Hostiles: Interview with Star Christian Bale

Native American Culture

Christian Bale: Well, growing up in England, I did not know a whole lot regarding Native Americans.  A very rudimentary understanding of it, and it was a fascinating journey.  I studied primarily with a man named Chief Phillip Whiteman who was the Chief of the Northern Cheyenne.  And I actually looked, in my fuzzy state, I actually looked for these pages that the Chief had given me to do with the circular nature of Cheyenne belief compared to the linear nature of Blockers belief.  Of course couldn’t find it. But this was a man who had just wonderful, wonderful bearing about him.  We would do blessings every single morning, especially at certain sights where they were sacred sites.  And what we were filming, was thought to be disturbing if we didn’t do blessings, and you had very toughened horse wranglers and kind of modern day cowboys, reduced to tears by Chief Phillip, by his incantations and blessings, and an incredibly soulful man, and had a great impact upon me.  But obviously with this character, what you are dealing with is someone who has learned to hate, it’s necessary to hate.  And is a very intelligent man and understands as Wes Studi’s character of Yellow Hawk, he would behave in very much the same way if he was put in his position.  But that’s not his position, and has learned this hatred which now has become real and is the same in so many battles because of the loss of so many of his brothers to this man.  And what I loved about the story was this very gradual return to humanity by this character Blocker.  And I like very much as well the way that Scott did it and we intentionally avoided, we really wanted to avoid any massive epiphanies where he suddenly changes completely because we said no, this is decades engrained in the man’s bones.  And in my life, I don’t know about you guys, you have momentous occasions, but it usually takes a while to really comprehend them and actually start to implement any change because of them.  So I liked very much that there is this arc, but it’s difficult to identify the exact moments where change was occurring versus it sort of being one slightly messier change as he returns to humanity.


Research and Factuality

CB: It’s a film, not a documentary.  I am not familiar with that review, so I can’t answer to that directly.  But from the sounds of it, it was suggesting and saying that there were atrocities by Comanche, and well there were horrendous tragedies enacted on both sides.  But in the enormous difference in that one is defending their homeland from genocide.  The other is not.  And that is always in Blocker’s mind.  He’s an incredibly intelligent man, he knows all the time that he’s not defending anything, he’s invading.  But when you come across for instance the scene with Rosalie, played by Rosamund Pike, you see the atrocity that has occurred there as a human being, regardless of the historical accuracy of the cavalry actually being far more barbaric.  You can’t help but understand that those men are men and that they are going to feel intense hatred about them.  And so it was very nice.  There’s the difference between Scott, who is obviously looking at it from a much larger perspective, and myself, and I am just looking at it from Blocker’s point of view entirely there.  And I like very much that Scott doesn’t kind of wrap it up all very neatly, and there are many questions left at the end of the film.  He made so much the right call, because I was arguing so much with him about that ending, I kept saying to him, no, no, no, no, no, he can’t get on the train, he can’t get on the train.  I shouldn’t be saying that, because that gives away the ending, doesn’t it? And I was saying no, no, it has to be an unknown, it has to be a complete unknown.  But it really works.  And I find that you make films and sometimes you just find yourself, I don’t know if hardened is the word, but sort of just knowing it too well to be able to be as affected by it any longer.  And I don’t find that with “Hostiles” at all, I am affected by it greatly and it’s absolutely one of my favorite films that I have ever made, ever been involved with, from beginning to end, through the process of making it, and then the reward of seeing it.

Indian Reservations

CB: There’s a history of terrible treatment towards Native Americans, a far more subtle attempt to destroy them and the violent attempt to destroy them that we see represented more in the film.  The reservations were often just a slow death to many and it was important.  And obviously it’s a ridiculously embarrassing chapter in human history isn’t it? It was still a form of genocide, just one that took longer.  The thing that your question is making me think of is Little Bear at the end of the film, where he has no parents left, you have these very damaged individuals, Rosalie, who lost her children, and it’s a very natural inclination for her to want to take Little Bear under her wing.  Blocker is learning to have compassion and actually be able to convey that in some way and in his limited way, and he hands this book to him which has been really deeply meaningful to him his entire life.  So at the same time you are seeing love exhibited.  You are also seeing a young child who is being stripped of his culture.  And it’s this balance which there didn’t seem to be any good answer to.  And easy for me to say now isn’t it, no it seemed like an important idea, and these are people whose spirits are meant to roam free and have their freedom and they were prisons, the reservations were prisons really.

Reteaming with Q’Orianka Kilcher after the film, The New World

CB: We had seen each other a couple of times. I first met Q’orianka, actually I didn’t meet her, she didn’t know, I would watch her on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and she was a performer there.  It was before we made “The New World,” and my wife and I would go and we would walk up there and we said that there is this incredible girl who has just the most amazing energy about her and voice.  And we would just watch her and she was singing there and we would give money, but more importantly just appreciate how wonderful she was.  And then Terry Malick came and he said they had an exhaustive search and they found this wonderful girl and her name is Q’orianka Kilcher, and they showed me a picture, and I went I know her, I watch her, she is at the Promenade all the time.  She’s got fierce talent, and it was wonderful to see her again.


Lack of Awareness of Native Americans at Present

CB: I don’t have a good answer for that. I’m afraid I am not really cognizant about why there would have been that lack.  It’s also like I said, it’s so heavily present in my mind that I don’t relate to that, it’s something that seems very pressing.  There was all of the news about the pipeline, etc, my feeling is like there is this resurgence, would you agree with that?  I am afraid I don’t know, if you are correct about the past three decades of the ignorance.