How to Apologize (with Christian Bale)

Generation Why Blog by Aik Kramer

Apologizing is an essential social skill, especially since so much of our life is based on good and functional relationships. Mistakes and occasional fights happen, but it is the way you deal with them that determines what the ultimate effects of your mistakes are.
But very few of us are actually taught how to apologize and there is a big difference between being apologetic and genuinely sincerely taking responsibility for a mistake in an attempt to restore the relationship.
Why apologize?
Everyone makes mistakes. That is why it is important to responsible and admit to mistakes you have made. But apologizing can be very difficult to do. Powerful emotions such as shame and fear are involved and can send you into a spiral of self-doubt. An apology is not just about taking blame, it is about restoring relationships and healing yourself.
When you need to apologize to someone, there is usually a reason to. We apologize for small things, like being late for an appointment. But when, for example, matters of the heart are in play, things can get complicated. Even in work-relationships or politics. How do you apologize for the consequences of life-decisions that sometimes negatively effect others?
In 2009 Christian Bale was filming for his role of John Connor in Terminator Salvation. When a crewmember stepped into a shot, Bale got so mad that he started swearing and ridiculing the crewmember. Someone in studio recorded the incident and published it on the web. Now negative media-attention was starting to affect the expectations surrounding the release of the movie. But Bale is a professional. His acting comes with great sacrifice.
For his role in The Machinst he lost 63 pounds (28,6 kg). Then, within 5 months, he gained a shocking 100 pounds (45,3 kg) to become Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman Begins. Now filming for the fourth episode of the Terminator movie series, he was ‘in character’ as John Connor and became involved in the incident.
In response to the negative media attention, Bale decided phone in to a radio show, KROQ. He delivered a heartfelt apology and succeeded in explaining the context of the incident. In doing so, he created the opportunity for talking responsibility for his actions and at the same time for stopping the negative effect that it was still having on him and the people involved.
Following his conversation with the host of the show, we hear and see that there can be a certain poetry and even honor to apologizing. At least, if you know how to properly do it. Cristian Bale is an important rolmodel, not just as a dedicated actor, but also as a person. Here is the transcript of the entire radio-conversation. Afterwards, you can use the format the next time you have to apologize.
Christian Bale calls into radio show
CB: Hello there guys. How are you doing, fellas?
HOST: Oh!
CB: Who am I talking to?
HOST: Oh, no. (laughing in background)
HOST: This is Ralf, Kevin and Bean, and also Lisa Mea is also here in the studio, Christian.
CB: Well, listen, I spoke with you guys a few years back and you seem like good guys, so I wanted to talk to you about this.
HOST: Oh no, are we being punk’d? This is really Christian Bale. Please ttell us it’s not.
CB: Believe me, this is no punk’d.
HOST: Christian has appearently heard some of the segments we’ve been doing, since the release of that audiotape.
CB: I’ve got to tell ya. I have to tell ya. Listen. It has been a miserable week for me.
HOST: Sure (sincere)
CB: And you guys. I was driving in the car. At least I think it was you guys I was listening to.
HOST: Right. (confirming)
CB: And. And. You, you made me laugh amidst of all this crazyness.
HOST: I find that hard to believe. Really?
CB: Believe, listen… I, I know I have a potty mouth. Everybody knows that now.
HOST: Right.
CB: But I understand this is live, so please don’t worry, I will behave.
HOST: (Jokingly) No. We are done professionally, Christian.
CB: Now, listen, can you let me make a few comments?
HOST: We love giving you the opportunity. thank you for calling. (sincere)
CB: The thing that I really want to stress: I have no… confusion… whatsoever… I was out of order, beyond belief. I was way out of order. I acted like a punk. I regret that. And there is nobody that has heard that tape that was hit harder by it than me.
HOST: No…
CB: I make no excuses for it. It is inexcusable. And I hope that that is absolutely clear. You know?
HOST: Ya.
CB: I one thing that has really disturbed me about this, because, I’m just, I’m not familiar with, I’m not comfortable with this notion of being a moviestar. I’ve always, I’m an actor. And I don’t quite know how to handle the moviestar thing. And the thing that disturbes me so much is that I’ve heard a lot of people saying that I seem to think that I am better than anybody else. And nothing can be father from the truth. I’m a lucky… I don’t wanna swear.
HOST: (laughing) S.O.B. Right.
CB: I never forget that. It is why I put so much in what I do and why I care so much about it and why sometimes the enthusiasm just goes awry. You know, and please, if anybody ever sees that I really am thinking that I am better then anybody else, stick a fork in my… backside. Turn me over, I will be done. That is not me, you know.
HOST: Well, I gotta tell you. We were giving you points for the length of the conversation [incident], because I would run out of energy in about thirty seconds.
CB: Absolutely. Listen and let me tell you how I had that much energy for that day. Let me try to put this into a little bit of context. There seem to be so many people that were ginving opinions about this. You know what, none of them were there.
HOST: Right. (sincere)
CB: No, so, we’re making Terminator. I assume you’re familiar with the mythology.
HOST: Of course.
CB: Have you seen T2?
HOST: Yes.
CB: It is a great movie. And in it you will meet Sarah Connor. And she is in an insane asylum. Why is she there? Because she is crazy!
HOST: (laughing)
CB: Now, I play John Connor, her son. And on the day that all of this happened, the scene that we were doing, I was trying to show a little bit of that in the blood crazyness.
HOST: Hmm.
CB: You know what? It went very wrong. And the reasons that myself and that Shane the DP [Director of Photography] and every crewmember that was in that hangar at Kirtland Airforce base that day, they know the reasons. I got annoyed and then what happened, I made it ugly. And that was awful of me. I took it way too far and I completely mixed up fact and fiction. I’m half John Connor, I’m half Cristian there and we’ve all heard exactly… what I said.
HOST: Look Christian, the thing I felt bad about when I first heard this, regardless of your personal behavior, was that I think that on a set or on any other creative enterprise, there should be an amount of freedom to screw up and do what you do without having to face it being made public and having to deal with that in the press. That must be awfully difficult.
CB: I hear you completely, but it’s no excuse. You know what, that confidentiality, that trust, is really not there for covering up bad behavior. That is there, and it is essential, that is there, though, so that creatively, you can experiment and you can try things that maybe are abismal and maybe are embarrassing beyond belief. And you know there is a trust with the director and the producers that nobody will ever see that. It would be destroyed if it didn’t work, but you have to try those things.
HOST: How long ago did this actually happen?
CB: This was back in July of last year.
HOST: And how long was it before you talked to the DP?
CB: O, listen, listen. I’ve not only talked with him, we have resolved this completely that very day.
HOST: Oh, wow.
CB: We kept working for a number of hours. Listen, when I’m saying I’m not coming back on that set if he’s still hired, you know what? It’s hot air. I don’t believe that. I have no intention of getting anybody fired. I absolutely believe in Shane’s [DP] capability. He’s done a wonderful job on that movie. We not only kept working that day. We worked together for at least a month after that. Every single day. We saw each other two weeks back and we worked together then. Everything is resolved between us. There is no problem whatsoever. He has done a great job with this. And I want, through this, that if anyone has considered that he’s not doing a great job, I want everyone to know, I’ve seen a rough cut of the movie. It looks fantastic and he has done a wonderful professional job. And I don’t want anyone to have a misunderstanding about that.
HOST: I am really looking forward to this movie. It does look fantastic.
CB: And I appreciate that. Because so many people, not just me, not just Shane, so many crewmembers have worked so hard on this movie. And an important point that I really want to make, hey, I know a number of people are gonna be thinking they don’t wanna go see the movie because they seem to think that I’m so kind of primadonna or something.
HOST: Right.
CB: It aint that. It’s just maybe I sometimes care too much about, uhm, the movie. You know, it wasn’t just me. It was Shane the DP, the director, the other actors. Every single crewmember, everybody worked so hard on this movie. And please, I’m asking people. Please do not allow my one time lapse in judgement, my incredibly embarrassing meltdown, to overshadow this movie. And to have all of these people’s hard work go to waste. It’s just too great a mythology for that to happen.
HOST: We’re… Go ahead.
CB: And one other thing. A lot of people have said that I’m being a bully to this guy. That’s an insult to Shane.
HOST: (laughing)
CB: I couldn’t bully that guy if I tried. He is a big guy. He is much bigger than me. He is an ex-freaking-football player.
HOST: (laughing)
CB: I mean, this is not little orphan Annie I was going off on. OK?
HOST: Yeah.
CB: And and and the other point is that a lot of people have been talking nonsense that it was about to get physical. It never came close to becoming physical, whatsoever. So please I want to make completely clear: I am embarred by it. I regret it. And I ask everybody to sit down and ask themselves, have they ever had a bad day…
HOST: Yeah
CB: …and have they ever lost their temper and regretted it immensely.
HOST: We have a special appreciation for mistakes that we make and then they come back to haunt us on tape and get played over and over again. That really sucks. And we were saying at that time. I’m sure you heard me say this, Christian Bale, that it’s a good thing not all of us have our worst moments taped and put out there for everybody to hear. (…)
CB: Thank you so much. I also appreciate you making fun of it, you know, I had it coming.
HOST: (laughing)
CB: Feel free to make fun of me at my expense.
HOST: You’re kinda taking the fun out of it right now (jokingly) no that we see where you’re coming from.
CB: One extra thing, nothing to do with the movie. But I was listening to radio earlier on. Please. Michael Phelps [olympic swimmer].
HOST: Yes.
CB: Swimm in the next olympics!
HOST: Yeah.
CB: The guy has a god given talent. So he smoked a bit of weed. Plenty of our presidents have.
HOST: Right.
CB: Everybody makes mistakes. Bounce back from it. Do not waste that godlike talent. Swimm in the next olympics please.
HOST: Very good. All right. You’re a big man for owning up to your mistake and I hope that a lot of people listening will hear the perspective that you put it in and accept your apology and continue to support the great work you do on the screen. Christian Bale, thanks for calling.
How to Apologize
Terminator Salvation had a 200 million dollar budget, making it the most expensive indenpendant production ever. It had a worldwide gross of more than 370 million dollars. Christian Bale’s apology is sincere and gives new meaning to what happened. By explaining the context of the situation and taking responsibility for your actions, you can stop the harm from your mistake from spreading.
An apology has a little bit of Shakespeare and a lot of damage control. It is a deliberate and necessary procedure in order to re-establish relations and to prevent further fallout from your mistake(s) from negatively influencing your and other people’s sincere efforts. Thank you Christian Bale, you are an inspiration to all of us.
Format:
Accept blame for your mistake, acknowledge seriousness of the situation
Show that you have been affected by the mistake the most
Explain the context and situation in which the mistake was made
Explain what your motivation and positive goals actually were
Stress that other people’s reaction could lead to new problems
Explain your relationship with the people who are affected by your mistake
Show that you will accept the consequences of your mistake
Ask for positive action of others to stop the negative effects
Ask others to place themselves in your situation
Thank the other for hearing your perspective, and move on with your life

                        author

Aik Kramer

Aik Kramer (LLM) works as a professional mediator, researcher and consultant. He specializes in public policy mediation. He has worked for the Dutch Ministry of Internal Affairs, The National ombudsman and various municipalities. In 2007 he founded generationwhy.nl, a platform for young mediators. MORE >

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