One of the most surprising aspects of Ridley Scott's upcoming biblical action epic Exodus: Gods and Kings is that it marks the first director/actor collaboration between Scott and star Christian Bale. Just seems these two should've crossed filmmaking paths long before now, does it not? Lucky for us and audiences, we'll soon get to see the fruits of their labor when Exodus arrives in theaters December 12. Until then, there is a new trailer to analyze along with intel from Bale himself.
Last night in Los Angeles Screen Rant was invited to view the trailer and roughly 30 minutes of footage, followed by a ten-minute conversation with Bale moderated by Fandango's Dave Karger. As expected from a Ridley Scott-directed sword/sandals epic based on the story of Moses leading 600,000 slaves out of Egypt, the trailer and footage teased killer action sequences and battle scenes, a cast of thousands which includes Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingley, Joel Edgerton, Aaron Paul, John Turturro and some of history's earliest family drama between Moses and Rhamses (Edgerton).
Here were the big takeaways from Bale and the presentation:
The film's scope is specific and focused:
"The biggest issue was about how much you could include because [the story] is so dense, you really could make an 8-hour-length film," Bale said of early discussions he had with Scott about the film. "You really had to make a choice about how far you went with the story. It's called 'Exodus' for a reason, it's not called 'Moses.' Steve Zailian who wrote the screenplay really felt it was a story of revolution so it's his story up through the Exodus, you can see we went up through the crossing of the Red Sea, but it was tricky."
Bale's research for the role began with Monty Python:
"The very first film I rented immediately after meeting with Ridley and while I was still trying to get my head wrapped around it, thinking whether it was something that could be possible, I went and rented The Life of Brian, which is a favorite film of mine, a beautifully made film," Bale revealed with a smile. "The point being that not only do I enjoy that film but anything where you are approaching it from a very earnest point of view can have the potential to become The Life of Brian very quickly, so it was sort of the guiding light throughout and I must confess, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" was kind of always humming through my head. And then after that I rented Mel Brooks' History of the World: Part 1. You have to get it out of your system. You have to have humor with something that is as earnest as this and as heavy as this, you have to add an element of comedy during your everyday life during filming because otherwise it becomes too exhausting."
No Moses character study is complete without some Charlton Heston, minus the happy tone:
"Yes I did re-watch The Ten Commandments, Bale said. "The main difference I looked at is, well you know, you can't out-Heston Charlton Heston. This was a man with an incredible weight on his shoulders. This is about a man straining. He fought against being the Chosen One, kept trying to get out of the gig when he was on the mountain and it was something you can imagine was not an easy job and I felt with Ten Commandments it was very much sort of an uplifting [tone], with doves and Aaaaah [Sings a high-pitched Heavenly/church-like note], everything took flight almost, and I felt like ours should be about the guy desperately trying to move forward because of the enormous pressure that is on him."
Frogs and horses and camels, oh my:
While the production does have around 1,500 visual effects, there were hundreds of live animals used during filming, including more than 100 horses for one of the battle sequences and 400 frogs for one of the plague sequences.
"I imagine with the frogs there was a lot of stepping on them, I wasn't actually there for the frogs," Bale joked when asked which animals he enjoyed working with the most and which were most challenging. "I was around a lot of horses who were kicking each other and trying to bite me and camels who, as we were crossing the red sea they like to relieve themselves a lot and you know, you just get used to less than glamorous situations, things bumping up against you, 'What's that against my leg? Oh that is what I think it is.'"
Bale's favorite Ridley Scott movie is Alien
"Hmm I guess, you know the one that keeps coming into my head is Alien ," Bale said when asked to name his favorite Ridley Scott film. "But that was also a lot of fun watching it with friends, it was a lot to do with the evening as well. He's done so many, that's the one that keeps on going in my head."
Exodus: Gods and Kings opens December 12.