In The Big Short, Christian Bale Ditches Extreme Dieting for Extreme Drumming

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Christian Bale learned to play double kick drum speed metal for his role in "The Big Short"

Christian Bale has earned a reputation for being an incredibly intense Method actor. Remember that time he subsisted for four months on an apple and a can of tuna a day to lose 63 pounds for "The Machinist"? 

In the new film "The Big Short," Christian Bale plays a man with a pretty healthy, average build. But what Bale didn’t have to do in terms of extreme dieting, he made up for in music lessons — speed metal drum lessons, to be precise.

According to writer and director Adam McKay, Bale hired a coach and learned to play double kick drum speed metal — an incredibly physically demanding style of drumming in which the player pumps bass drum pedals with both feet to keep up a constant rumbling barrage that sounds like a jackhammer. Bale picked up the technique over three weeks for a short scene where his character, the hedge fund manager Michael Burry, whales on his kit in his basement.

That in itself is impressive. But right before shooting started, Bale, while messing around on a trampoline with his kids, “completely blew out his knee – ACL, MCL, patella, everything,” McKay says. McKay suggested getting a double to play the drum scene, but Bale told him, “No, no, it’s gonna be all right, let me just do it.” Bale did do it, but just next to the set were two doctors standing by, "waiting for his leg to fall off."

So the sound of the drums you hear in the interview clip above (and in the movie) really is Christian Bale, Mr. Method, shattered knee and all.

You can hear Kurt Andersen’s full interview with Adam McKay on this week’s show.