|Vegetarian Era Vegetarian Heroes of the Silver Screen|
Vegetarian Heroes of the Silver Screen
the Florida News Group, USA
A lifelong animal lover
Thirty-one year old Christian Bale, star of the hit movie Batman Begins, has had a lifelong affinity for animals. His father David Bale (1941-2003) was a famous animal rights activist whose rule in life was “Never pass by a living thing in need.” David would take home stray cats, dogs and birds, and also help single mothers and the homeless. Christian accompanied his dad to many shelters and animal rights conventions, and to this day is a major supporter of animal welfare groups. He now lives in Los Angeles with a menagerie of rescued cats, dogs and possums.
When Christian was nine years old, he read Charlotte’s Web, the beloved story of a girl who saves a runt pig named Wilbur from being slaughtered. However, unlike millions of other children who cheered for Wilbur and then went on to eat the pork chops their mothers put on their plates for dinner, Christian vowed from that moment on never to eat meat again. He has kept his noble promise to this day despite the extreme physical training he has had to undergo for some of his movies. For instance he was recently required to lower his weight from 180 to 121 pounds (82 to 55 kg or 30% of his body weight) for the film The Machinist, and within six weeks of completing filming, he had regained the 59 pounds (27 kg) needed to audition for Batman Begins. When shooting began five months later, the vegetarian Batman weighed 220 lbs (100 kg), most of which was solid muscle.
An innocent but mature young Spiderman
Tobey Maguire (born in 1975) is considered to be one of the greatest actors of his generation due to his work in Spiderman and masterful performances in other films, including two by director Ang Lee, the director of his first movie, who said, “[He] has this combination of childish innocence and a very old soul.” And about his acting another director remarked, “Tobey doesn’t overstate. He just states.”
Tobey, who from an early age, disliked eating meat, reveals, “I couldn’t help thinking about the connection between the animal and the food.” And in describing his last non-vegetarian meal he says, “I ate a cheeseburger with ham and suddenly had this vision — I saw the animals that were used so I couldn’t stand there and eat this stupid cheeseburger.” Thus, in 1992 Tobey made a noble vow to become a vegetarian.
Then in 1994, he also gave up alcohol and cigarettes — an extraordinary move for a nineteen year-old film star who frequented Hollywood nightclubs. About this period he recalls, “I had to make a decision. I could be a teenager and do all the stupid things that go along with that or focus on acting.”
Giving up meat and alcohol, however, did not mean renouncing the pleasures of life for Tobey admits that over the years he has spent a sizeable portion of his income on fine dining, and he is especially fond of gourmet vegetarian pizza and tofu: “I’m very particular about my tofu because prepared the right way it can be very tasty.” He even once shared a meal in a fine restaurant with a group of fans when he found out they were vegetarian!
Before his Spiderman audition, Tobey did not exactly have an athletic physique, and some journalists described him as “soft” or “doughy.” Also, the producers of Spiderman were impressed with his acting skills but were skeptical about his ability to get his body into shape for the film’s title role. Determined to prove them wrong, Tobey assembled a team to prepare for the audition that included a personal trainer, a martial-arts instructor, a gymnastics coach, a stunt man and a yoga instructor.
Spiderman’s producers, however, did not think he could develop adequate muscle mass without eating meat and urged him to break his vegetarian vow. But thankfully Tobey’s trainers knew better and put him on an optimal diet of high-protein vitamin shakes, veggie burgers and tofu. When his try-out came, Tobey performed impressively in several fight scenes and then took off his shirt to reveal his muscular physique. According to the director, “He had become a sledgehammer of an action star.”
Regarding his personal nature, Tobey once told an interviewer, “I might have some character traits that some might see as innocent or naive. That’s because I’ve discovered peace and happiness in my soul.” And when Spiderman was released, a journalist asked Tobey what superpowers he would like to possess, to which he replied, “A while ago, I would have said ‘flying.’ Now it seems trivial. I’d probably like to get above my physical self, stay the same but in another dimension, a spiritual being. To be able to get over the physical world, not to be bound to it anymore like Keanu Reeves in Matrix, that would be the coolest superpower.” (Please refer to News #142 Cinema Scene)
Many people worry that becoming a vegetarian will make them physically weaker and/or hinder their careers, but the cases of the stars discussed above challenge this view. On the contrary, vegetarianism has made Christian Bale and Tobey Maguire stronger, more profound and more successful than they might have been as meat eaters.