There’s committing to a role, and then there’s committing to a role. To play tormented, sleep-deprived factory worker Trevor Reznik, Christian Bale — normally 6’2”, 180 pounds — got down to a ghastly 120 pounds. ”I just didn’t eat,” says the actor, who completed the transformation by sleeping as little as two hours a night. ”It becomes easier as your stomach shrinks. You break every [action] down to what is essential because you just do not have the energy to do anything that isn’t.”
Described by director Brad Anderson as a ”paranoid psychological thriller” about ”a guy battling his guilty conscience,” ”The Machinist,” which debuted at this year’s Sundance festival, takes place in a dark, decaying metropolis that echoes Trevor’s horrific mental and physical state. ”We tried to create an unidentifiable West Coast city,” says Anderson, whose previous effort, 2001’s insane-asylum thriller ”Session 9,” was also an exercise in creepiness. ”So the film has this weird, timeless, placeless quality to it.” (Ironically, for financial reasons, the $5 million movie was shot in the dead of summer in sun-drenched Barcelona.)
Long since back to his normal eating and sleeping patterns — not to mention his buff ”Batman Begins” bod — Bale is thrilled with the end result. It’s a ”very atmospheric and mesmerizing movie,” he says. ”And I’m so proud. There were absolutely no concessions made for the sake of a wider audience. We made the movie we all wanted to make.”
WHAT’S AT STAKE Anderson’s been on the verge of crossing over from cult-indieville since 1998’s ”Next Stop Wonderland.” But without that ”wider audience,” ”The Machinist” may not be his ticket.