MOTW: Christian Bale: The Actor Hollywood Needs

Photo Credit: Lions Gate Films
March 14th, 2013

MOTW: Christian Bale: The Actor Hollywood Needs

-- Among "Batman" fans, Christian Bale is practically a household name. With his performances in "The Dark Knight" trilogy of Batman films, directed by Christopher Nolan, Bale has revived the superhero for a new generation of filmgoers. However, Christian Bale hasn't always been the man behind the cowl. He has acted in a number of films, many of which were directed by Christopher Nolan; the two share an actor-director relationship similar to the one between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.

Christian Bale was born in Pembrokeshire, Wales, in January of 1974. His father, David, was a commercial airline pilot. The job made it difficult for the family to live in one area for long. Bale lived in England, Portugal, and the United States, and he claims that the constant moving around influenced his acting career. He has lived in Los Angeles, California, since 1992. Like most actors, he started small; his earliest roles were in a 1982 fabric softener commercial and a 1983 cereal commercial. In 1984, he starred in "The Nerd," a theatrical production that also starred Rowan Atkinson. It was then that Bale started acting in small-screen productions, including "Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna" and "Mio in the Land of Faraway."

Bale's first major film role was as Jim Graham in "The Empire of the Sun." It earned him the Best Performance by a Juvenile Actor Award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, but the fame and attention distressed Bale and nearly caused him to give up acting as a career. He was twelve years old and still in school during filming. Bale returned to the big screen in 1989 with "Henry V" and later starred in a 1990 adaptation of "Treasure Island." His next major film was "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in 1999.

Christian Bale is known for making dramatic physical and psychological changes to transform himself for his roles. Patrick Bateman, his character in the 1999 film "American Psycho," was described in the original novel as being very muscular and detached from others. Bale undertook a months-long exercise regimen and withdrew from the cast and crew of the film to get himself into the dark mindset of Bateman's character. Critics praised Bale's performance, saying that he truly had brought the role to life in a frightening manner.

In 2000, Christian Bale and former model Sandra Blazic married. They currently have an eight-year-old daughter.

The next major transformative role Bale accepted was Trevor Reznik in "The Machinist," a 2004 thriller. This character had anorexia and insomnia, and Bale reportedly lost 63 pounds over a period of several months by existing mostly on coffee and apples. This gave him the physical and psychological demeanor of Trevor but nearly ruined Bale's health. Many actors are not willing to go to such extremes to bring a role to life.

Bale would again have to bulk up to prepare for his ground-breaking role as Batman in "Batman Begins" and the subsequent films in the trilogy. To prepare, Christian Bale hired a personal trainer, acquired "Batman" comic books, and trained in the Keysi fighting method. Bale's weight went from 130 pounds to 230 pounds in six months, one of the most drastic transformations ever undertaken by an actor. His performance in the role of Batman, as well as Christopher Nolan's more realistic take on the universe, put comic book films back into the spotlight and showed that superhero films could be serious. "The Dark Knight" grossed over $1 billion worldwide.

In 2006, the film "The Prestige" saw Bale act alongside "Batman" costar Michael Caine under director Christopher Nolan. In another film, "I'm Not There," Bale first worked alongside Heath Ledger, who would later play the Joker in "The Dark Knight."

Christian Bale took the role of John Connor in "Terminator: Salvation" in 2008. In an infamous incident, Bale lost his temper when the director of photography, Shane Hurlbut, walked on set during shooting to adjust the lighting. The scene was very emotionally tense, and Hurlbut had done this before and caused Bale to lose his concentration. The resulting litany of profanity was heavily publicized, even though Bale and Hurlbut reconciled immediately afterward.

Bale is a versatile actor, able to perform in both action-oriented and more cerebral roles. His ability to fully immerse himself in his roles makes him a highly coveted choice to play the lead in many films.