Set in the early 20th century, Amsterdam is a work of plausible historical fiction showcasing the rough edges of the period with fast action and zinging dialogue. Bale leads a star-studded cast that includes John David Washington, Margot Robbie, Chris Rock, Rami Malek, Michael Shannon, Robert De Niro, and other widely-adored actors; even Taylor Swift has a role in the $80 million blockbuster.

Known for his commitment to method acting and extreme dieting, Bale takes no shortcuts to become Burt Berendsen, a scarred former World War I soldier who’s been wrongfully accused of murder. His character is a rail-thin doctor who tends to fellow ex-soldiers with ghastly injuries. Unlike Burt, two of Bale’s most recent roles were based on real people. The actor had plenty of interviewers and other material available to study to play Dick Cheney in Vice and Ken Miles in Ford v Ferrari, but comparable resources were much more limited for Bale’s character in Amsterdam.

In an interview with EW, Bale says he sought partial inspiration from strangers on the street. He recounts one particular instance where he followed someone to get a sense of their mannerisms. Read Bale’s comments below:

I remember one time talking on the phone to David and I saw this amazingly interesting guy walking down the street. I just became a weirdo stalker following him and studying him. So he’s a big influence, whoever he is out there. I don’t know his name. He’ll never know, either.

Christian Bale & David O. Russell Look To Repeat American Hustle Success With Amsterdam

This anecdote provides an interesting glimpse into Bale’s process and solidifies an unknown man’s place in movie history. Bale famously thanked Satan for inspiring his depiction of Cheney while accepting a Golden Globe for his performance. Perhaps this anonymous man is as influential to Bale’s Burt Berendsen as Satan was to his Cheney. As one of the best performers of his time, Bale doubtlessly went to great lengths outside of tailing a stranger to perfect the look and feel of his character.

Bale and Russell first collaborated on 2010’s The Fighter, for which Bale won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work as real-life boxer Dicky Eklund. The actor-director pair rejoined forces for American Hustle, which was both a critical and box office hit. Like American Hustle, Amsterdam is a period piece that raises the stakes and challenges of movie-making by requiring sets, costumes, and verbiage that fits the era. Amsterdam has earned middling reviews thus far, with critics taking issue with a scattered plot. It’s a bad sign for Russell as generally, reviewers are more friendly to his films than audiences are. However, it’s possible Bale’s commitment to his performance as Burt will help win Amsterdam additional favor.

Source: EW

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