MOTW: A Biography of Actor Christian Bale

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures
February 13th, 2014

Known for his striking intensity as an actor and his unflagging commitment to a broad range of roles, Christian Bale became an actor of note at an early age. Since his breakout success during his adolescence, Bale has continued to appear in everything from commercially successful summer action flicks to thoughtful independent films. Whether portraying one of the most beloved superheroes of all time or shedding drastic amounts of weight for the sake of authenticity, the Welsh-born actor holds an undeniable place among Hollywood's most serious contenders.

Christian Charles Philip Bale was born in 1974 in Haverfordwest, a town in the Pembrokeshire County in southwest Wales. During his youth, Bale divided his time between Wales and England, attending school in Dorset. With his family, he also visited the United States and Portugal, leading a nomadic lifestyle. Since Bale's mother was a circus performer, Bale had an early introduction to the world of performing arts. It did not take long for Bale to delve into the acting world, appearing in commercials during the early 1980s.

Bale's career as a child star received a big boost in 1984 when he made his stage debut in London, starring alongside renowned actor Rowan Atkinson. Bale's performance in "The Nerd" helped launch him into film and TV roles. Appearances in movies such as "Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna" helped the young actor develop comfort in front of the camera, but his true breakthrough role was still to come.

Acclaimed director Steven Spielberg cast Bale in his 1987 war epic, "Empire of the Sun." Bale's starring role as a boy surviving the horrors of World War II earned him the instant attention of critics. The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures invented a special award just to honor Bale. However, the teenager was not accustomed to the spotlight. He found the attention so overwhelming that he nearly cut his acting career short. It was director and actor Kenneth Branagh who managed to draw Bale back onto the screen.

After appearing in Branagh's "Henry V" in 1989, Bale suffered a few more missteps. He appeared in "Newsies," a musical that the media loved to hate. Fortunately, Bale's charming turn as Theodore Laurence in "Little Women" showed off his evolving acting skills. Building off this success, Bale offered his voice to Disney's animated "Pocahontas" and donned leopard print in "Velvet Goldmine," slowly creating a more versatile filmography.

In the late 1990s, Bale narrowly won out over Leonardo DiCaprio to play Patrick Bateman in a gory adaptation of a Bret Easton Ellis novel. While preparing for his role as the vain and unhinged Bateman, Bale put in long hours to gain a believably muscular physique. Although a controversial movie, "American Psycho" established Bale as a serious actor. The sacrifices he made for the sake of a stronger performance would come to characterize Bale's acting style.

Following a string of movies that included "Laurel Canyon" and "Equilibrium," Bale took a year off from his acting career in the early 2000s. When he returned, his dedication to his craft was more evident than ever. Bale lost over 60 pounds in a short period of time. His shockingly emaciated frame in "The Machinist" made headlines.

Perhaps it was Bale's unwavering commitment in "The Machinist" that attracted the attention of director Christopher Nolan. For his next role, Bale would transform from a gaunt shadow of a man into a muscle-bound action star. His starring role in Nolan's trilogy of Batman movies quickly became one of Bale's most famous and popular roles. From his appearance in "Batman Begins" in 2005 to "The Dark Knight Rises" in 2012, Bale's gruff-voiced and enigmatic superhero won approval from both critics and fans.

Bale earned a reputation for choosing his roles very carefully. He has appeared in movies that range from "Terminator Salvation" to "The Flowers of War." He worked with Nolan once again on "The Prestige," co-starring with Hugh Jackman. Bale has also won critical acclaim for his work in films such as "3:10 to Yuma" and "The Fighter." In 2010, Bale shed a significant amount of weight for "The Fighter," trying to portray Dicky Eklund accurately. Bale won an Oscar for this role, and later worked with the same director, David O. Russell, in "American Hustle."

In January of 2000, Bale married Sibi Blazic, a makeup artist and Winona Ryder's personal assistant. The couple welcomed a daughter, Emmeline, in 2005.

His first taste of true fame nearly drove Christian Bale away from a life in show business. An intensely private person, Bale has shown many times that he is not interested in life as an A-list star for the attention and fame. Rather, he seems to be an old-fashioned artist at heart. Fortunately for his fans and the critics that love him, Bale decided to return to acting. His total dedication to his roles has given the world many enduring works of cinematic art.