The Prestige seems like the Batman Begins reunion film with Christopher Nolan directing Christian Bale and Michael Caine again. But the stars insist they approached it as a totally separate project. Christian Bale plays turn of the century magician Alfred Borden, a brilliant illusionist but lackluster showman.
“I didn’t actually really read it during Batman,” said Bale. “I had spoken with Chris about it before we started shooting on Batman, but just casual conversation. Nothing to do with the whole me doing it whatsoever. He was talking to other actors at the time. But, then we worked very well. I read The Prestige again after I finished Batman, but I wasn’t sure if Chris just wanted to keep me as Bruce Wayne in his eyes and that was it and he wouldn’t want to work on anything else. So, I contacted him and raised that question. I really liked the character of Borden and just told him, ‘Hey look, this would be great. I could really do this very well.’ And he did believe me, so we got crackin’. But, it was nice as well in the way that obviously actors are shape shifters and those are the ones that I admire most.”
Working on a smaller movie with Nolan showed Bale more of the Memento side of the director that a big comic book movie didn’t allow. “Chris was a shape shifter in the way he went to very different styles of directing from Batman to this. He really wanted to be able to move very quickly, spin on a dime, and have us all ready to approach different scenes in different ways. Maybe we are going to do this scene today, maybe we’re going to do this one instead. Whereas with something like Batman, because it’s such enormous kind of sets up you really know that here is what we have to do. Any changes require an awful lot of time to switch around. So, it was nice to be working in a much more spontaneous manner. Hand-held cameras a lot.”
The Prestige calls upon Bale’s natural accent for the period piece, but he was sure not to make it feel like a Jane Austen cliché. “Most people immediately hear period movies and they start falling asleep. And I think the reason for that is that also so many period movies, a lot of actors act like other people in period movies because it’s the best reference they have. So, all it took was somebody to do something wrong at the beginning and everyone else is imitating that for ever after. And especially with my character you are dealing with a much more working class background where usually the upper classes are much more represented in period movies. And these are just people. We really wanted to make sure that they are just people who everyone could just relate to.”
Being working class plays as much a part in Borden’s rivalry with the more polished showman Robert Angiers (Hugh Jackman) as their illusionist abilities. “It’s England so there is going to be class rivalry. Absolutely. And how tricky it is to move so called ‘up’ in classes. That’s very, very tricky. I think it’s something American’s don’t understand much. But coming from England and absolutely understanding that and seeing that America, of course there are an awful lot of problems as well, but it is much more based on merit. So, if you do it, you can get given a chance. Especially if you go back a 100 years in England and you know your place. That’s it. Do not try to get above your station at all. So, I’m sure yeah, there is a certain amount of annoyance from Borden’s part about Angier. He keeps that hidden, Angier, his actual resources and where he comes from.”
Still, Bale didn’t want to read too much into a cool story about magic tricks. “More for me, the rivalry I was focusing on more was the knowledge of a more brilliant magician, that a more brilliant showman was being considered the better talent. And his hatred of having to sell yourself in that way in order for people to understand. A character that doesn’t understand why people can’t see what he is doing. He is by far the best magician.”
The Prestige opens Friday.