Who Is Christian Bale?
Born in 1974 in Pembrokeshire, Wales, actor Christian Bale first enjoyed major feature film success in Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun (1987). Returning to the spotlight with the sadistic American Psycho (2000), he dropped more than 60 pounds for The Machinist (2004) before beefing up for a superhero role in Batman Returns (2005) and its two sequels. Bale won an Oscar for his performance in The Fighter (2010) and later earned recognition for his roles in American Hustle (2013), The Big Short (2015) and Vice (2018).
Background and Early Career
Christian Bale was born on January 30, 1974, in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Starting his career as a child, Bale emerged as one of the most versatile actors in the entertainment industry. It seems that performing is in his genes, with a mother who was a dancer and a clown and an older sister who was an actress. Even his grandfather was in the business, working as a stunt double for John Wayne on the 1962 film Hatari!
'Empire of the Sun'
Bale was featured in his first commercial at age 9. Soon after, he appeared on the London stage with comedian Rowan Atkinson in The Nerd. Steven Spielberg then picked him from a group of 4,000 young actors for the part of Jim Graham in Empire of the Sun (1987), a World War II drama about an English boy growing up in China who ends up in a Japanese internment camp.
Bale's remarkable performance won him the Young Artist Award for Best Young Actor in a Motion Picture and the National Board of Review Award for Outstanding Juvenile Performance. Only 13 years old at the time, Bale found all of the attention unnerving; he was known to excuse himself from an interview to go to the bathroom and then simply leave the building.
On the Big Screen
'Henry V,' 'Newsies'
More parts followed, including a small role in Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of William Shakespeare's Henry V (1989). A few years later, Bale found himself in the musical Newsies (1992). He had signed on to the project about young people who sold newspapers on the street—called newsboys— before the musical numbers were added. A box-office dud, the project ended up as one of the lowest-grossing films ever made by Walt Disney Pictures.
In 1994, Bale had a supporting role in the film adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott classic Little Women, starring Winona Ryder as Jo March. He played Ryder's love interest, Theodore "Laurie" Laurence. Soon afterwards, Bale tackled another famous literary character—Edward Rosier, in Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady (1996), directed by Jane Campion and starring Nicole Kidman.
Reunited with Branagh for A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999), Bale had a more substantial role this time around. He played Demetrius, a young man in love with Hermia (Anna Friel), who does not return his affections and instead is in love with Lysander (Dominic West). In turn, Demetrius is loved by Helena (Calista Flockhart). Craziness ensues when the four venture into a forest inhabited by fairies.
Proving his range, Bale played a preppy 1980s serial killer in American Psycho (2000), based on the book by Bret Easton Ellis. Bale physically transformed himself for the role, developing a chiseled physique to reflect his character's obsession with his own appearance. Often derided for its violence, the film nonetheless raised Bale's profile in Hollywood. He has stood by this controversial movie, telling Entertainment Weekly, "I don't understand anybody who can't find the humor. It's twisted and sick. But it's so ridiculous."
Again working the character from outside in, Bale lost more than 60 pounds for 2004's The Machinist. At times, his diet consisted of only an apple and a latte a day. In the psychological thriller, he played a machine shop worker who battles insomnia, talking with a seemingly nonexistent co-worker and quickly dropping weight.
Bale then had to quickly beef up to play the legendary titular superhero in Batman Begins (2005), directed by Christopher Nolan. Bale beat out such actors as Jake Gyllenhaal, Joshua Jackson and Cillian Murphy for the part. (Murphy ended up playing the villainous Scarecrow in the film.) Stepping into a role once occupied by George Clooney and Michael Keaton, Bale gave his own distinctive performance in the dual part of millionaire Bruce Wayne/crime fighter Batman. This re-imagining of the Batman saga proved to be a big box-office hit, earning more than $72 million in its first five days.
Continuing to pursue a diverse mix of roles, Bale played an ex-army ranger in Harsh Times (2005). He also appeared in Terrence Malick's historical drama The New World (2005) as John Rolfe, the husband of Pocahontas. For Rescue Dawn (2006), Bale spent months filming in the jungles of Thailand to portray an American pilot captured during the Vietnam War.
'The Prestige,' 'I'm Not There'
Bale starred opposite Hugh Jackman in The Prestige (2006), with the two playing magicians who become rivals in London during the late 1800s. He next appeared in his first Western, 3:10 to Yuma (2007), as a nearly destitute farmer who agrees to take a murderous bank robber (Russell Crowe) to jail in order to win back the respect of his family. Not one to shy away from the unusual, Bale was one of several actors—including Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger—to portray folk and rock music legend Bob Dylan in the experimental film I'm Not There (2007). "It shows all of the colors of Dylan and not all pretty colors," explained director and writer Todd Haynes.
'The Dark Knight'
Bale and Ledger worked together again on the second installment of Nolan's Batman saga, The Dark Knight (2008), an artistic tour de force that ultimately earned more than $1 billion globally. Yet the project was marred by tragedy, as Ledger died in January 2008, just before the film's release. The two had become close during the making of the film and Bale was shocked by Ledger's sudden passing. "It takes a long time to accept that someone's gone, when all body and mind are telling you that this is somebody you will know for a great deal of time," Bale said. "He was something of a kindred spirit to myself. ... I hope in a small way that The Dark Knight can be a celebration of his work."
Oscar and Golden Globe Wins
'The Fighter,' 'The Dark Knight Rises'
In 2009, Bale stepped into the role of John Connor for Terminator Salvation and also starred in Public Enemies, a film about mobster John Dillinger. In 2011, the actor took home both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for his performance as former welterweight boxer Dicky Eklund in The Fighter (2010), directed by David O. Russell. He then re-teamed with Nolan for the final installment of the Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
Bale next headlined Out of the Furnace (2013), which settled for a modest box-office take despite a star-studded cast. However, he was back in the spotlight by the end of the year following the release of American Hustle, again helmed by Russell. Gaining more than 40 pounds to play con artist Irving Rosenfeld, Bale scored another Oscar nomination for his performance in the acclaimed feature, which co-starred Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.
'The Big Short'
In 2014, Bale took on the role of Moses for Ridley Scott's epic Exodus: Gods and Kings. Returning to more character-driven fare, he then co-starred alongside Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell in the 2015 adaptation of the nonfiction bestseller The Big Short. Bale snagged Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for his role as Michael Burry, a money manager who makes moves in 2005 to contend with the country's housing market bubble.
'Vice,' 'Ford v Ferrari'
Bale won the 2018 Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical for his portrayal of former Vice President Dick Cheney in Vice, a role that also garnered an Academy Award nomination. In 2019, the actor generated more Oscar buzz for his performance as race car driver Ken Miles in Ford v Ferrari.
Outside of acting, Bale prefers to keep his private life under wraps. However, allegations on July 22, 2008, thrust Bale into the spotlight. He was accused of assaulting his mother, Jenny, and sister, Sharon, who called the authorities. He was later released on lack of evidence.
That same month, it was reported that Bale had a meltdown on the set of Terminator Salvation. Audio of the outburst was later released and widely published. Hollywood figures such as Whoopi Goldberg and Ron Howard publicly defended his actions, but his reputation remained marred by the incident.
Bale has been married to Sibi Blazic, a former model and personal assistant, since 2000. The couple welcomed their first child together, daughter Emmeline, in 2005. In 2014, Bale and Blazic welcomed their second child, son Joseph.
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