Monday, February 09, 2009

Batman goes Batshit

Did you hear the tirade by Christian Bale? Apparently the director of photography had the audacity to cross his precious sight line during a scene from that actor-challenging TERMINATOR sequel and Bale went postal on the guy. Hear it here. Warning: The F word is uttered at least a thousand times in three minutes.

Of course what followed was the obligatory public apology. And soon we’ll see more damage control. He’ll guest on Ellen and bake a pie. He’ll join the Jonas Brothers on stage and sing “What I Go to School For”.

He’ll be charming and witty and self-deprecating. He’ll tell Oprah a heartbreaking story of going to a children’s hospital… or at least knowing someone who did who relayed the story. And all I can say is…


When an actor becomes an absolute monster, lashing out (usually at defenseless underlings) that’s because he IS a monster.

William Goldman once wrote that from the minute stars get up in the morning until the minute they go to sleep no one says ‘no’ to them. Imagine living your life like that. Everything you want some toady gets for you. You’re allowed to be a complete flaming asshole. All because Batman sold a lot of tickets.

And for every Christian Bale shit fit that hits the internet, there must be ten other out-of-control actor outbursts that don’t. This is not to say that every star is a nightmare. Some handle their fame with grace and humanity. But there are enough of these childish temper tantrums from spoiled inbred poodles to keep directors and producers and writers and directors of photography popping Lexipro like Pez tablets.

Whenever my writing partner, David and I have a pilot starring a star we sit them down and give the following speech: “We’re thrilled to be working with you, we will kill ourselves to make this the best possible show, one that you can be enormously proud of. We will work late nights, weekends, whatever it takes. But if you turn into a monster we’re in Hawaii.”

Today's post is coming to you from Wailea, Maui.

Update: A commenter wondered if I'm here because of a recent incident with a obnoxious star. No. I'm here on vacation. But let this be a message to all unruly stars -- I mean business!


The Milner Coupe said...

Thanks for saying what enough people won't say.

Also, are you insinuating that you're hanging in paradise because of a similar monster tirade by someone else? Dirt please.

Anonymous said...

Here's something I just thought of [and maybe you've already answered it before, but since I'm a fairly new reader to this post I'll ask it anyways] Does a writer have any say so into a guest actor taking a part. I thought that Derek McGrath did an excellent job as Andy and actually looked like he could have been a murderer. So when they ome in to audition, do you get to say "Sorry, I don't feel he's right for the way that part is written." or does the director/casting agent/whomever just give you the finger and tell you to buzz off? Or is it "I've got my paycheck, they can cast a potato for all I care" moment?

Anonymous said...

There should be a hall of infamy for leaked audiotape of stars, like the one of Orson Welles trying to record a commercial and getting pissed off at his fate.
To his credit, Bale was good at keeping his rant more than just a dumb shout - there was alot of irony in there. I wouldn't expect that of actors without a script.

And let's not forget Bale supplies the new industry of public mash-ups - like Bale's rant mixed with Bill O'Reilly's meltdown for example. That's worth something.

Tallulah Morehead said...

This sort of thing can be so embarassing. I know only too well. Some buttinski jack-a-napes took a secret film of me having an obscenity-laced onset meltdown back in 1922, when I was filming my beloved silent classic about Joan of Arc, titled A BURNING SENSATION.

It became what they called a "Viral Kinoscope", playing every nickelodeon in America. Of course, it was silent (We didn't need to say "Fuck;" we had FACES!), but they had included every word I'd blurted on the title cards.

In my defense, I was trying to play Joan of Arc being burned at the stake until rescued by her boyfriend (We gave the traditionally downbeat tale a new, happy ending!), a very emotional and HOT scene to do, and the director momentarily blocked my view of my bottle of vodka. And frankly, calling Von Millstone "a blithering, dunderheaded, scallywag" was kind of tame compared to the time I screamed "Back off, you Fat-assed fuckhead!" to Alfred Hitchcock on the set of AMNESIA, for accidentally sitting on my martini. And that clip is on the damned DVD extras.

These things happen.

What you left out of your closing anecdote was that the star you said "But if you turn into a monster we’re in Hawaii” to was my ex-husband, Boris Karloff. Kind of screwed yourself out of THE MUNSTERS that time.


By Ken Levine said...

No, I'm on vacation in Hawaii this time. But let it serve as a warning to stars. I mean business.

Anonymous said...

Who are some of the stars that you have worked with who WEREN'T monsters? The ones filled with grace and dignity? Would love to see that list.

Anonymous said...

In the interest of fairness, all reports indicate (whether we can trust them or not) that the DP was an incompetent asshole who had been messing up all the way through production, and this was just the last straw for Bale, the "only professional on set".

Does it forgive the harshness of his words? Probably not. But the DP may be a little bit to blame, as is McG for being unable to keep control of his set.

But then, since when has McG been a good director?

Anonymous said...

Somebody needs to teach that guy how to chuck a phone.

Anonymous said...

Another classic freak attack that make the interweeb rounds about ten years or more ago (probably the first leaked) was that of the venerable Casey Kasim caught on tape doing the same thing to his radio show crew. Classic, embarrassing and funny as hell because of who he is known to be, a good natured person.

I'm sure if you google it, it's still floating around online.


Anonymous said...

"But if you turn into a monster we’re in Hawaii.”

Is that an effective threat? Aren't some stars control freaks who push creators off shows and have their toadys run it for them?

Mary Stella said...

William Goldman once wrote that from the minute stars get up in the morning until the minute they go to sleep no one says ‘no’ to them. Imagine living your life like that. Everything you want some toady gets for you. You’re allowed to be a complete flaming asshole.

I've always thought the same could be said of Mike Tyson.

Anonymous said...

In all fairness, we weren't privy to what happened before hand. Maybe this DP was warned about interupting a scene earlier.

The best actors really attempt to mentally make the scene 'real' for themselves in order to do their best work -- hell, that's not easy.

What is easy is to destroy the fragile fantasy by distracting the actor. The DP could have checked his lights between takes.

He is showing a lack of respect for the actor's job if he disturbs him/her.

It's the actor's face up on the screen - it's the actor who gets blamed for a poor performance -- never a crew member or a DP. Even a director (who are sometimes to blame) escape the blame for a lousy performance.

Bale could have been predisposed to anger because of the necessities of the scene itself. Maybe he was worried about pulling it off well even under the best conditions and this DP blew Bale's best take.

It's easy to jump on people who are successful. (It's fun). But this incident is maybe being presented a bit one-sided.

Writers can come off as beligirent or headstrong just trying to protect their work from some low-brow producer. (Ken???)

Anonymous said...

Having been an actor myself, I completely understood why Bale lost his temper. It was during a pivotal emotional scene which required tremendous focus and concentration.

To have some douchebag walking around while you're stripping yourself naked emotionally is unprofessional and the height of disrespect. Like Bale said they guy "just didn't get it." Techies very often treat a set like a construction site where carpenters hammer on one side of a room while the metal workers clang away on the other. They're completely unaware and uncaring of what an actor really does.

Bale has nothing to apologize for.

Anonymous said...

Totally disagree.

I think Christian is over the top in his reaction, but based on the tape, it sounds like this isn't the first time the D.P. has been doing stuff during a scene.

And I agree with Bale that you have to be amateur to be tweaking with anything on the set while someone is trying to do a take.

I'll put up with someone's monkey business a couple of times, but after a while I'm gonna lose it. I went a little nuts on Dish Network last night because they were going to charge me yet again for problems with their service.

I can relate.

Anonymous said...

For those who see Bale as potentially justified...what would have happened had Bale knocked into a light, causing the DP to have to recreate his work? If the DP launched into an identical tirade at Bale, what do you think would have happened to him? Unless their positions are equally secure and their power on the set equivalent, it makes Bale a bully, regardless of whether or not the guy "got it".

VP81955 said...

Back in the day, stars such as Carole Lombard, Jean Harlow and Clark Gable were known for being anything but obstinate on the set, and were genuinely beloved by crew members; they would make sure the "little people" weren't bullied about by directors or studio executives.

I'm wondering if it was because their salaries, although large for the time, were paid by the studio, just as crew members were, and they felt in the same boat with them. Harlow never financed her own film projects, although Lombard was de facto producer of some of her later movies (one of the first stars to do that) and Gable never was involved in the production end until after leaving MGM in 1954.

Today's stars work independently, make huge salaries and often finance their own projects. They have more of an opportunity to be a monster than their counterparts of the '30s who were largely vassals of the studios...even if they were perceived as gods and goddesses away from the studio gates.

wv: "emanc" -- street lingo for what Lincoln did (happy 200th, Abe!)

Anonymous said...


You've made a false analogy. An actor accidentally knocking into a light is not the same as a callous DP who continually strolls around during an actor's take.

I agree that Bale's reaction was over the top but if you listen carefully to the tape you'll hear the DP arrogantly continuing to argue and justify his actions instead of apologizing for being such an insensitive douche.

I'm afraid you don't "get it" either.

Anonymous said...


The analogy doesn't require Bale to have done it accidentally. If he callously started moving lights around to give himself more freedom to move, let's say, the DP would still never get away with the kind of outburst on the recording. As for the DP (whom I admit was probably wrong in the first place) and his "arrogance", how many of us would react to that treatment with humble supplication?

The larger point here is that having a creative job is not a license to behave however one wishes, with no regard for courtesy or dignity. As someone with vast professional experience, how many times did you behave that way?

Rock Golf said...

That Casey Kasim tape referred to herein is hilarious. "Jesus Christ! How many times have I told you - don't come out of a goaddam uptempo number and have me do a dedication to a goddam dead dog." "This next act is U2. That's the letter "you" and the number two." "This is Casey Kasim reminding you to listen to American Top 40 at it new time, Saturday mornings at 3 am. Three AM?!?!"

Anonymous said...

Split the difference -- Bale was absolutely justified in getting pissed, and absolutely unjustified in the vehemence and length of his rant.

Do DPs routinely wander around adjusting equipment DURING a take? What about "quiet on the set?" Even if he stayed out of the actor's eyeline, he'd risk making a distracting noise or odd lighting change. Why would the director stand for this?

And Bale should've known that his tirade would make everyone, including his fellow actor in the scene, very uncomfortable, taking everyone even further out of "the moment" than the DP had. Couldn't believe he actually said "Go again" instead of taking the director's advice to cool off first. Unless maybe he thought the angry energy would work for the scene. But there's the rub - we're only privy to what's on the recording, plus rumors about what may have led up to it.

Anonymous said...

Then there's this.

Kirk said...

Is it true that, in person, stars are smaller than life?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of nightmares, I just read Kelsey Grammer is directing Cybil Shepard in a pilot for a new Lifetime comedy series. I hope all the writers and the rest of the cast and crew are up to date on their meds.

Anonymous said...

Yet, it's good to hear that Kelsey is back working after his heart problems.

Mate Famber said...

This is what drives me nuts about some actors.

In any other industry, a tirade like that would get you a nice pink slip or at the very least, a suspension or fine.
Star athletes even. They would get a fine or suspension. If a hotshot, top of the profession lawyer acted this way in a courtroom he would be reprimanded.
Acting is the only profession where apologists will line up at the door to protect these assholes.
There is absolutely no excuse for behaving this way. Period. Spare me the "part John Connor/part Christian" pretencious, actor bullshit psychobabble.

Jason said...

Come-to-Jesus talks happen in many different industries. Someone fucks up repeatedly, they get an ass-chewing. No big deal. This is a pretty good one, and at under 4 minutes, no longer than a good pop song.

The other famous one is "The Guys Get Shirts" by Paul Anka, but that one's a lot longer.

My favorite come-to-Jesus meeting in film is delivered by Alec Baldwin in "Glengarry Glen Ross". I don't know if Bale's quite lives up to that standard, but it was pretty damn good for improvisation.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of nightmares, I just read Kelsey Grammer is directing Cybil Shepard in a pilot for a new Lifetime comedy series. I hope all the writers and the rest of the cast and crew are up to date on their meds.

WTF? Is Kelsey trying give himself yet another "cardiac event"?

I'm happy as hell he's working but DAYUM! Cybil? That's just insanity!

Anonymous said...

This is Kelsey's kharmic payback for giving money to the Republicans.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Anonymous, you suck at Mad Libs.

Anonymous said...

That performance deserves an Oscar..... Oscar the Grouch. I wonder if good ole Christian Bale was channeling another C.B. Chris Berman during that tirade there.

Anonymous said...

McEwan: as repellent as Grammer was during the press run for An American Carol, no one deserves Cybill. No one.

Anonymous said...

Give me Clive Owen. Tom Hanks.
Robert Downey Jr. Chris Cooper.

Nevermind the Christian Bale guy.


Anonymous said...

"Dan Coyle said...
McEwan: as repellent as Grammer was during the press run for An American Carol, no one deserves Cybill. No one."

America didn't deserve Bush either. Payback's a bitch, and in this case, the bitch is named Cybill.

Anonymous said...

Off Topic


You've been spammed. Some jerkoff posted an ad about a D&D game in the comments of your Batman goes Batshit post.

Anonymous said...

Off Topic


You've been spammed. Some jerkoff posted an ad about a D&D game in the comments of your Batman goes Batshit post.

Anonymous said...

My favorite part of the whole thing was when people would post things like "Haven't you ever lost it on someone?". And I would think "this is normal? Most people wander around giving sadistic 4 minute tirades without fear of reprisal from either karma, or someone's right hook?" I had no idea. No. I've never done this.