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Christian Bale has a strong reputation as a transformative performer. He lost a disturbing amount of weight for performances in The Fighter and The Machinist; bulked up in a big way for The Dark Knight Trilogy; and later this year audiences will see him magically turn into Dick Cheney for Vice. That being said, his work on Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle is a bit different, as it's his first motion capture role -- but according to the Academy Award-winner, at the end of the day there are more parallels than differences:
I think it does all come around full circle. There's initial differences, and you've got to try to work out what are the priorities. With anything that you're starting out with, you don't know what's important, and what's not. So Andy would just sort of guide me on that. Like, 'No, you don't need to worry about that; that you do need to worry about.' But ultimately once you get used to the rig and the dots and all that, you're acting with other people. It's me and Andy [Serkis] and Rohan [Chand] jumping around on boxes for three days every couple of years. It's just acting like anything else. Once you learn how to just ignore everything that the character wouldn't see.
Christian Bale plays the dangerous-but-protective panther Bagheera in Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle, and I had the pleasure of sitting down to talk with the actor about the part late last month at the film's Los Angeles press day. I specifically noted his history of chameleon turns, and he explained why his work with CGI skin wasn't too different any experience from what we regularly see him do.
As noted by the actor, Christian Bale was fortunate to be working with a brilliant professional on the film, as Andy Serkis is widely recognized as the king of performance. Serkis brought the movie industry into a new age with his turn as Gollum in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and has kept it going with turns in features like King Kong, and the recent Planet of the Apes titles. Having a person with that experience calling the shots for his first venture into the world was a resource for Bale in the making of Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle, and he took full advantage.
The performance capture element aside, Christian Bale essentially approached his part as Bagheera as he would any human part -- utilizing the source material, and understanding the character by exploring his past and finding his specific perspective. That was all involved in the creation of his version of the beloved panther, as the actor explained:
There are these wonderful descriptions of Bagheera in the book. He's reckless, he's bold and he's cunning. Everybody fears him except for Mowgli. But he comes from great pain. He was caged. He saw his mother die. He broke out from that cage. But he's someone with great compassion, unlike Shere Khan, the tiger, he's taken his pain and turned it into love and compassion rather than hatred and bitterness... But at times as well, he's got to be very cruel to him as well, because he realizes that the jungle is tough, and Mowgli being human is one of the weakest, most defenseless of creatures.
You can watch Christian Bale compare and contrast his part in Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle and his other transformative performances by clicking play on the video below!