Christian Bale may not have known anything about Moses before preparing for his role in 'Exodus,' but after reading the Bible, the Torah, the Quran and Jonathan Kirsch’s 'Moses,' the actor proclaimed to have an insider's peek into the Biblical figure's head.
In an interview with reporters on Friday, Bale shared his insight into Moses' character, saying:
"I think the man was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life. He's a very troubled and tumultuous man who fought greatly against God, against his calling."
Jonathan Kirsch, who published "Moses: A Life" in 1999 and frequently writes on religious topics, said he understood where Bale was coming from but offered another interpretation.
"Mr. 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," Kirsch told HuffPost by email.
"Some pious readers continue to believe that a single flesh-and-blood human being is being described in all of his complexity," Kirsch said, "but another way of reading the Bible suggests that we have multiple versions of Moses because the Bible is the work of multiple authors who wrote at different times and places and with entirely different motives."
Patheos film critic Peter Chattaway said Bale's remark goes farther than simply commenting on the Bible but rather "speculates about what was going on inside Moses’ head at the time" -- which gets into tricky territory.
Christian blogger and screenwriter Brian Godawa did not mince words in his reaction to the actor's statement, writing on his blog that Bible heroes -- other than Jesus -- are not perfect:
Yes, Moses murdered a man, and he had a character arc that went from being adopted and raised as a pagan Egyptian to a conversion to his troubled and tumultuous faith. He had difficulty trusting Yahweh. He didn’t want to be God’s spokesman because he stuttered. And he even had arguments with God.
But Schizophrenic? Barbaric? Really?
Godawa continued that he hoped Bale's comment was "a reflection of the actor’s own ignorant bigotry than of the actual movie."
Directed by Ridley Scott -- the same man behind "Alien," "Blade Runner," "Gladiator," and "Kingdom of Heaven" -- "Exodus: Gods and Kings" is scheduled for release on December 12, 2014. With the film's premiere still months away, Variety reported in July that Scott was already teaming up with 20th Century Fox for another Biblical film, this time about King David from the iconic "David and Goliath" tale.
Despite these forays into religious storytelling, Scott has disparaged religion in the past and said he looked for "a more scientific or natural explanation" for some of the miraculous events in Moses' narrative.
In an interview with Esquire in 2012 to promote the release of his film "Prometheus," Scott said he blamed religion for most of the world's problems:
Ridley Scott: Picking up a newspaper every day, how can you not despair at what's happening in the world, and how we're represented as human beings? The disappointments and corruption are dismaying at every level. And the biggest source of evil is of course religion.
Esquire: All religions?
RS: Can you think of a good one? A just and kind and tolerant religion?
ES: Not off the top of my head, no.
RS: Everyone is tearing each other apart in the name of their personal god. And the irony is, by definition, they're probably worshipping the same god.
The spotlight on Scott as the "Exodus" release approaches echoes similar media attention paid to director Darren Aronofsky earlier this year for his "Noah" adaptation. Many criticized the director for calling Noah "the first environmentalist" and including environmental themes in the film. Aronofsky, who was raised Jewish and consulted with Biblical scholars for the film, responded to the criticism by saying:
"It's in the Bible that we are supposed to tend the garden. To say there's no ecological side to the Noah story when Noah is saving the animals just doesn't make sense to me."
In February, a month before the release of "Noah," Variety published the results of a survey conducted by Faith Driven Consumers on whether moviegoers were satisfied with Hollywood's portrayal of Biblical stories. The organization -- which previously campaigned for "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson following the show's suspension -- reportedly found that 98% of its audience was not satisfied with the portrayal of Noah's story.
Paramount Pictures, which distributed "Noah," rejected these findings, though, and released data compiled by Hollywood tracking firms Nielsen's National Research Group and the Barna Group which showed that 83-86 percent of self-defined "religious" moviegoers who were already aware of the film were anticipating its release. The firms also found that a majority of pastors would recommend the film to their communities.
"Noah" cost $125 million to make and earned $359 million in the box office. In a feature on the business of Christian filmmaking, Christianity Today reported that "Exodus," which may have cost at least as much as "Noah" to produce, is targeting both mainstream and church-based outlets in marketing the film.