NEW YORK -- Hollywood has once against provoked the ire of America’s Christian right, with British actor Christian Bale the latest target of the country’s God-fearing masses after he described Moses as “barbaric” and “schizophrenic”.
The welsh thespian, 40, best known for a his gravel-voiced turn in the recent Batman trilogy, stars in Ridley Scott’s forthcoming Biblical offering Moses in Exodus: Of Gods and Kings, describing the lead character at a press conference in LA as a “troubled, tumultuous man”.
“I think the man was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life,” Bale said. “He was a very troubled, tumultuous man and mercurial. But the biggest surprise was the nature of God. He was equally very mercurial.”
Unfortunately for the actor nuance often sits badly with the faithful, with several influential Christian writers using the remarks to decry the players, the film and Hollywood in general.
“Schizophrenic? Barbaric? Really?” trumpeted Brian Godawa on his blog, suggesting Scott’s film was a “subversion of Judeo-Christian heroes and their stories with a secular agenda”. A similar outcry was orchestrated for Darren Aronofsky’s 2013 film Noah, which was admonished for portraying the ageing boat builder as a wooly environmentalist.
Godawa did add that Bale's comments were likely a “reflection of the actor’s own ignorant bigotry than of the actual movie."
Noted by The Hollywood Reporter, a group called Faith Driven Consumer, which was hugely critical of the Aronofsky film before its release, said that there is “nothing in the Biblical history” that supports Bale’s interpretation, adding, “it’s an indication that there will be a tremendous disconnect between Bale’s interpretation and the expectations of the [Christian] market.”
Peter Chattaway, a film critic who writes for the faith website Patheos, said Bale's remark were problematic because they speculate on “what was going on inside Moses’ head at the time", while noting that Scott's "parting of the Red Sea" had a scientific rather than miraculous explanation.
Speaking to HuffPost Religion, Jonathan Kirsch, author of Moses: A Life, said “Bale is entirely correct to say that Moses, as depicted in the Bible, is shown to be capable of appalling violence and appears to have multiple personalities,” however suggested a different reading in which “multiple versions of Moses" exist because "the Bible is the work of multiple authors who wrote at different times and places and with entirely different motives”.
Writers and commenters on right-wing news sites were less charitable to Bale and the Movie, with the Blaze, run by former Fox News host Glenn Beck, publishing an editorial suggesting that Moses had (somehow) been insulted, and the actor would never have made the same remarks about the Prophet Muhammad.
A comment on the Beck website read: “Hell-bound HollyWeird has done it again. They should try that with Mohammad. Make a story about an evil child rapist with Tourette’s syndrome that kills, enslaves and mutilates.”
Another said: “Obviously, Bale and the people making this crap have glossed over the Torah and the Bible to make another fantasy based on lies and their own ignorant, humanistic ideology.”
Many said they would not go and see the movie, or anything Bale or Scott made in the future. Still, Hollywood is unlikely to flinch. Despite criticism that Noah soiled the original Biblical message, the film went on to make $359 million at the box office, more than double what it cost to make.