by John Murphy
A method actor who undergoes both mental and physical transformations to bring the most to his roles, Christian Bale has delivered an excellent career of performances – from a breakout starring role as a child to leading the currently best ranked film of all-time.
Bringing in over $1 billion in revenue worldwide, The Dark Knight was on of the box office’s biggest successes, and continues to dominate Flickchart. It was also a critical success, with both Bale’s acting performance as well as his co-star, Heath Ledger as the Joker, gaining widespread acclaim and praise. Bale, reprising his role of Bruce Wayne/Batman from Batman Begins, brought his own debonair style to the superhero while giving audiences a chance to see a different take on the Caped Crusader.
Begins was Bale’s first foray into the Batman ethos. Just coming off of The Machinist, and severely under-weight, Bale was required to gain around 100 pounds to play the role. While not Bale’s first big budget action film, it was most definitely one of his most successful. The movie was a smash hit and critics praised it for Christopher Nolan’s direction and renewal of the ailing franchise. Bale successfully created a monster on-screen by letting audiences see a scarier side of Batman, which ultimately carried over into The Dark Knight.
A wonderfully magical film chock-full of plot twists and turns where Bale plays the magician, Alfred Borden, who wishes to become the greatest magician he can be. Borden gets caught up in a rivalry against fellow magician Robert Angier, played by Hugh Jackman. The movie is a dark representation of magic and Bale manages to portray shadowed emotion, yet manages to also depict the wonder of magic at the same time.
Based on real life events, Bale plays boxer Dicky Eklund, brother to Micky Ward, played by Mark Wahlberg. Bale recorded audio of the real Dicky Eklund in order to capture his accent. He also lost a significant amount of weight in order to look the part. Dicky Eklund himself and director David O. Russell praised Bale for staying in character throughout filming.
American Psycho was one of Bale’s first films in which he demonstrated his method-style of acting. Bale trained physically for the role in order to get in the shape of the character in the novel. He was also distant from the cast and crew in order to bring the darkness of Patrick Batemen to the screen. There is a particularly memorable scene in which Bale is confessing to a friend over the phone his horrific deeds. One can only cringe at his powerful performance.
One of few successful remakes within the western genre, 3:10 to Yuma tells the tale of a father whose morals are challenged by a criminal. Bale plays Dan Evans, a Civil War veteran and the father who must impress upon his boy the meaning of right and wrong. To critics and audiences alike, Yuma represents one of the best westerns since the movie Unforgiven, starring and directed by Clint Eastwood.
Bale’s first notable role at the age of thirteen was in his role as James Graham, a boy who become a prisoner of war during World War II and is sent to a Japanese prison camp. Bale won the Best Performance by a Juvenile Actor from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. His unnerving performance was noted by many critics and helped to ignite his future career.
Michael Mann’s film about the true story of John Dillinger, the 1930s gangster. Bale plays Melvin Purvis, a member of the Bureau of Investigation, who was tasked with apprehending Dillinger. Bale spent a significant amount of time with the real Melvin Purvis’s son, Alston, in order to determine the best way to play Purvis on screen.
In his most controversial role, Bale lost over 60 pounds to get down to a skinny, emaciated 120 pounds. He plays Trevor Reznik, a machine operator who suffers from chronic insomnia. It is truly hard to watch Bale on-screen, as compared to his previous films. This is Bale’s ultimate transformation and required viewing in order to fully understand Bale’s devotion to his craft.
Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the Shakespeare play of the same name was a grittier adaptation than the 1944 Laurence Olivier vehicle, but ultimately had many similarities. A young Bale played a small, but significant supporting role as The Boy. Interestingly, Bale considered giving up acting before accepting the role because of the attention and stress that came from working on Empire of the Sun. However, Kenneth Branagh approached him and convinced him to play the part of The Boy.
Bale is currently attached to the film The 13 Women of Nanjing, which is based on the true event of the Nanking (or Nanjing) Massacre in the year 1937. These niche films are the type Bale revels in by exploring more experimental roles and pushing his acting boundaries to their limits.
He is eagerly anticipated to reprise his role in 2012 as Bruce Wayne/Batman in the final chapter of the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. Bale will be flanked by Anne Hathaway as Catwoman and Inception’s Tom Hardy as Bane.
The rumor mill also has Bale potentially starring in a Metal Gear Solid movie, based on the popular video game, in which he will play protagonist Solid Snake. This could very well be Bale’s next Batman-caliber project.