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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Christian Bale does the 'Hustle'

Posted: 08 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

Famous for shedding weight for movie roles, this time around Christian Bale puts on close to 20kg for American Hustle.

He is a brilliant con artist, OK?" Christian Bale says of Irving Rosenfeld, the character he plays in American Hustle. "But, really, who is he conning with that hair?"

The actor has a point. In David O. Russell's disco era ensemble piece, loosely based on the late-1970s Abscam scandal and the ace scammer Melvin Weinberg, recruited by the FBI to take down money-hungry pols, it's hard at first to figure out how Bale's character pulls it off. With that hairpiece, that is.

In the film's opening scene, Bale's Irv is gingerly applying spirit gum, trying to stick a not-exactly-top-quality toupee to his head. When the camera pulls back, we see a guy of considerable girth. Bale, famous for shedding weight (30kg for The Machinist), gained about 8kg to, er, embody Irv.

"When I first read the script by Eric Singer, which was a wonderful script, a historical drama," Bale says, "in my mind's eye I had pictured that Mel was probably a real smooth operator. Somebody very slick, very suave, giving the impression of being very moneyed, very erudite. And then when I saw a picture and I saw interviews with Mel, he was not any of those things.

"And I just found him mesmerising and surprising and I said, 'OK, how did he, from the inside out, become that way?' ... and from that moment I was just obsessed ... I thought, I can't play this guy any other way. And especially with something like that comb-over. ... I loved that contradiction."

Bale threw Russell for a loop, too, when the actor showed up for the first day of shooting with what cannot accurately be described as a beer belly – it's more like a whole brewery. But it works, gloriously.

American Hustle, which looks – as did Russell's The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook before it – destined for awards-season glory, is a story of epic flimflammery. With its original script overhauled by Russell ("a complete Page 1 rewrite," says Bale), American Hustle is a story of love, a story of reinvention, a story of graft and greed, a story of plunging necklines and polyester couture.

Joining Bale in this craziness is his Fighter colleague Amy Adams, as a talented grifter Irv falls for (and vice versa), and Silver Linings lovebirds Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, as an ambitious if not altogether sane G-man, and Irv's super-needy, super-coiffed spouse. Jeremy Renner, Robert De Niro and Louis CK also appear.

In a way, every one of the characters is playing a con. And in another way, every one of the actors is playing his or her con – that's the nature of what they do for a living, right?

"Right," Bale agrees, with a caveat. "The difference being, obviously, that for the actor, the mark is in on it. The mark is a paying audience member, they are going along, they know – this is storytelling going on here. Hopefully there's no actual emptying out of people's savings accounts or anything like that."

(Well, there is that ticket price.)

"But in the sense that you have to believe it yourself in order for anybody else to believe it, yes, actors and con artists – they are completely similar," he adds. "The fact is that we're all giving a performance to some degree or another. Whether it be for the benefit of other people, or for our own benefit, it's a means for survival."

Bale, who won the best supporting actor Oscar in 2011 for his performance as crack-addled ex-welterweight champ Dicky Eklund in The Fighter, is famous for his total-immersion approach. He kept hours of recordings on his iPhone of his real-life American Hustle counterpart, Weinberg, playing them en route to the set, and between scenes, to nail the outer-borough cadences and crackling banter.

And, of course, Bale stopped going to the gym, and started eating – a lot.

His regimen? "I sat on my arse and ate doughnuts," says the Welsh born, Los Angeles-based actor, star of Christopher Nolan's brooding Batman / Dark Knight trilogy. Gaining weight, he reports, is far easier than losing it.

"It is incredibly easy for the first couple of weeks. No, I should say it's incredibly enjoyable for the first couple of weeks. Putting on weight is easy all the way through," he says.

"But after the first couple of weeks, the novelty wears off very quickly, and your body is groaning and starting to really shout at you, saying, 'Why? Why? Why? Why are you doing this?'

"So, it actually stopped being enjoyable much more quickly than I realised.

"But easy? Yes." — The Philadelphia Inquirer/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Who to look out for this year

Posted: 08 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

WHILE there will be plenty of stories from the entertainment world to keep us occupied, these selected celebrities will be the ones to dominate magazine pages in 2014.

Jennifer Lawrence: There will be no slowing down for Lawrence in 2014. As if 2013 wasn't hot enough for the 23-year-old actress – who nabbed an Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook, continued starring in the successful Hunger Games franchise and wowed everyone with her no-holds-barred attitude – 2014 may be even more sizzling, if that's possible. 

She's got the next X-Men and Hunger Games flicks hitting theatres, plus the period piece Serena (her third movie with Bradley Cooper). And, oh yeah: she's expected to earn an Academy Award nom for her turn in David O. Russell's American Hustle.

Jay-Z and Beyonce: The music world's hottest couple, Jay-Z and Beyonce, avoided the baby boom of 2013 – but we think they'll be at the centre of it in 2014. With daughter Blue Ivy about to turn two, this is the perfect time for 44-year-old Jay and 32-year-old Bey to announce another pregnancy.

American Idol: Idol will make a strong comeback this year. Though 2013 saw a big drop in ratings and some judge hiring misfires (umm ... Nicki Minaj) for the long-running music competition show, 2014's shaken-up judging panel of Jennifer Lopez (returning after a hiatus from the show), newbie Harry Connick Jr and Keith Urban (coming back for a second season) should prove to be just what the Idol doctor ordered. 

We predict lots of chemistry for these energetic three, who will surely choose some seriously talented singers to battle it out on stage.

Kim and Khloe Kardashian: Kim and Khloe will both find happily ever-afters. Kim had a stellar 2013, welcoming daughter North West and getting engaged to rapper-baby daddy Kanye West, plus getting her drawn-out divorce from Kris Humphries finalised.

For 2014, we think Kim and West's sure-to-be over-the-top wedding (which will, of course, be televised) will actually lead to stability for the twice divorced reality starlet.

Meanwhile, younger sister Khloe will rebound from her rough year, which saw a split from hubby Lamar Odom after his reported addiction to crack came to light, with a new, healthier relationship that will grow slowly, unlike her wedding to Odom, which took place just 30 days after the couple met. — amNewYork/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Star power in 2014

Posted: 08 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

From Amy Adams to Johnny Depp, these are the movie stars who will shine bright in 2014.       

This year promises to be a good one for movie lovers across the board. Between historical dramas, science-fiction thrillers, superhero action movies and arthouse films, there will be something for everyone. For movie fans who swear only by the stars, here is our pick of the top names to watch in 2014.

Angelina Jolie 

The coming year will be a busy one for the Hollywood star, who returns to theatres in May in the title role of Maleficent, a live-action adaptation of Disney's Sleeping Beauty told from the perspective of the iconic villain. In December, the actress will present her latest project as a director, Unbroken

The film is a biopic on the remarkable destiny of Louis Zamperini, a former small-time criminal who went on to become an Olympic athlete and later a war hero. He is still alive today at age 96.

Charlotte Gainsbourg 

The 42-year-old French actress has teamed up once again with Melancholia director Lars von Trier for Nymphomaniac, which premieres at the Berlinale in February 2014 before hitting US theatres in March. Gainsbourg stars as Jo, a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac, in this highly anticipated two-part drama.

Eva Green 

Another French actress making waves on the international film scene, 33-year-old Green will be seen playing two femme fatale roles during the coming year. In 300: Rise Of An Empire, hitting US theatres in March, she will play the ruthless queen Artemisia, commander of the Persian army sent to invade the Greeks. 

In late August, Green will appear in the role of Ava Lord, who seduces Josh Brolin's character in the stylised noir film Sin City: A Dame To Kill For.

Russell Crowe 

The New Zealand native will turn 50 in 2014, but he isn't showing any signs of slowing down. The actor will co-star with Colin Farrell in the romantic fantasy drama Winter's Tale in February, before appearing in the title role of Darren Aronofsky's Noah, an epic and somewhat controversial biblical saga.

Last but not least, the actor will present his feature-length directorial debut, The Water Diviner, at the end of the year. The film will explore the aftermath of the Dardanelles Campaign during World War I, in which several Australians perished.

Nicole Kidman 

Though she may have seemed to be under the radar in 2013, the Australian star was busy shooting a number of much-anticipated films expected in theatres in the coming months. 

In 2014, Kidman will star in the thriller Before I Go To Sleep and the drama The Railway Man, not to mention Grace Of Monaco, Olivier Dahan's biopic on the legendary princess, and Paddington, the film adaptation of the adventures of the Britain's favourite bear. 

Meanwhile, the actress will also be busy on the sets of Jason Bateman's The Family Fang and Werner Herzog's Queen Of The Desert.

Chris Pratt 

A well-known face to Parks And Recreation fans, the 34-year-old actor will be propelled to international fame in 2014 as the star of Marvel's summer blockbuster Guardians Of The Galaxy, something of an outer-space version of the Avengers. His reputation could grow even further if he joins the cast of Jurassic World, slated to go into production this year.

Amy Adams 

The red-headed beauty will ride the wave of success from David O. Russell's American Hustle, possibly even bagging an Oscar nomination. Adams will then head to the set of Batman Vs. Superman to play Lois Lane before joining Christoph Waltz on the set of Big Eyes. In this Tim Burton drama, due in theatres in late 2014, Adams will play Margaret Keane, who accuses her husband of stealing her paintings.

Johnny Depp 

After a rather dismal 2013, marked by the commercial and critical failure of The Lone Ranger, Depp seems ready to make a solid comeback in 2014.

The actor will play the villain in the science-fiction thriller Transcendence next spring before returning to theaters in the title role of Mortdecai, an adventure comedy adapted from the writings of Kyril Bonfiglioli. Finally, at the end of 2014, he will don a wolf costume for Into The Woods, a Disney production that draws inspiration from multiple fairy tales. — AFP Relaxnews

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