The intense actor, who became a superstar playing Batman, makes chancy career choices on purpose.
“I like to think that as long as you continue choosing diverse roles, you can avoid becoming predictable,” he says.
He could make a life (and a fortune) playing square-jawed superheroes in action movies, but instead chooses to shake things up. Since his breakthrough performance in 1987’s Empire of the Sun he has been a chameleon, losing sixty pounds to play the skeletal lead in The Machinist and gaining a beer gut and a comb over for an upcoming role in American Hustle.
This weekend in Out of the Furnace he changes it up once again. He stars as a steel mill worker pushed to extremes when his Iraq war veteran brother (Casey Affleck) gets mixed up with the wrong people and disappears.
The vengeance angle sounds Batmanesque but Out of the Furnace is set far away from Gotham in the economically-depressed Rust Belt but there isn’t a cowl or a cape in sight and Bale has once again physically transformed himself.
Here’s a look at how Bale physically changes it up for his movie roles.
Creating the “Olympian physique” of serial killer Patrick Bateman in American Psycho took some discipline. “I’m English,” he said, “and in England, we don’t have many gyms around. We’d rather go to a pub instead.” A trainer and a protein diet took off the pounds.
As boxer and former drug addict Dicky Ecklund in The Fighter he dropped thirty pounds and used make-up and prosthetics to age himself. How did he lose the weight? “Usually I always say, ‘Oh, I do a lot of coke whenever I lose weight.’ I’m not sure if it’s so funny for this movie, to say that.” In reality he trained with the real-life Ecklund and boxed the pounds off.
In Velvet Goldmine he plays a London journalist looking into the life and faked death of glam rock singer Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Once again he had to physically transform, but not in the traditional way.
When his mom saw that he was working out and running at 6 am she said, “Christian, what are you doing? You’re doing a film about sex drugs and rock and roll. Why don’t you do it the way they did it? They weren’t out running. They drank a helluva lot and lived unhealthily.”
“I took that to heart,” he says, “and it works.”