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Christian Charles Philip Bale (also known professionally as Christian Morgan Bale; born 30 January 1974) is an English actor who is known for his roles in the films Newsies, Empire of the Sun, American Psycho, The Prestige and Batman Begins. Bale is also known for his versatility as an actor, including mimicking nearly any English-based accents, harsh regimens of shedding and gaining weight (particularly for The Machinist, Batman Begins and, most recently, Rescue Dawn), and generally inhabiting the characters he plays. Before he found success in playing Batman, he was heavily involved in independent films.
Bale first caught the public eye when he was cast in the starring role of Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun at the age of 13, playing a British boy who becomes separated from his parents and subsequently finds himself in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. Since then, he has portrayed a wide range of characters. Bale is especially noted for his cult following. The tenth anniversary issue of Entertainment Weekly hailed him as one of the “Top 8 Most Powerful Cult Figures of the Past Decade,” citing his impressive cult status on the Internet. Entertainment Weekly also called Bale one of the “Most Creative People in Entertainment,” after his performance in American Psycho.
Christian Bale was born in Pembrokeshire, Wales. He is the youngest of four children. His parents are businessman David Bale and circus performer Jenny James, both English. Bale spent his childhood in several countries including the United Kingdom, Portugal, and the United States.
David Bale was very supportive of Christian’s acting. He resigned his job as a commercial pilot, to travel and manage Christian’s burgeoning career. In 1976, whenChristian was two years old, the Bale family left Wales. Bale’s family settled for four years in Bournemouth, where he attended Bournemouth School and participated actively in rugby. Christian has described his childhood, with respect to his mother being in the circus, as interesting. He recalled his first kiss was with an acrobat named Barta. As a child, he trained in ballet and on guitar. His sister Louise’s work in theatre also influenced his decision to become an actor.
Bale’s first foray into acting was a Lenor commercial in 1982, when he was 8. He appeared in a Pac-Man cereal commercial playing a child rock star a year later. In 1984, he made his stage debut in the West End play The Nerd, opposite Rowan Atkinson.
He made his film debut as Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich of Russia in the made-for-television film Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna in 1986, which was followed by leading roles in the miniseries Heart of the Country and the fantasy adventure Mio in the Land of Faraway, in which he appeared for the first time with Christopher Lee.
In 1987, Amy Irving, his co-star in Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna, recommended Bale to her then-husband, Steven Spielberg, for a role in Empire of the Sun, adapted from the J.G. Ballard semi-autobiography. Bale’sperformance as Jim Graham earned him widespread critical praise and the first ever “Best Performance by a Juvenile Actor” award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures (the Board created the award especially for him). The attention the press and his schoolmates lavished upon him after this took a toll on Bale, and he contemplated giving up acting, until Kenneth Branagh approached him, and persuaded him to appear in Henry V in 1989.
In 1992, he starred as Jack Kelly in the Disney musical Newsies. Then in 1993, he starred in Swing Kids, a movie about teenagers who secretly listened to jazz and went to dances in the middle of Nazi Germany.
In 1999, Bale prepared to undertake what would arguably be his most acclaimed role, as serial killer Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. Director Mary Harron, who had previously helmed the Valerie Solanas biopic I Shot Andy Warhol, was given the reins to the adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ controversial novel, but dropped out of the project when she learned Leonardo DiCaprio was set to star instead of Bale, her first choice. Harron cited budget concerns, believing DiCaprio to be too expensive for the production. Oliver Stone replaced Harron as director, but when DiCaprio abandoned the project for The Beach, Stone left as well, and a pregnant Harron was contracted once more, this time with her wish for Bale to star granted. Bale had never read the novel before being contacted about the film, but took on the role because he was surprised and humoured by the script, which he described as “the opposite of anything I’d ever done before.” Harron’s decision to cast Bale lay in that she thought he resembled a male Lili Taylor “in the sense that there was a lot below the surface,” and that “he had a sense of mystery and depth in his face.”
The film diverged from the novel in some instances, but was generally faithful. Bateman was, on the outward, a stereotypical yuppie, but underneath the public image he had created for himself he was actually a murderous psychopath. Bale researched Bateman by studying the novel. He prepared himself physically for the role by spending months tanning and exercising rigorously in order to achieve Bateman’s Olympian physique, even going so far as to distance himself from the cast and crew in order to preserve the darker side of Bateman’s character. American Psycho premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival to much controversy. Famed American critic Roger Ebert seemed to condemn the film at first, calling it pornography” and “the most loathed film at Sundance,” but gave it a favourable review, writing that Harron “transformed a novel about bloodlust into a movie about men’s vanity.” Of Bale’sperformance, he wrote, “Christian Bale is heroic in the way he allows the character to leap joyfully into despicability; there is no instinct for self-preservation here, and that is one mark of a good actor.”
On April 14, 2000, Lions Gate Films finally released American Psycho in theatres. The film’s overall budget and marketing costs amounted to US$17,000,000. It made a tidy worldwide profit of US$34,266,564. More importantly, it strengthened Bale’s reputation as a committed and capable actor, and further cemented his cult status. Bale was approached to make a cameo appearance in another Bret Easton Ellis adaptation, The Rules of Attraction, which was loosely connected to American Psycho. He declined out of loyalty to Mary Harron’s vision of Bateman, which he felt could not be properly expressed by anyone else.
In the 2000 sequel to 1971′s Shaft, Bale played a villainous character similar to Patrick Bateman, an unhinged racist yuppie named Walter Wade, Jr., a decision which generated observations about the two roles being too alike. Bale acknowledged that perhaps taking on such a similar role so soon was a possible mistake on his part.
Bale played an assortment of diverse characters from 2001 onwards. His first role after American Psycho was in the John Madden adaptation of the best-selling novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which was a significant departure from the novel. Bale played Mandras, a Greek fisherman who vied with Nicolas Cage’s title character for the affections of the desirable Pelagia (Penelope Cruz). The Mandras of the novel was a more developed character with his own subplot; Bale’s Mandras was relegated to a supporting character, and his subplot was eliminated, much of the camera being devoted to Corelli and Pelagia. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was Bale’s second time working with John Hurt, after All the Little Animals.
2002 was a busy and disappointing year for Bale. He starred in three feature films, none of which were successful at the box office. Laurel Canyon (2002), an independent film about love and longing, divided critics. The film’s script and the director’s ego were questioned, but critics, by and large, agreed that Frances McDormand outshone the rest of the cast, including Bale.
Reign of Fire was Bale’s first action vehicle. It had an immense budget (over US$90,000,000) compared to all his previous work. The film’s plot involved a fire-breathing dragon that had been awakened from hibernation, bringing with it thousands more that threatened the world. Bale entered into negotiations about starring in the film with reservations, but director Rob Bowman convinced him to take the lead role. Bale starred as Quinn Abercromby opposite Matthew McConaughey’s Denton Van Zan, two heroes with identical goals but different methods. Bale and McConaughey trained for their respective roles by boxing and working out. The film was largely panned by critics, failed at the U.S. box office and contributed to Bale’s growing depression.
Equilibrium was Bale’s third film of 2002 and it landed a potentially severe blow to his career, costing US$20,000,000 to produce but earning just over US$5,000,000 worldwide. This commercial failure may at least in part have been due to Dimension Films not issuing Equilibrium a wide release, lacking faith in promoting it. Nevertheless, it gained such a cult following upon its release on DVD that director Kurt Wimmer was granted a US$30,000,000 budget to direct Ultraviolet. Bale played John Preston, an elite lawman in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic society. Equilibrium featured a fictional martial art called Gun Kata, inspired by The Matrix and John Woo’s films that combined gunfighting with hand-to-hand combat. Preston was a master of Gun Kata, which made him a particularly memorable protagonist. Preston’s fanbase was so strong that a number of fans banded together to develop a total conversion mod for the computer game Max Payne 2 dubbed Hall of Mirrors. According to moviebodycounts.com, the character of John Preston has the most onscreen kills in a single movie ever. His kill-o-meter is set at 118, exactly half the movie total of 236.
After a year’s hiatus, Bale returned in 2004 to play Trevor Reznik, the title character in the psychological thriller The Machinist. Reznik was an chronic insomniac, tormented by a mysterious stalker. Bale devoted himself to the role to an extent he had never gone to, sacrificing his mental and physical well being to achieve Reznik’s emaciated, skeletal appearance for the sake of an authentic, naturalistic performance. (In one scene, Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character quipped, “If you were any thinner, you wouldn’t exist.”) He went without proper rest for prolonged periods, and placed himself on a crash diet that saw his weight dropping by a startling sixty pounds in a matter of months (see List of actors who gained or lost weight for a role). He was compared to Robert De Niro, whose alternate weight-gaining regimen saw him putting on fifty-five pounds for his role as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull. Bale took the Reznik role because the script “intrigued” him, and it helped him cope with his depression. The Machinist garnered mostly positive reviews—critics were impressed by Bale’s dedication. It was a humble production, costing roughly US$5,000,000 to produce. It was given only a limited U.S. release and made most of its profits overseas.
Bale, an admirer of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, was cast as the voice of the title character, Howl, in the English language dub of the Japanese director’s fantasy anime adventure Howl’s Moving Castle, an adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’ children’s novel. Its profits in the United States made up a mere US$4,711,096 in of its staggering worldwide gross (US$230,458,788). Bale’s Howl, a wizard who lived in a spectacular walking castle, was debonair, princely and ostentatious, a quality shared with one half of Bale’s next role.
Bale was cast as one of the two leads in the South Central David Ayer-helmed crime drama Harsh Times, co-starring with Freddy Rodriguez. Bale played Jim David, a grim Gulf War veteran afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder, inexplicably approached by the Department of Homeland Security and hired as a federal agent. Harsh Times premiered at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival and had a wide release on November 10, 2006.
Terrence Malick directed The New World, a period piece inspired by the stories of Pocahontas, and Bale was cast as John Rolfe, his second time participating in a dramatization of Pocahontas. He shared the screen with Colin Farrell and Q’Orianka Kilcher, who played lovers John Smith and Pocahontas. The majority of screen time was devoted to Farrell and Kilcher; Bale was a secondary character, and only appeared during the last third of the film. The New World left critics to contend whether its indulgence and the dramatic liberties it took over historical accuracy made the film a champion or a dud. Opinions were extremely divided. Filmgoers were uninterested. ‘The film was a failure at the U.S. box office and its worldwide total (US$29,506,437) fell just short of turning a profit (the production budget was placed at US$30,000,000).
2006 saw Bale take on a trio of projects. Rescue Dawn by German filmmaker Werner Herzog had him playing a U.S. Fighter pilot who has to fight for his life after being shot down while on a mission during the Vietnam War. Bale left a strong impression on Herzog, with the director complimenting his acting abilities: “I find him one of the greatest talents of his generation. We made up our own minds long before he did Batman.” In The Prestige, an adaptation of the Christopher Priest novel about a rivalry between two Victorian stage magicians, Bale reunites with Michael Caine and Christopher Nolan, who is directing the film. The cast of The Prestige also included Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Piper Perabo, and David Bowie. I’m Not There, a film that sees Bale working again with Colin Farrell, is an artistic reflection of the life of Bob Dylan, and also includes Cate Blanchett (another master of accents), Richard Gere, Julianne Moore, and Charlotte Gainsbourg as part of the cast.
Bale had long been a contender to portray Batman, from as early as 2002. Earlier on, he had auditioned for the role of Robin in Batman Forever, but lost out to Chris O’Donnell. In 2004, after completing filming for The Machinist, Bale won the coveted role and was set to star with the predominantly British and Irish cast of Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Tom Wilkinson, Gary Oldman, Rutger Hauer, and Cillian Murphy in the Christopher Nolan-helmed Batman Begins, a complete restart of the Batman mythos without any ties to the Burton or Schumacher visions. Bale beat out Jake Gyllenhaal, the closest competition. (evening the score, as Bale lost the part of Anthony Swofford in Jarhead to Gyllenhaal).
Still fresh from The Machinist, it became necessary for Bale to bulk up to match the powerful physique of Batman. He was given a deadline of six months to do this. Bale recalled it as far from a simple accomplishment: “…when it actually came to building muscle, I was useless. I couldn’t do one push up the first day. All of the muscles were gone, so I had a real tough time rebuilding all of that.” With the help of a personal trainer, Bale succeeded in meeting the deadline, gaining exactly one hundred pounds in six months. He then worked toward converting most of it into muscle.
Bale had initial concerns about playing Batman, as he felt more ridiculous than intimidating in the Batman costume. He dealt with this by depicting Batman as a savage beast in his portrayal. To attain a deeper understanding of the character, Bale read various Batman comic books. He explained his interpretation of the Dark Knight: “Batman is his hidden, demonic rage-filled side. The Batman creature [Wayne] creates is an absolutely sincere creature and one that he has to control but does so in a very haphazard way. He’s capable of enacting violence—and to kill—so he’s constantly having to rein himself in.” For Bale, the most grueling part about playing Batman was the costume. “You stick it on, you get hot, you sweat and you get a headache in the cowl,” he said. “But I’m not going to bitch about it because I get to play Batman.” When promoting the film in interviews and public events, Bale retained Bruce Wayne’s American accent to avoid confusion with Batman being a Briton.
Batman Begins was released domestically on June 15, 2005 to wide critical, fan and public approval. Nolan was commended for choosing to film most of Begins more traditionally by opting for live-action special effects whenever possible in an age where CGI was economical and believable. The cast was praised for its effective portrayals, but Bale, along with Cillian Murphy(The Scarecrow) drew the most acclaim for his dual portrayal of both Batman and Bruce Wayne. He earned the Best Hero award at the 2006 MTV Movie Awards for his performance.
Batman Begins was a domestic and international triumph for Warner Bros., costing approximately US$135,000,000 to produce and taking in over US$370,000,000 in returns worldwide. A Batman Begins video game was also developed for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Game Boy Advance; Bale provided the voice of Batman. The Dark Knight, the sequel to Batman Begins, is in production, with Bale set to reprise his role as Batman and Heath Ledger set to play his famous archnemesis The Joker. It is expected to complete filming sometime in 2008.
On January 29, 2000, Bale married Sibi Blazic, who had formerly been a model, a make-up artist, and a personal assistant to Winona Ryder. He now lives with her in Los Angeles. Together they have a daughter who was born on March 27, 2005 in Santa Monica, California. Bale, notoriously private, has not publicly divulged her name.
Bale has three older sisters – Erin Bale, a musician; Sharon Bale, a computer professional; and Louise Bale, a theatre actress and director. The Bale family is deeply rooted in show business, especially theatre. Bale is a distant relative of British actress Lillie Langtry, while his uncle, Rex Bale, and maternal grandfather were actors as well.
Like his father David, Bale is known as a conservationist and an animal lover, and is a supporter of conservation and animal welfare groups like Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund. Bale gained the famous feminist activist Gloria Steinem as a stepmother through his father’s marriage to her on September 3, 2000, before his death in 2003. Ironically, Steinem was one of the most vocal opponents of Bret Easton Ellis’s novel American Psycho.
Sibi Blazic (Real name: Sandra Blazic) (14 April 1970, Chicago, Illinois, USA ) who had formerly been a model, a make-up artist, and a personal assistant to Winona Ryder. She now lives with Christian in Los Angeles.
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