After gaining 40-plus pounds to play Dick Cheney in last year’s “Vice,” Christian Bale knew he would need to lose considerable weight for his next role, champion racer Ken Miles, in Fox’s “Ford v Ferrari,” or the historical racing film would stall at the gate.
“I had to get in the car,” Bale told Variety at Monday’s “Ford v Ferrari” premiere of shedding Cheney’s physicality to transform into a gritty Le Mans driving pro. “I could not bloody – these things are not made for comfort, these cars. They’re tight. So, I couldn’t bloody get in them. That would have been a whole different film.”
“Ford v Ferrari” began filming in summer 2018, and “Vice” wrapped in late 2017, leaving the actor with a very short window to lose the weight he added for “Vice.”
About playing Miles, who was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America posthumously in 2001, Bale added, “He was an easy character to channel intensity into, but a great deal of fun as well. He was a guy who really enjoyed his life. He loved what he did. That’s why he was so passionate and despised the bureaucrats who would come along and spoil all the fun, basically. He just thought there was no room for them in racing.”
While Bale’s “Ford v Ferrari” co-star Matt Damon did not physically transform himself for the film, he brought a similar intensity to his real-life character, Carroll Shelby. Shelby was a longtime specialized racing car mechanic, driver and Motorsports Hall of Fame of America inductee.
“I watched a lot of footage of him to try to get a sense of how to do it,” Damon told Variety. “You just try to get the essence of the person, so that people who remember him go, ‘Yeah, you’re in the neighborhood.’ Then just try to tell the story as best you can.”
In attendance Monday were Disney’s Bob Iger and former Fox executive Peter Chernin, the latter of whom co-produced “Ford v Ferrari,” which represented the still-crystallizing union of Disney and 20th Century Fox after March’s $71.3 billion super-acquisition of Fox by Disney. Director James Mangold told Variety that, before being sold, Fox was a key player in getting “Ford v Ferrari” made in the first place.
“Fox took a risk because it wasn’t cheap, and I guess they felt like I had a way through,” Mangold explained. “There is only so much a studio is willing to spend in an age when grownups aren’t going to the theater anymore in the same numbers.”
Bale, Damon and Mangold were joined at the premiere celebration by cast members Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Jon Bernthal and Francesco Bauco, where a trio of Ford and Ferrari cars sat on opposite ends of the red carpet, including a 1966 Ford GT40 MKH and 1966 Ferrari P3, both models used in the film.
“Ford v Ferrari” hits theaters Nov. 15.