In an interview from November 2010, Esquire asked Christian Bale: “You were this singing, dancing, happy kid. What happened to you?”
Bale responded with: “I’m still singing and dancing and happy. I just don’t like musicals, that’s all.”
But it’s time for that dancing, singing, happy Christian Bale to return, because there is a film on the horizon that he needs to be in: Les Miserables.
It was announced several weeks ago that Russell Crowe is joining the cast of the 2012 film adaptation of the musical adaptation of the novel Les Miserables, meaning that we now have Hugh Jackman portraying Jean Valjean and Crowe as Javert.
The rest of the cast includes Bland Hathaway, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham-Singer. This is an unfortunate supporting cast, but the silver lining is that Bland is portraying a character who basically sings one song and then dies right away.
Now, I’m not going to drag this out. It’s obvious what’s missing, and it’s obvious what a good fit Bale is for this film. He has already been in stunning films with both Jackman and Crowe, playing rivals to them in The Prestige and 3:10 to Yuma, respectively. But Jackman and Crowe are squaring off against one another in Les Mis as the altruistic criminal-turned-mayor-turned-adoptive-father and the obsessed, I-only-believe-in-absolutes detective, and there appears to be no room in sight for Bale. While Bale could have played either of these characters, he won’t. Leaving him out of it. Unless…
There are two other male characters who appear to still be up-for-grabs. The first is Marius Pontmercy, the young rebel who falls in love with the grown-up girl who Jean Valjean adopts (Cosette). While Bale could theoretically play this character, it wouldn’t make much sense, as he would be playing the eventual son-in-law of Hugh Jackman, and they’re the same age. The role would be better off with someone like Ryan Gosling.
Which narrows down Bale’s options to either a guy who sings a song and dies, which there are several of, or… Monsieur Thenardier. The actual villain. The one-armed man to this tale’s Dr. Richard Kimble and Tommy Lee Jones.
Check this crazy guy out, in what might be the best song ever:
Has Bale ever played someone this scummy? I feel like he has, but I’m having trouble coming up with it – someone this dirty and conniving, the sort who cheats and robs, steals gold teeth from dead bodies and adopts children to use as slaves.
Bale can also strike the very difficult role of portraying both the comic relief of the musical and the villain at the same time. Thenardier will be the most difficult element of the musical to bring to the screen: on stage, it’s okay to have someone who is little more than a cartoon villain, strutting around in makeup and ridiculous costumes, getting laughs from his malice and greed. But on the big screen? This isn’t a Johnny Depps of the Caribbean movie. Which is precisely why Geoffrey Rush, the current choice for Thenardier, is not an option. Let Rush stick to hamming it up next to sea monsters. Bring Bale in to give some realistic depth to this character that would otherwise be a caricature.
Finally, there is simple reason to have Bale act in the long-awaited film version of Les Mis. Remember Patrick Bateman’s obsession with Les Miserables? Remember this?