Christian Bale on Playing Moses: "He Was a Very Troubled, Tumultuous Man and Mercurial"

Twentieth Century Fox

Release date: Dec. 12
Ridley Scott's religious epic stars Christian Bale as Moses, who leads the Hebrews out of Egypt. The pic will also star Joel Edgerton, Aaron Paul, Ben Kingsley and Sigourney Weaver.

The actor turned up on the Fox lot Tuesday night to host 37 minutes of footage from Ridley Scott's sweeping biblical epic

A relaxed Christian Bale shared numerous revelations Tuesday night about playing Moses in director Ridley Scott's upcoming tentpole, Exodus: Gods and Kings.

The Oscar-winning actor showed up on the 20th Century Fox lot to present 37 minutes of footage, or nine scenes, from the upcoming biblical epic, which Fox and Chernin Entertainment don't open in theaters until Dec. 12. The presentation of the footage was followed by the screening of a new trailer

"The big one for me, other than realizing I had no idea about Moses at all, was just how complex a character he was," Bale said during a Q&A following the screening.

"He was a very troubled, tumultuous man and mercurial. But the biggest surprise was the nature of God. He was equally very mercurial," Bale continued, conceding that his religious training was "below Sunday school."

Read more Ridley Scott Explains Why He Made 'Exodus: Gods and Kings' in New Featurette

To prepare for the role, Bale read numerous books, including the Torah, which he said "took a bit of time," and Jonathan Kirsch's Moses: A Life and the Koran. "It wasn't all in one go," he said.

In the film, Bale stars opposite Joel Edgerton, who plays the Egyptian Pharaoh Rhamses. The story centers on Moses' efforts to lead 600,000 Jewish slaves out of Egypt after the devastating plagues. "The biggest issue was how much you could include because it so dense, you could make it an eight- to 10-hour film. It’s called Exodus for a reason, it isn't called Moses," he said.

Bale confessed that after he first spoke with Scott about the part, he watched Monty Python's Life of Brian and Mel Brooks' History of the World: Part I. "You have to have humor when you are playing something as serious as this. You have to have comedy in your life everyday on the set," he said.

The actor also rewatched The Ten Commandments, the 1956 classic film starring Charlton Heston as Moses, quipping it was hard to "out-Heston Charlton Heston."

Read more Joel Edgerton Addresses "Whitewash" Criticism of 'Exodus'

Some have criticized Scott for casting white actors as Egyptians, whether Bale as Moses, Edgerton as Rhamses, Sigourney Weaver as Queen Tuya, John Turturro as the Pharaoh Seti or Aaron Paul as Joshua.

Fox film chief Jim Gianopulos and Chernin Entertainment film president Jenno Topping, a producer on the film, introduced the footage. "From a production standpoint, this movie was kind of a nightmare and hugely ambitious. There were crazy sandstorms, animals and not just dogs and cats, but horses and donkeys and fricking frogs. Only Ridley would have taken on this task. He's such a badass in every way."
Read more Rough Seas on 'Noah': Darren Aronofsky Opens Up on the Biblical Battle to Woo Christians (and Everyone Else)

Fox and Peter Chernin's company are counting on Exodus to appeal to both mainstream and faith-based audiences, much as Darren Aronofsky's Noah did earlier this year. Noah, starring Russell Crowe, grossed $359 million worldwide.