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Christian Bale: From the Shadows to the Spotlight

Sean Sweany | Wednesday, November 1, 2006

The epitomy of the method actor lies within Christian Bale. The young actor thrived as a cult star for years before earning attention and fame from his roles in “Batman Begins” and the recent release “The Prestige.”

Much like his “Prestige” co-star Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale began his acting career on the stage, opposite British comedian Rowan Atkinson in “The Nerd.” The young Welsh actor was quickly noticed for his potential and cast in Steven Spielberg’s 1987 WWII film “Empire of the Sun,” which earned him a special award for juvenile actors which had never before been given.

Bale’s acting prowess and knack for accents landed him in many varying roles throughout his career, including “Newsies,” Disney’s “Pocahontas” and “Little Women.” He is famous for his in-depth approach to his method acting. For “Newsies,” he spent 10 weeks learning dancing and martial arts for his musical numbers.

For one of his largest cult films, “American Psycho,” he bulked up, putting on considerable muscle weight to play the role of psychopathic yuppie Patrick Bateman. The controversial film landed Bale similar roles in such films as “Shaft” and the big-budget flop “Reign of Fire.”

Soon after these pop culture films, he lost 60 pounds on a diet of salads, apples, gum and cigarettes to become the emaciated and depressed Trevor Reznik in the critically-acclaimed film “The Machinist.”

This dedication to his acting and quality of work gained him the honor of being the seventh person to portray Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan’s reinvigoration of the “Batman” franchise, “Batman Begins.” Bale gained over 100 pounds after his role in “The Machinist” in order to portray a muscled, yet tormented Bruce Wayne in the dark and brooding film.

In spite of the big-budget blockbuster production, Bale’s technique did not change. His trailer nameplate read “Bruce Wayne” instead of bearing his own name and he used only Bruce Wayne’s accent in any interviews and interactions during filming.

Bale’s unique talent is an ability to totally and completely become each character he displays on screen, giving a performance closer to real life than acting. He also lends a very cerebral and intellectual quality to his characters, something that few actors today accomplish successfully. Bale’s role as Batman was his first blockbuster film, as he was something more of a cult actor prior to the comic book adaptation. Thanks to the success of “Batman Begins,” Bale’s star is quickly rising as a mainstream leading actor.

For Bale to associate with a film is quickly becoming considered a surefire way for it to garner not only popular support and success but critical acclaim as well. This is certainly so with “The Prestige” and will likely be the case in the future.

While Bale carefully chooses his slate of upcoming films and has few pictures currently in development, audiences can be assured that his intelligent, emotional acting will continue to draw audiences, both popular and cult.