In Hollywood, it’s rare for child actors to sustain career success into adulthood; it’s rarer still for one to become a defining talent of his generation. Since his breakthrough role at the age of 13 in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, Christian Bale has been one of the film industry’s go-to leading men.
While perhaps best known for playing Batman in Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed Dark Knight Trilogy, Bale’s resume is as eclectic as his body transformations. As comfortable playing a buff superhero as he is a malnourished insomniac, Bale’s intense method acting style has become the stuff of Hollywood legend. However, there’s a lot more to him than a willingness to drop (or put on) a ton of weight for his craft! Here are 11 things you might not know about Christian Bale.
11. Lost His American Psycho Role to Leonardo DiCaprio (Only to Win it Back)
If there’s one film that marked Bale’s transition from child actor to bonafide star, it’s probably American Psycho. Bale received praise and attention for his lead performance as a murderous yuppie, and the film helped put him on the path to becoming one of the most sought-after actors of the 2000s. However, when American Psycho was being developed in the late 90s, Bale had to fight like hell to hold onto the lead role.
Arguing he wasn’t famous enough for the part, distributor Lionsgate Films pushed for Leonardo DiCaprio to take the part. While DiCaprio did strongly consider, he opted to star in The Beach instead. But rather than let Bale come back, Lionsgate turned around and offered the part to Ewan McGregor! After personally urging McGregor to turn it down, Bale finally got the job and despite Lionsgate’s initial reservations, American Psycho was a financial success.
10. Holds The Record For Film Weight Gain (And Loss)
Bale is notorious for dramatically altering his physique for certain roles, to the point where he holds a couple of records for his extreme body transformations. To portray a man suffering from severe insomnia and paranoia, Bale lost a staggering 62 pounds for 2004’s The Machinist, utilizing a crash diet consisting of “water, an apple and one cup of coffee per day, with the occasional whiskey”. As if that wasn’t extreme enough, Bale then had to pack on the pounds for his next role: Batman.
To convincingly portray the Caped Crusader, Bale gained 100 pounds, shattering the record for most weight gained by an actor for a movie role in the process (Robert De Niro was the previous record holder, having gained 60 pounds for 1980’s Raging Bull). As if that wasn’t enough, Bale then had to shed 20 pounds, as Batman Begins director Christopher Nolan felt he had gained too much weight for the role.
9. His Sister Played Martha Wayne in a Terrible Batman Movie
As previously mentioned, Christian Bale’s older sister Louise is an actor as well and even starred alongside her brother in 1992’s Newsies (Bale’s then-girlfriend Natalie was also cast as an extra). While Louise only has a few film credits to her name, she managed to star in a Batman film before her brother. Well, sort of.
Louse Bale played Mrs. Wayne in 2003’s The Death of Batman, a little-seen short film that by most accounts is pretty terrible. Given his strained relationship with his mother and sisters, it’s hardly surprising that Bale has never publicly commented on The Death of Batman or Louise’s role in it.
8. He’s Been Involved in Several Motorcycle Crashes
One of Christian Bale’s biggest passions outside of acting is motorcycle racing. While still an avid motorcyclist to this day, Bale gave up track racing in 2014 after sustaining injuries in a December 2012 crash. “I couldn’t move my fingers at all, so I just wasted away,” Bale told Esquire in 2014. “My whole arm just became nothing.”
Bale’s injuries resulted in him receiving a steel plate for a broken wrist, a titanium clavicle, and 25 screws to mend his arm. He even lost the top of a finger at one point, but it was later reattached. Bale was still recovering from his arm injury while filming the 2014 Biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings and admits he favored his right arm throughout production.
7. His Grandfather Body Doubled For John Wayne
Although Christian Bale claims he initially got into acting for the money, he does have a familial connection to the profession. Bale’s older sister Louise is also an actor and both of his grandfathers were performers. One was a ventriloquist and stand-up comedian (though he also spent time as a boxer and jockey), while the other worked as a Hollywood stunt double and even doubled for John Wayne in 1962’s Hatari!.
6. His First Acting Gig Was in a Fabric Softener Commercial
Bale famously got his first starring role at the age of 13, beating out more than 4,000 child actors for the role of Jamie “Jim” Graham in Steven Spielberg’s 1987 war film Empire of the Sun. However, like many child actors, Bale got his start in commercials.
In 1982 at the age of eight, Bale got his first acting gig, appearing in a commercial for the fabric softener brand Lenor. A year later, he appeared as a child rock star in a Pac-Man cereal commercial (watch it here!) and in 1984, made his stage debut in a production of “The Nerd” on London’s West End featuring Rowan Atkinson.
5. Winona Ryder Introduced Him to His Wife
When Christian Bale first met his future wife Sibi Blažić, she was working as an assistant to Winona Ryder, whom Bale had been friends with since the two starred together in 1994’s Little Women. Despite later claiming he had “never planned to marry”, Bale eloped to Las Vegas with Blažić in 2000 when he was 26 years old and she was 30. The couple has now been married for 20 years and have two children together.
A former model, Blažić is also a makeup artist, actor, and stunt woman. In fact, she worked alongside her husband in The Dark Knight Rises as a stunt driver! “My wife was a stunt driver, she was chasing me through the city in Batman,” Bale revealed in a 2014 interview with The Wall Street Journal. “She was driving one of the cop cars. She can do 180s and stunts and all that. She terrifies me. My wife terrifies me.”
4. Embraced Method Acting at a Young Age
Christian Bale is a well-known method actor, going to emotional and physical extremes to portray his characters. For many, Bale’s lead performance in American Psycho is likely the earliest example of method acting in his career that comes to mind, but he’s actually been cultivating the technique since his early days in Hollywood. To help meet the physical demands of his roles in Newsies (1992) and Swing Kids (1993), Bale trained for 10 weeks in martial arts and dancing. While this may not hold a candle to the drastic preparation steps he’d take later in his career, it shows Bale was willing to put in the hard work necessary to bring his performances to life from a young age.
3. No, His Children Aren’t Named Banana and Burrito
Christian Bale has two children: a daughter, Emmaline (born 2005) and a son, Joseph (born 2014). However, if you heard Bale’s Golden Globes acceptance speech in 2019, you might have thought his children had much more, um, unique names. During the speech, he referred to Emmaline and Joseph as “Banana” and “Burrito”, respectively, leaving many to question whether these were, in fact, his children’s real names.
After all, celebrities have kind of made a habit of giving their children odd names (even fruit-related ones – yes, we’re looking at you, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin), so why should Bale be any different? As it turns out, Banana and Burrito are just cute nicknames but as one Twitter user pointed out, it’s hard to get over the fact Bale left the best food-based nickname on the table.
2. He’s Gloria Steinem’s Stepson
Gloria Steinem is best known as a leading voice in America’s feminist movement during the late 1960s and early 1970s, but one thing you might not have known is that she was married to Christian Bale’s father David in the early 2000s. Bale’s parents divorced in 1991 when he was 17 and he moved to Los Angeles with his father that same year. In 2000, Steinem married David Bale but the couple was only together for three years, as David sadly died of brain lymphoma in 2003 at the age of 62.
Interestingly Steinem was a vocal critic of Bret Easton Ellis’s 1991 novel American Psycho due to its portrayal of violence toward women. Less than 10 years later, her new stepson starred in the acclaimed film adaptation!
1. Even His Wife Hated The Bat Rasp
While Bale’s portrayal of Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is one of the finest superhero performances of all time, even the most ardent fans would admit that the actor’s infamous Bat Rasp started to sound a bit hokey towards the end. Countless parodies have only heightened the absurdity of the deep, growly voice Bale used whilst wearing the cowl but as it turns out, he had a critic from day one.
In a 2013 interview with MTV, Bale revealed that he first used the Bat Rasp in his audition for Batman Begins. When he went home that night, he demonstrated the voice to his wife Sibi, who was less than impressed. “I went home that evening, and my wife said, ‘How’d it go?’ I went, ‘I kind of did this.’ And I showed her, and she went, ‘Oh, you f—ed that one up, didn’t you?’” Bale explained. “Thank God they went for it.”
Fun fact: Warner Bros. released Bale’s audition tape as part of The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition boxset, so you can watch him do the Bat Rasp for the fire time (made all the more hilarious by the fact he had to wear Val Kilmer’s Batsuit from Batman Forever).