Age is no hurdle: satisfy the world’s oldest top athletes

Richard Godwin catches up with five pensioners, aged up to 108, who flourish on extreme exercise

Edwina Brocklesby: triathlete, 76, Kingston-upon-Thames

I didn’t do any exercising at all until I was 50. I recollect trying out for the long-jump team at university for a giggle and I couldn’t move for two weeks afterwards. So that was the end of my athletics career. And then I had three children and I was busy with my job. I was a social worker and ran two adoption agencies.

One day, I went to see an old friend from Nottingham University who was running a marathon. I thought that would be fun to do, at least a half marathon, anyway. I came back and told my husband and he laughed and said I wouldn’t even be able to run as far as Northampton, which was about three miles from where we lived at the time. It’s good to have a challenge like that! Sure enough, it did inspire me to operate my first half marathon.

Then my husband died when I was 52. By then I had a small group of running friends and the issue is brilliantly supportive. I developed as a counsellor myself, but I saw running better than counselling for dealing with sorrow. For one, you always feel better after you’ve been for a operate as the endorphins kick in. But I think what is more important is the social part. You’re with people who support you and value you. You can talk if you want to, or you can be silent if you want to.

The operating club was merely small, but it did have one place in the London Marathon- and that’s when it became more serious for me. I ran my first marathon in 1996, when I was 53. I moved to London and became a member of the Serpentine Running Club and, with them, I completed my first London Triathlon when I was 58. I don’t have an anterior cruciate ligament in either knee- my daughter told me that I’d need surgery if I kept pounding the street like I used to- and that’s how I got into cycling and swimming as they’re a little easier on the joints. When I started swimming, at 56, I couldn’t do crawl at all and swam breaststroke with my head above water like most women of my age. But swimming is a wonderful feeling. It might have something to do with our expending the first nine months of our gestation suspended in water.

There’s so much evidence that if you keep physically active, you don’t experience some of the difficulties associated with ageing. There are lower rates of type 2 diabetes among the active, but falling over is the biggest thing. If you are able to keep your bone and muscle strength up, you’re less likely to fall- and you might also be able to prevent yourself from reaching the ground if you do fall. Falls are one of the things that costs the NHS the most money.

I’m getting slower as I get older, of course I am. I do manage to run 5k, but I stroll a bit more. I feel lucky that I can still jog along the Thames.

Edwina Brocklesby is the director of Silverfit, a charity that promotes physical activity among ageing people. She is also the UK’s oldest Ironman triathlete. She was recently awarded the British Empire Medal

Eddy Diget: personal trainer, 74, Milton Keynes

Eddy ‘ Mature people are much more well informed the goodness that can come out of training ‘: Eddy Diget. Photograph: Pal Hansen/ The Observer

I’ve always developed: cross-country operating; ice skating; roller skating; fencing; cycling … I represented England in the Commonwealth Games in Perth 1962 in diving and swimming. I’ve been doing weight training for about 45 years now and I was British bodybuilding champion twice, once at 58 and once at 68. I’ve been a stuntman. I was a medical officer in the Royal Navy. And I have been recognised as a Shaolin Master for my commitment to Chinese martial art. Some Shaolin monks turned up at my studio in Oxford Brookes one day in their saffron robes and presented me with a piece of parchment. I broke down and weep. It was such an honour.

In a way, I have my father to thank. He was an extremely aggressive human. A big human, too. He been applied to knock me and my mother about quite a bit. The only style I could escape from him was to be outside and that’s how I detected sport.

One day, when I was 16, I was fishing at Tooting Bec ponds when my mum came round with a black eye. She said:” Joe’s in a real bad mood. He’s coming to find you .” All of a sudden, my father come in the hill and started punching me. I believe I was coming up to a brown waistband in kung fu at the time- and I just tore into him. It was over in seconds, 16 years of pent-up dread and abhor. I blinded him in one eye, which I wasn’t happy about. But after that we were the best of mates. And he was a different human. A respectful man. He never touched my mother again.

People have become more educated about being fit over the years, especially the over-5 0s and over-6 0s. Matured people are much more aware of the goodness that can come out of training.

But younger people including with regard to are looking for a quick fix. The personal trainers are all 10 mg of this, 10 mg of that. It’s become too complicated. You consider the same people come into the gym every day, doing the same exercises. It’s so they don’t have to think about it. But the more you change it, the more outcomes you’ll get.

I am a rehab consultant, so I train people who have had cancer, wheelchair users, people with chronic regional ache syndrome, amputees. But I also develop Ironmen, ultra-marathon runners- and an Olympic fencer. It really is an extreme diversity of clients and I feel incredibly privileged and humbled to do it. Personal develop is not really about the training, it’s much more to do with the person.

I’d never been ailment in 74 years, never even been inside a hospital. But last year, thanks to the NHS bowel screening programme, I learned I had bowel cancer. I went in on the 19 November at 11 am and came out a 8.30 pm with a whole section removed. I’m pleased to say I’ve never had any pain at all because of my fitness. The consultant commented on it before my surgery. He said:” I don’t see many people with your stamina or your outlook .” But I’m a fatalist. There’s nothing I can do about it. I’m just pleased I caught it. And now I feel fabulous. I feel on top of the world.

Eddy Diget is a stuntman, model and personal trainer at the DW Fitness First gym in Milton Keynes

Gwyn Haslock: surfer, 73, Truro

Gwyn ‘ I entered my first competitor in 1965 as the only girl, and then I was the first proper British ladies’ champion in 1969 ‘: Gwyn Haslock in Cornwall. Photo: Sarah Lee/ The Guardian

My family always used to go to the sea when I was growing up. We all started surfing in the 1950 s on the north coast of Cornwall with wooden belly committees, which are like timbers of wood. Then the lifeguards started to import Malibu longboards, which were 10 ft long, and before long they started constructing them there in Newquay. I bought a secondhand one and started properly surfing in 1965.

I wasn’t what you’d call a typical surfer like in the Beach Boys songs. A lot of the good surfers run in the surfing trade, in surf shops and so on, but I worked for the council as a shorthand typist. It was very 9 to 5, but I surfed at weekends.

I just liked the sea. And when I find people standing up as if they were strolling across the water, I thought, I’d like to have a go at that. It took me about a month before I could stand up and a year before I got any style. I entered my first competition in 1965 as the only woman, and was the first proper British ladies’ champ in 1969. But like any sport, you’re always learning.

I always say to people, the most important thing with surfing is paddling. You’ve got to paddle out, so you have to duck dive under the waves or push yourself over them. Then you’re” out the back”, as we call it. You’ll insure a lovely wave coming, paddle for it and up you get. You need to be fit to build up the momentum and then it’s like drift in air, but across the wave. Sometimes it’s just seconds, sometimes the wave peels and it can go on and on. Sometimes at Fistral, you get nice long rides right along the beach. But the conditions are never the same and it always tests you.

I’ve never seen any sharks in Cornwall. I have surfed near dolphins and you do find seals sometimes. I sprained my wrist once, but I’ve never had any bad collision. I know my limits and now I wear my helmet. I want to enjoy it.

I never married. I lived with my mother until she died seven years ago, and I’ve been retired for eight years now. When I was working, I couldn’t run surfing in the week so much, but now I can go whenever I like, which is good as it gets busy at weekends. Back in the 60 s there was a lot more water space- it wasn’t like now when everyone’s in there. I like playing tennis, too. I do a bit of fencing. Gardening. There’s lots of things to do.

I’ve surfed in Wales, Ireland, France and once in Portugal. Australia and New Zealand … they don’t appeal to me at all. I did go to California on holiday once and we drove through Malibu and I wasn’t that impressed with it to be honest. We have plenty of surf down here, why do I need to go anywhere else?

Gwyn Haslock was Britain’s first competitive female surfing champion

Ida Keeling: sprinter, 104, Harlem, New York

Ida ‘ I go to the gym, ride my bike, work out, stretching, reach, do push-ups ‘: Ida Keeling with her daughter. Photo: Poon Watchara-Amphaiwan

I was 67 when I started running. I had lost my two sons to drug-related violence- in 1978 and then in 1981. It was so quick. They were stabbed up or shot up or whatever they did to them. Too quick. No warning. It only violated me. I was very depressed.

My daughter Cheryl came by one day and saw I was down in the dumps. That isn’t usually who I am. She wanted to take me out for a mini running and since I was already so down I said:” All right, go ahead .” And it did good for me. It kept me moving. I could feel myself get stronger and feeling more free. It helped me vastly. And I’m still operating now.

I grew up in Harlem, USA, in San Juan Hill- they call it Hell’s Kitchen now. I was one of eight infants. Everybody was poor. There was already a Depression there even before they called it a Depression. But there are happy memories. Children don’t have to pay rent. My papa took us to Central Park on his day off from the factory. We had a good time, looking at all the fishes swimming and doing all the things infants do: operate, play, jumping, roll and all that type of stuff. In the summertime when it was hot, the security forces department would put a sprinkler on top of the fire hydrant for the children to play in.

We hung swingings from the fire escapes at the back of builds. And on Saturdays the bigger boys from across the corner would turn up with a pail and a couple of wooden spoonfuls to drum on it and we’d do the Charleston, the drag, and all else. We played hooky from school to go and watch the Lindy Hop dancers at the Apollo. We had some good times coming from bad times. But Harlem changed when narcotics came in. Everybody wanted to make this quick money. And it dragged in my sons.

I felt like I was being held in a grip, or like I was in a suitcase or something. But the more I operated, the faster and stronger I became. As I was operating like crazy, I released the hold that demise had on me. From then on, I belonged to track and field. I said, shoot, sprinting is faster. I’m not going to do all this long-distance, I’m going to sprint. I wanted to go as fast as I could.

Now I’m 104, I’m not so fast. But I run whatever distance I can and if I start a race, I finish it. I’m always the win for my age group as I don’t have no competitor. I’m usually chasing myself. But I go with what I’ve got left. I go to the gym, I ride my bike, I work out, I stretch, I reach, I do push-ups, I do upper weights, I get on the floor and turn my feet up over my head, and when I don’t get out, I stay right here and work out in my room. I’m as healthy as a 25 -year-old, my doctor says. I have no intent of slowing down. Age ain’t got nothing to do with it. When you really want to do something for yourself, go and do it. And if you fail, try, try, try again.

Fauja Singh: marathon runner, 108, Redbridge

Fauja ‘ Freedom for me is being independently mobile ‘: Fauja Singh, who operated a marathon at 89 and stills walks 5m a day. Photo: Hindustan Times via Getty Images

I was born in a village in Punjab in India in 1911. My memories are of a simple life without the stresses that people all over the world seem to have nowadays. I came from a farming family, and we learned to live within our means after working hard and honestly. We remembered God and were thankful to him. We shared with others less fortunate than ourselves. This is in keeping with the three tenets of my Sikh religion.

I had a happy childhood and I was fostered because I was weak. I couldn’t walk until l was five. I wanted to be sporty, but until then, I lacked the strength. But I enjoyed watching all the simple sporting activities that were prevalent in the rural environment at the time. And I remember the exhilaration all around me when I became strong enough to be able to walk.

As I never went to school, I farmed all of my working life. It was always handy to be able to run after straying cattle, but that was about as exciting as it got.

I didn’t really operate competitively until I arrived in England 20 years ago.

Since then I have been seemed after by one of my two remaining sons- this is the Asian culture where the parents are appeared after by their children. I don’t speak English and not being able to communicate with those whom you fulfill does pose problems, but a smile always helps. I am usually accompanied, but over time I have become familiar with the routes and places I visit regularly. It must be equally frustrating for those who want to communicate with me. One thing is for sure: yelling or saying things slowly does not make it easier- this is what I observed from tourists visiting other countries! Being illiterate and monolingual does have its advantages- I am not aware of any abuse that may be directed at me. Anyone who is different sadly suffers this in the modern world.

When I attempted to run a marathon for the first time at 89, the reactions were mixed. Some were aroused to see if I could do it and wished me well, others doubted I could do it. Those which has now been constant in supporting me “ve had my” coach, Harmander; my working club, Sikhs in the City; and my family.

Training was easy: I simply followed the instructions of my coach without question. If it was a training running, he never let me be exhausted as he said it is good to develop but not so good to strain. When it came to the race, I was simply awestruck by the support from the crowds along the route. My coach-and-four always ran alongside me and held me back from exerting myself too much in the early stages of the race. He then encouraged me to keep going later on in the race, when the going got tough. I also then started talking to God to help me get through to the finish.

I don’t think I operated competitively in the true sense- it was simply a instance of me finishing a distance as fast as I could. My records seem to be simply a by-product of my age. Records are meant to be broken and I wish the person who breakings my records all the best. If operating a marathon at my age has inspired others to not give up then I am pleased to have had a positive impact on society.

My last race was the Hong Kong 10 km in 2013 when I was 101. Currently, I am not able to run as I have a hernia, but I remember fondly the feeling of freedom when I used to run not so long ago. I am merely pleased that I am still mobile and independent. I still walk about five miles each day.

Freedom for me is being independently mobile, and retaining a sound mind and a positive outlook. The rest is up to God.

Fauja Singh has been awarded the British Empire Medal. He is thought to be the oldest person to complete a marathon, but as India did not issue birth certificates in 1911, the record is deemed unofficial. This interview was translated by Harmander Singh

Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure discussion remains on topics raised by the writer. Please be aware there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site. experiences data security incident – Idaho News experiences data security incident  Idaho News

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It’s not just bikini parades that have had their day. So has Miss America | Barbara Ellen

Even with the best will, you cant reform beauty tournaments they just need to disappear

The bikini forbidding brought in by the Miss America contestmanages to feel both welcome and absurd. The all-female organisers of the 97 -year-old pageant are responding to # MeToo by ditching the swimwear round( four years after Miss World got rid of it ). It’s being replaced by an” interactive segment” where contestants explain their achievements and aims. They can also wear” whatever they want” in the eveningwear round and there will be” all female shapes and sizes “. Miss America wants to stop being viewed as a pageantry, more as a competition that helps smart young women pay for college. Which sounds workable- simply get back to us when the contestants are allowed to wear paper bags on their heads.

There’s been a backlash to the ban from former contestants and what one could only presume to be time-travellers from 1972, who strongly feel that girls should have the right to express their inner beauty, academic brilliance and profound insights on environmental issues via the medium of the string bikini. While those running Miss America should be applauded for dismissing the naysayers, what about the biggest, most female-positive change of all- stopping Miss America altogether? In fact, ditching all beauty pageantries? And I include those creepy ones where eight-year-old girls are tarted up to resemble the demise masks of meth-addicted Baby Janes.

While there are male equivalents to these contests, these principally focus on bodybuilding, with the contestants sometimes resembling steroid-infested, fake-tanned police lineups. While it’s undoubtedly intriguing to see how intense exercise and “supplements” can manipulate the human sort to the point that it becomes its own tangerine-hued bouncy castle, the only plausible response to some of those involved seems to be to scream and running. Yet the female pageants manage to be worse, because of history, context and the facts of the case that, despite all the earnest cheerleading for intellect and personality, they principally revolve around an anachronistic grading of female looks.

There lies the problem for Miss America and any other pageants wishing, however sincerely, to modernise. Just restyling as a competition( that happens to feature gorgeous women ), getting rid of bikinis and allowing in token plus-size contestants doesn’t alter the fact that the entire premise is the notion of beauty as the only female currency that truly matters. There can’t be any nods to #MeToo or anything else powered by the newly invigorated female resistance, when their very existence undermines the fact that it should be what girls say and do that counts , not how they look. In this way, an “empowered” beauty pageantry becomes … merely a very pretty-looking oxymoron.

If Miss America genuinely wishes to ring the changes, it should consider disappearing wholly. In the meantime, regarding the” whatever you want” eveningwear round, one hears The Handmaid’s Tale look is big this year.

Raise a glass to Gwent police and its plan for drinkers

A scheme in Gwent, south-east Wales, means first-time, drunk-and-disorderly delinquents who get involved in minor battles could avoid penalties and prison sentences by attending a behavioural course.

In the same way that motorists are sent on speed-awareness courses, the drunks would attend the moderately priced class, but avoid further penalties. The police and crime commissioner for Gwent, Jeffrey Cuthbert, said:” When people consume substantial amounts of alcohol, individuals can act out of character .” Quite.

Gwent’s police force is introducing behavioural courses for drunk and disorderly delinquents who get involved in minor battles. Photo: Yui Mok/ PA
I’m reminded of my intense dislike for that petty little phrase” in vino veritas”, which always seemed to be permission to drink-shame people already crippled by filthy hangovers. As in:” Not only am I going to torture you for your appalling behaviour last night, I’m going to make out that this is your true grotty nature that your sober self tries to hide from the world and I’m going to give this trite, judgmental nonsense credence by gushing a bit of Latin in a superior, knowing voice that grates on everyone’s nerves .”

In truth, there’s hardly ever any “veritas” in “vino” – it’s all just vino, or beer, or whatever else you drank. It wasn’t true of me in my drunken heyday, when I was annoying and boring people with my antics, so, bar racist or misogynist outbursts, I’ve always tried to give others the benefit of the doubt. Drunken behaviour merely speaks of a person’s level of inebriation , not their essential character. That was always my excuse and I stuck to it for many years, against stiff opposition and mounting evidence.

Well done, Gwent police for the lateral thinking: the first time they screw up, don’t shame drunks- give them a warn and also a break.

Does my bum look big in this? Well, I certainly won’t be asking Amazon’s robot

There’s a new Amazon device coming out( so far, merely in the US) called the Echo Look, described as” a smart camera that enables you get dressed “. It will judge your outfit and tell you if you look good or bad, employing input from various stylists, style “influencers” and the like.

Amazon’s Echo Look rates two outfits. Photo: Amazon Echo Look
What voices a bit like a computerised “bezzie” isn’t entirely about helping you out, because( and this may shock some people) the advice links to items that you can buy and( another shock) these things are often available from

What woman hasn’t dreamed of an electronic device designed to build her feel paranoid about how she looks?

Then again, what’s new? For too many years, females have been constantly nagged by society at large that they’ll never appear good enough and are fundamentally worthless unless they expend all their fund and every waking hour trying to disguise their core unsightliness. They stagger urgently from product to outfit to hot yoga session in their relentless and doomed quest for acceptance.

Basically, Echo Look is just going to do to women what our systemically sexist culture is already doing- it might just be a bit less spiteful about it.

* Barbara Ellen is an Observer columnist

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Christian Bale: ‘I shall be invited to do a romantic slapstick. I thought they’d lost their minds’

The actor, famous for playing dwell, injury humen, is back playing, well, a dwell, damaged human in the gritty western Hostiles. He talks about why the film industry has to change, balding up to play Dick Cheney and why he will never, ever, do a romcom

The interview’s first surprise is that a chubby, grungy figure is occupying the Beverly Hills hotel sofa reserved for Christian Bale. The impostor sports a shaved head, heavy paunch, worn black T-shirt and khaki camouflage trousers. He looks like a bouncer, perhaps, or a resting football rowdy, but certainly not the man who pops up on listings of the sexiest stars alive. But Bale it is, sink into the seat, inhabiting his latest physical transformation.” I eat a lot of pies ,” he says.

The actor is well known for going to extremes- overeat, starving, bodybuilding- which reshape his physique from Olympian to emaciated to portly and back. He has just done it again, packing on the pounds and running near-bald to play Dick Cheney. At the age of 43, these transformations are not getting easier.” I’ve got to stop doing it. I suspect it’s going to take longer to get this off ,” he says, indicating the belly.

But the the possibilities of Bale not going all the route for a role are, on the basis of the ensuing interview, negligible. He may be from the small Pembrokeshire town of Haverfordwest and speak with an emphatic , non-posh English accent, but he is America’s Zelig: a versatile talent who incarnates his adopted country’s dreams and nightmares with singular physicality and intensity.

A driving force, apparently, is insecurity.” The fact anybody hires me is surprising ,” says the Oscar-winner( for The Fighter in 2011) hired by Terrence Malick, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan and David O Russell. It could be false modesty, but Bale seems genuinely worried that someday the run- on average one or two cinemas a year over the past two decades- could dry up.” That could be really short-lived .”

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Watch the trailer for Christian Bale’s new film Hostiles- video

Bale reputedly has a mood. He was arrested for allegedly assaulting his mother and sister at the Dorchester hotel in London in 2008. The authorities did not press charges, citing insufficient evidence. The same year, he launched an expletive-filled tirade against a director of photography on the decide of Terminator: Redemption in 2009. A leaked audio recording zinged across the internet.

Both are ominous forebodings that set up the interview’s second surprise: today, Bale is affable, chatty, relaxed. He chortles. Perhaps it is because of a cold- he is under the climate and sips lemon tea- but it comes out as a wheezing gurgle that for all the world sounds like Muttley, the cartoon dog.

Asked if the nearly decade-old on-set meltdown dogs him- it is the butt of jokes and parodies- he shrugs.” People don’t mention it to me, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t follow me around. I’m not aware of it if it does .”

Bale has brought glamours, angst and taut menace to memorable roles ranging from Batman to Patrick Bateman, the axe-wielding yuppie of American Psycho( 2000 ). He plays- spoiler alert- another dwell, injury, hyper-masculine character in the powerful film Hostiles . As a US army captain, he is tasked with escorting a Cheyenne chief through 1892 western badlands. Blood flows as Bale’s character shoots, stabs, suffers and mourns.

Bale in American Psycho …’ I’d no idea people watched it as anything other than irony .’ Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd ./ Allstar
The actor contenders
Robert De Niro and Daniel Day-Lewis for diving deep- physically and psychologically. He doesn’t do it for fun.” There is a much easier style, but I can’t do it. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t have any train. I see performers who can only be themselves and then switch and give these really incredible performances, and then switch back to being themselves. I find I start chuckling because I’m too aware that it’s still me. So I try to get as remote as possible. Otherwise, I can’t do it .”

Hence the metamorphoses.” It’s helpful not to look like yourself. If I look in the mirror and go,’ Ah, that doesn’t look like me ,’ that’s helpful .” Bale vowed to not pack on weight again after playing a conman in American Hustle( 2013 ), only to bloat anew to play Cheney in the biopic Backseat( shoot after Hostiles ), leaving him now, days after wrapping, facing another extreme diet.” These gasps are one of the few pairs I’ve got that have these straps on the side so I can still fit into’ em .” A fluctuating waistline, he says, has consequences.” I’m not big on shopping, so you end up with a lot of elasticated things .”

He is calmest, he says, during extreme fasting, such as the time he lost 27 kg( 60 lb) for The Machinist in 2004 (” constructs De Niro look like an uncommitted wuss “, Peter Bradshaw wrote in the Guardian’s review ).” It’s an astonishing experience doing that. When you’re so skinny that you can hardly walk up a flight of stairs … you’re, like, this being of pure think. It’s like you’ve abandoned your body. That’s the most Zen-like state I’ve ever been in my life. Two hours sleep, reading a volume for 10 hours straight without stopping … unbelievable. You couldn’t rile me up. No rollercoaster of feelings .” Alas, it doesn’t last.” As soon as you start putting the food back in your belly, the rollercoaster comes back .”

Sipping his tea, admiring the afternoon sunshine oozing through a canopy of palm trees, Bale ranges over a variety of topics: the US’s polarisation, Hollywood scandals, feminism, the horror of romantic comedies.

Bale in the Machinist …’ It’s like you’ve abandoned your body .’ Photograph: Allstar/ Paramount
First, there is a film to promote. Bale calls Hostiles a western with brutal, modern-day resonance. Based on an unpublished manuscript by the late screenwriter Donald Stewart, it is written, produced and directed by
Scott Cooper, who previously directed Black Mass, Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace.

It opens with the carnage of a white family by Comanches, then shifts to Captain Joe Blocker, a grizzled, racist veteran of the genocidal Indian wars who is forced by political masters to escort a former rival, a dying Cheyenne chief played by Wes Studi, on a 1,000 -mile odyssey to his tribal homeland.

The arc of polarisation and redemption grabbed Bale from the outset.” It was a gut feeling of read it, wanting to read it again and thinking: there’s really something here that I can obsess with for a number of months. It’s an incredible story of American history from the point of view of a human who is absolutely devoured with bigotry and hatred, observing his way back to being human .”

Speaking Cheyenne dialogue was nerve-racking, but uplifting, says Bale.” It’s a beautiful language; very poetic, with a wonderful rhythm to it .” Chief Phillip Whiteman, a Cheyenne consultant who tutored Bale, says the actor nailed it:” The joy that it brought me to hear our speech being preserved through a spirit such as Chris’s, this constructed me emotional. This is going to live on for ever, captured by this big screen .”

The film, shooting on locating in Colorado and New Mexico in the summer of 2016, ended up reflecting Trump-era topics, says Bale.” We didn’t think that when we started it, but it just started becoming clear as we considered what was happening in America- considering how comfy people were becoming in carrying contempt for the other .”

Revelations about sex misconduct in Hollywood underscore the film’s observation that” everything is run by old white men”, he says.” The richness that we could all enjoy if we started espousing a much wider variety of sources of storytelling from women, from minorities .” Worthy hopes, but some critics complain that in Hostiles the native characters are ciphers.

Nonetheless, Bale reckons the cascade of post-Harvey Weinstein scandals will permanently change Hollywood.” I can’t see that this will become a footnote and be swept under the carpet. It does feel like it will change .” Since moving to Los Angeles in the 90 s, he has worked on dozens of movies, indies such as Laurel Canyon, blockbusters such as Exodus: Deities and Kings, and garlanded fare such as The Big Short . But he says he was unaware of sex misconduct in the industry.

” Some people might call me almost reclusive. Nobody rumor with me. I was clueless. If I’m not making a film, I don’t really socialise with that many people who make cinemas. The casting couch, yes, I’d heard of that. But specifics? No , nothing at all. Do I believe that it has all been happening? Absolutely .”

Surprising Bale fact: he is Gloria Steinem‘s stepson. His now-deceased father married the feminist writer in 2000.” It was news to me; I was in Germany ,” says Bale, wheeze-chortling anew.” I found out about it afterwards .” He has not discussed Hollywood’s scandals with her, he says, but considers himself a feminist.” If we’re talking equality, utterly .”

Asked about Ridley Scott expunging Kevin Spacey from All the Money in the World, Bale pauses.” Ridley’s a very smart human, a friend of mine. I imagine he’s made precisely the right choice .” He says he has been too busy shooting Backseat to say more.” I don’t know if the allegations were so egregious that it was a moral option of Ridley’s or if it was a purely business choice .”

In Empire of the Sun with John Malkovich. Photograph: Everett Collection/ Rex Feature
In playing Cheney, Bale tried “pathways to understanding” George W Bush’s vice-president.” What you detect when you start investigating any person is nobody is singularly bad or singularly good. He’s a wonderful family man, by all accounts. He didn’t hesitate for a second when his daughter Mary announced that she was a lesbian despite the fact that was complete anathema to his party at that time .”

Bale withheld his own opinions on Cheney’s politics.” I don’t want to do this as a’ nudge-nudge, wink-wink’ performance. I don’t want to be exposing my own political tilts and then making a little joke. It’s totally irrelevant what I think. I’m an actor, I’m a vessel of that character .”

Bale was born in 1974 to atypical mothers. His mom, Jenny, was a circus musician and “his fathers”, David, an entrepreneur and talent director. They moved often- Bale remembers an idyllic stint in Portugal. The future Batman transgressed into acting aged eight in a commercial for the fabric softener Lenor. Two years later, he was on the West End in London, playing opposite Rowan Atkinson in The Nerd. At 13, he landed the starring role in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of JG Ballard’s memoir Empire of the Sun.

Overnight, he became famous- and the family’s main earner, which prompted a love-hate relationship with acting.” There was nobody( else) to make any money. At that age, it was,’ Oh, Christ, I’ve got to be the breadwinner .’ That was no fun. So there’s always been a bit of loathing because of that .”

After his parents divorced, he moved with “his fathers” to Los Angeles. American Psycho, based on Bret Easton Ellis’s novel, established Bale as a leading man with a very sharp edge.” When I read the book, I was giggling straight away. I’d no idea people considered it as anything other than irony .”

Then came acclaimed performances in Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy, though Bale is self-critical. He wanted the superhero, for once, to be more interesting than the villains. Then Heath Ledger turned in a sublime performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight, leaving the caped crusader relatively vanilla by comparison.” I didn’t attain what my plan was there .”

Bale has admitted conflicted feelings over Ben Affleck inheriting the role , but withholds any verdict on Batman v Superman and Justice League, saying he hasn’t seen either.

His two children- an expression of the results of his marriage to Sandra Blazic- have not insured his own movies, but mock his thespian efforts during games at home, he says.” They think I’m the worst actor ever. My daughter can’t believe that anyone pays me .”

Time’s up, so a final question: has he considered romantic comedy?

Bale at-bats the question back with what sounds like a challenge.” Have you ever enjoyed a romantic slapstick ?” I pause and he presses the phase.” Have you ever enjoyed a romantic slapstick ?”

A few, I say, but my intellect blanks.

” Can you name’ em ?”

Er, When Harry Met Sally.

” That’s going back quite a ways, isn’t it? You’re hard pressed .” He shakes his head.” I was asked to do a romantic comedy recently and I thought they’d lost their intellects. Cats have those insane half hours every evening. I think it must have been that for the production company. I don’t know why anyone “wouldve been” offer me a romantic slapstick. I find American Psycho very funny .”

Hostiles is released in the UK on 5 January 2018

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