We were among the first in the world to witness over 20 minutes of footage for Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings, then we saw the premiere of that powerful Exodus: Gods and Kings trailer. How do you top that? Well, star Christian Bale proceeded to take to the stage at the Zanuck Theater on the 20th Century Fox lot and talked to us about his experience making the biblical epic that chronicles the vast scope that is the life of Moses.
"He really was a very troubled and tumultuous man," Bale said of his investigation into the world of Moses. "He was very mercurial."
Bale tackled a varied list of sources when trying to find the man behind the icon. “I read the Torah, the Pentateuch, the stories that people recommended -- one of them I enjoyed a great deal was called Moses: the Life, Legends of the Jews -- and the Quran as well,” Bale said.
The Oscar winner then proceeded to rent a few movies to get a feel for the biblical tales that had been told before. Some of his choices may surprise. “The very first film I rented immediately after a meeting with Ridley was (Monty Python’s) The Life of Brian,” he said and laughed.
There was a method to that reasoning. “Anything where you’re approaching it from a very earnest point of view can unintentionally become The Life of Brian. It was a guiding light for me.”
His cinematic biblical humor journey did not stop there. “Immediately after that I rented Mel Brooks’ History of the World. You have to get it out of your system and you have to understand what it is that we can unintentionally make funny,” Bale reported.
“And you have to have humor. As earnest and as heavy as this, you have to have an element of comedy at your everyday life during film because otherwise it just becomes too exhausting.”
Did he re-watch The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston?
“I did. You know you can’t out-Heston Charles Heston,” Bale admitted and smiled.
“In my reading of the five books, I noticed this was an incredible weight he (Moses) was lifting on his shoulders. This should be something where you see a man really straining. That is of his nature. He really fought against being chosen. Ours should be a Moses just desperately trying to move forward because of the enormous pressure this is on him.”
Bale and Scott knew each other, but never quite found the right project to connect professionally. That is until Scott decided to take on the biblical story that is among the most widely known. “Ridley and I talked together often and said, 'Let’s find something,' and that was about four years ago, five years ago,” Bale said. “Then he turned up and said, 'I’ve got something. It’s Moses.' 'Swords and sandals?' 'Yeah, straight up Moses!'”
He immediately was drawn to it, simply because of Scott’s vision for how to tell this story. See, Exodus: Gods and Kings is the tale of the Jews leaving Egypt after centuries of slavery.
“There had to be a choice about how far we went with the story. It’s called Exodus for a reason, it’s not called Moses,” Bale said. “It was a story of revolution.”
One thing that was evident, even from that first Exodus: Gods and Kings trailer, is that there is a lot of guyliner used in the production. Bale was more than ready for that aspect!
“In the Egyptian part, these are people who lived as gods and therefore there’s a reputation to uphold and a beauty that they must convey. I’ve done a glam rock film before (Velvet Goldmine) and I was good at putting on my own eyeliner,” Bale said.
When he headed off to film Exodus: Gods and Kings, he tried not to think too much about the gargantuan task that lay ahead, much of it relying on his shoulders as the man who would be the legend that is Moses.
“It is because I’m a real prat, so you go, ‘Wow, look at that. Look at all the people -- that’s a kilometer long. That’s amazing. What are they waiting for? Oh.’ You act it as though you can handle all this. To me that’s not an unhealthy thing,” Bale said.
“The day that I looked at something that size and thought I should probably be in the middle of that, I’d probably just hate myself.”
Want to see what we learned from those 20 minutes of Exodus: Gods and Kings footage? Click through the slideshow below and find out!