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After being tapped by Steven Spielberg to star in his epic period film, "Empire of the Sun" (1987), actor Christian Bale found himself thrust into the spotlight, causing enough apprehension about being a celebrity that he considered quitting his career before it really began. But Bale later overcame any initial misgivings to emerge as a gifted young talent worthy of serious consideration, thanks to career-making performances in "Little Women" (1994), "Metroland" (1997) and "Velvet Goldmine" (1998). But it was his leading turn as the serial killer Patrick Batman in "American Psycho" (2000) that turned more than a few heads and underscored his prodigious talents, though he followed up with more subdued performances in "Laurel Canyon" (2002) and "Reign of Fire" (2002). Bale took a page from Robert De Niro's playbook and dropped some 60-odd pounds to play an emaciated factory worker for an acclaimed performance in "The Machinist" (2004). After packing on the pounds and returning to even greater shape, Bale was near perfectly cast as Bruce Wayne in director Christopher Nolan's reboot "Batman Begins" (2005) and its much-hailed sequel, "The Dark Knight" (2008). Though his public persona took a hit when a...
After being tapped by Steven Spielberg to star in his epic period film, "Empire of the Sun" (1987), actor Christian Bale found himself thrust into the spotlight, causing enough apprehension about being a celebrity that he considered quitting his career before it really began. But Bale later overcame any initial misgivings to emerge as a gifted young talent worthy of serious consideration, thanks to career-making performances in "Little Women" (1994), "Metroland" (1997) and "Velvet Goldmine" (1998). But it was his leading turn as the serial killer Patrick Batman in "American Psycho" (2000) that turned more than a few heads and underscored his prodigious talents, though he followed up with more subdued performances in "Laurel Canyon" (2002) and "Reign of Fire" (2002). Bale took a page from Robert De Niro's playbook and dropped some 60-odd pounds to play an emaciated factory worker for an acclaimed performance in "The Machinist" (2004). After packing on the pounds and returning to even greater shape, Bale was near perfectly cast as Bruce Wayne in director Christopher Nolan's reboot "Batman Begins" (2005) and its much-hailed sequel, "The Dark Knight" (2008). Though his public persona took a hit when a recording of him berating the cinematographer on the set of "Terminator Salvation" (2009) leaked, Bale emerged the following year with an Oscar-winning supporting turn as a drug-addicted former professional boxer in "The Fighter" (2010), which helped the actor elevate his already exceptional career.
Born on Jan. 30, 1974 in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, Bale grew up in Portugal and various towns around England before finally settling in Bournemouth, Dorset, England. He was introduced to life in entertainment almost from the start - one grandfather was a vaudeville-style stand-up comic; the other grandfather was a stand-in for John Wayne on several films. His mother, Jane, was also in the business, working as a dancer and a circus performer. On the other hand, his father David was an entrepreneur, conservationist and animal rights activist who brought Young Bale to Save the Whale rallies. But it was Bale's older sister, Louise, who piqued his interest in acting - she started the craft when he was young; naturally, he followed her into it. Bale began his career a child actor, making his debut when he was nine years old in British television commercials, including one for Pac-Man cereal. He made the transition to stage and film, performing alongside Rowan Atkinson in a West End production of "The Nerd" (1984) and on the BBC miniseries "Heart of the Country" (1987). He also made his American debut with a supporting role in the two-part miniseries, "Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna" (NBC, 1986).
By the time he was 13, Bale was attending the Bournemouth School for Boys, though maintaining studies while also acting proved difficult. His entire life changed, however, when he was chosen by Steven Spielberg out of 4,000 hopefuls to play Jim Graham, a pampered upper-class British adolescent living in China, in "Empire of the Sun." Shouldering the bulk of the movie - no small task for one so young - Bale delivered a mature performance and was immediately hailed as the next Big Thing. Being thrust into the limelight - some even said he was the most talked about child actor since Mickey Rooney - had a starkly profound effect on Bale, who suddenly found himself retreating from press interviews and publicity events. The pressure of being a sudden celebrity proved to be too much, especially in light of "Empire of the Sun" doing mediocre business at the box office. Back at home, Bale was taken to task by a local newspaper for refusing an interview, while the boys at Bournemouth picked fights and mocked him. All he wanted to do was get away.
Soon after he was finished with "Empire of the Sun," his parents divorced, jading Bale on the concept of marriage. Meanwhile, he lost his desire to act, thanks to his time spent in the bright lights of celebrity. But the lure was ignited anew when Kenneth Branagh persuaded Bale to play a minor role opposite Falstaff (Robbie Coltrane) in the actor-director's excellent interpretation of Shakespeare's "Henry V" (1989). He next starred opposite Charlton Heston as Jim Hawkins in the competently made television adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" (TNT, 1990). A couple of years later, Bale made the ill-fated decision to star in his first musical, "Newsies" (1992), a dreadful Disney concoction that told the true story of an 1899 strike by newspaper boys against publishing tycoon Joseph Pulitzer. Bale hated musicals and claimed to have had no idea how he became involved in one. Regardless, it became one of the few embarrassments of Bale's career.
Despite previous misgivings about being an actor, Bale had rededicated himself to the craft, though he did steadfastly - perhaps stubbornly - avoid publicity for his projects. He tried his hand again at musicals with "Swing Kids" (1993), playing a young lad in pre-war Nazi Germany who, along with his cohorts, is obsessed with American jazz while struggling to contend with rising fascism and impending war. Bale then played the lead role of Amled in "Royal Deceit" (1994), which was based on the 12th century chronicle by Saxo Grammaticus later adapted into Hamlet by William Shakespeare. But it was his turn as the wealthy and spirited Laurie, neighbor to the March sisters, in Gillian Armstrong's version of "Little Women" that allowed audiences to fully embrace him. Offering a charismatic and energetic male presence to the estrogen-filled proceedings, he found himself suddenly wearing the "heartthrob" label. Thanks to swooning females in the audience, Bale's career was revitalized after his relative ebb following "Empire of the Sun."
As the 1990s wound down, Bale continued to offer fascinating performances and began to move away from the adolescent characters from his earlier career. Attempting not to repeat himself, he played a mentally disabled youth in the uneven adaptation of Joseph Conrad's "The Secret Agent" (1996), which he followed with an appearance as a young swain in Jane Campion's "Portrait of a Lady" (1996). Undertaking his first bona fide adult role, he starred as a married man questioning his life choices in "Metroland" (1997), a bittersweet dramedy that required him to play the man at three stages in his life. He managed a similar feat in "Velvet Goldmine" (1998), doing double duty as a reporter investigating the mysterious disappearance of a former glam-rock star (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) while playing his younger incarnation who emulated the singer as a lad. Following a go as the stalwart Demetrius in "William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1999), he delivered a strong performance as a slightly disabled youth in the fairy tale-like "All the Little Animals" (1999).
He next undertook what turned out to be his most challenging role, playing Wall Street stockbroker-cum-serial killer Patrick Bateman in "American Psycho." The adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' novel sparked controversy before a single frame of film was exposed. Director Mary Harron had settled on Bale for the lead, but Lion's Gate wanted well-known names attached instead. At one point, Leonardo DiCaprio and director Oliver Stone were interested, but a budget that had ballooned to $40 million changed the studio's course. Eventually, Harron returned to the project and rehired Bale. Before filming began in Toronto, victims rights groups attempted to stop the city from issuing permits (the book allegedly served as an inspiration for a Canadian serial killer). Meanwhile, Bale faced a press that declared the role would be a line of demarcation in his career: either he would be seen as a brilliant actor or his career might never recover. But it was a risk Bale was willing to take - "[W]hat? I'm going to end up playing Laurie in 'Little Women' for the rest of my life?"
Perhaps as insurance, he portrayed Jesus in the biblical drama, "Mary, Mother of Jesus" (NBC, 1999), co-starring Pernilla August as Mary. Bale moved on to supporting roles in a pair of more conventional, low-performing films - John Singelton's remake of "Shaft" (2000) with Samuel L. Jackson and "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" (2001) starring Nicolas Cage. He scored a modest box office hit playing the dragon fighter Quinn in the fantasy adventure "Reign of Fire" (2002). Later that year, he appeared in the uninspired sci-fi parable "Equilibrium" (2002) which reunited him with "Metroland" costar Emily Watson. The film was released with little fanfare and to poor critical response. He fared better, however, in the intriguing - albeit not artistically successful - indie drama "Laurel Canyon" (2003), convincingly playing a Los Angeles-bred physician and the son of an iconoclastic rock producer (Frances McDormand) who returns to the affluent canyon community he has grown to look down upon with his fiancé (Kate Beckinsale). Bale's next film was the nightmarish thriller "The Machinist" (2004) by director Brad Anderson - the actor played a drill press operator who grows emaciated after not sleeping for a year. Bale insanely dropped a whopping 63 pounds - a third of his body weight - by downing whiskey and diet pills, a true testament to his dedication for authenticity.
Bale built his body back into shape and rocketed to international superstardom when he was tapped by director Christopher Nolan to star in "Batman Begins," a serious-minded reboot of the faded franchise that explored the origins of the Dark Knight in his earliest days. Bale was the most comic book-accurate Batman yet, convincingly playing both his fearsome crime-fighting alter ego, the foppish public persona of Bruce Wayne and the third conflicted personality behind both masks. Bale next had a supporting role in Terrance Malick's "The New World" (2005), a lyrical, but ultimately meandering look at the settlement at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 and the ensuing love affair between Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell) and a young Native American girl, Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher). Bale played John Rolfe, a tobacconist who marries Pocahontas after the supposed death of Smith and brings her back to England where she's treated as a celebrity.
Bale next starred in "The Prestige" (2006), playing an obscure, but brilliant magician engaged in a game of one-upmanship with his flashier, more sophisticated rival (Hugh Jackman). Their rivalry starts off friendly enough, but a trick that g s horribly awry forces them to become bitter enemies, leading both down a path of a fierce competition that may ultimately end in death. Then in "Harsh Times" (2006), Bale was a Gulf War veteran struggling to cope with postwar life while hoping to become a policeman. His dream starts to slip away, however, when he joins his best friend (Freddy Rodriguez) on a violent rampage through South Central Los Angeles that eventually causes dire consequences. Meanwhile, Bale played Dieter Dengler in "Rescue Dawn" (2006), a true-life telling of the German-born pilot whose obsession with flying leads him to join the Air Force during Vietnam, only to be shot down during his first mission and captured by the Vietcong. Directed by famed lunatic Werner Herzog, "Rescue Dawn" put Bale through the wringer in the jungles of Thailand, where the actor endured harsh conditions, grueling takes and crew revolts - just another day at the office of a Herzog production.
In "3:10 to Yuma" (2007), an earnest attempt by Hollywood to revive the once-dead Western genre, Bale played a rancher fallen on hard times who agrees to escort a notorious criminal (Russell Crowe) to prison in order to earn money to support his family. But the criminal has other plans, tempting the rancher into releasing him in exchange for a share of hidden loot worth much more than he is being paid. Both Bale and co-star Crowe gave fine, nuanced performances that helped underscore a strong revisionist take on an old favorite by director James Mangold. For a change of pace, Bale joined several other top performers - including Richard Gere, Heath Ledger and Cate Blanchett - to appear as Bob Dylan at different stages of his career in "I'm Not There" (2007). Bale played the earnest folk artist who eventually was reborn as a Christian preacher.
Bale reprised the role of the Caped Crusader in "The Dark Knight" (2008), arguably the best Batman film of the franchise. Co-starring Heath Ledger in an Oscar-winning role - which he posthumously won, following his sudden death from an accidental overdose in January 2009 - "The Dark Knight" was hailed by critics as a crime thriller masterpiece on its way to becoming one of the top grossing movies of all time. While the film enjoyed enormous attention and success, Bale ran into personal troubles behind the scenes. Just days after "The Dark Knight" released in North America, the actor was arrested by London police for allegedly assaulting his mother, Jenny, and sister, Sharon. After Bale denied the allegations, the police dropped the charges due to lack of evidence. In February 2009, Bale was lambasted in public for an on-set, profanity-laced tirade against Shane Hurlbut, the cinematographer on the actor's next film, "Terminator Salvation" (2009). Allegedly, Hurlbut crossed Bale's line of sight several times while filming a scene, which prompted the actor to explode into a long, heated rant that director McG failed to mitigate. While the incident occurred in July 2008, the audio recording was released several months later - to both disgust and amusement (with some making audio remixes of the meltdown set to club beats). Though some celebrities came to his defense, Bale eventually apologized in public after initially remaining silent. Meanwhile, "Terminator" was released a few months later to scathing reviews, but a decent box office take in the midst of a competitive summer season.
Also that summer, Bale co-starred in "Public Enemies" (2009), director Michael Mann's compelling look at the criminal career of John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and his notorious gang. Bale played FBI man Melvin Purvis, whose dogged pursuit of Dillinger led to the gangster's unceremonious death outside a Chicago movie theater. Meanwhile, Bale returned to artistic form with a much-lauded performance in "The Fighter" (2010), playing a former welterweight boxer and the crack cocaine-addicted half brother of "Irish" Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), a working-class fighter from Massachusetts who rose to fame for his dramatic fights with Arturo Gatti. Bale was widely praised by critics for his performance, which led to Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award wins for Best Supporting Actor. From there, he traveled to China to star in Zhang Yimou's historical drama, "The Flowers of War" (2011), which was set during the Nanking Massacre of 1937. While filming, Bale brought a CNN crew to a remote village to visit Chen Guangcheng, a blind lawyer living under house arrest for openly opposing China's One Child Policy. Bale and his crew were physically barred from seeing Chen, resulting in a black eye for the actor after he was bullied and punched by unidentified security personnel.
Meanwhile, Bale reprised Bruce Wayne/Batman for Nolan's third and final installment, "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012), where the Caped Crusader battled Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and leather-clad terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy), who is hell-bent on destroying Gotham City. Widely expected to eclipse its predecessors at the box office, "The Dark Knight Rises" was mired in tragedy when a lone gunman opened fire on a movie theater in Aurora, CO, killing 12 people and injuring 58 others. The mass shooting - one of the worst in U.S. history - prompted a flood of sympathy for the victims, with Nolan expressing his heartfelt shock while Warner Bros. pulled advertising, canceled promotional events and withheld box office totals. For his part, Bale released a statement that said his heart went out to the victims of the tragedy. Putting action to words, he went to Aurora just days after the horrific event to visit survivors at the Medical Center of Aurora, where he spent two-and-a-half hours with patients and posed for pictures with staff. He later went to a makeshift memorial at the theater, where he quietly paid his respects. Bale's visit was kept on the down-low and done on his own volition, though news outlets picked up the story once pictures hit the Internet.
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