The World’s Greatest Detective has been solving crimes since 1939, and yet to many Batman fans, Christian Bale permanently redefined the character starting in 2005. In three landmark films, Bale created a dark, nuanced, troubled, and brilliant superhero that managed to reinvigorate the Batman genre without offending diehard fans of the character in comic book form. Director Christopher Nolan would say Bale’s perfect “balance of darkness and light” was what made him perfect for the role, and the collective $2.4 billion grossed by the series would imply moviegoers generally felt the same way.
For as popular as Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises were, Bale’s performance as Batman may have been one of the most heavily criticized choices in the series. His gruff Batman voice in particular has earned a somewhat appropriate level of mockery, but the reason he chose to use it is actually logical enough. That wasn’t the only decision of Bale’s that affected the performance, and one of his other acting choices would heavily affect his personal life, as well.
Fans of Christian Bale have always known he was a highly talented actor who put deep thought into every character he played. With that in mind, there’s a good chance you don’t know every aspect about his representation of The Dark Knight. Some things don’t come off on screen unless you’re looking for them, and shrouded in the darkness of Gotham, it can be hard to catch minor subtleties. Keep reading to learn 15 things you never knew about Christian Bale’s Batman.
15. He Wasn’t The Only Actor Considered For The Part
The first big surprise about Christian Bale’s performance as Batman is that it almost didn’t happen. It’s not unusual for a big budget Hollywood film to have dozens of actors vying for the lead, and when that lead happens to be one of the most iconic and popular characters of all time, the list of hopefuls can be loaded with huge stars. In this case, actors like Jake Gyllenhaal, Keanu Reeves, Josh Hartnett, Henry Cavill, Ashton Kutcher, Eion Bailey, Hugh Dancy, Joshua Jackson, Billy Crudup, David Boreanaz, and eventual co-stars Cillian Murphy and Heath Ledger all expressed some level of interest in nabbing the role. It would be suffice to say hundreds of other, smaller actors were also interested in a more hopeful manner. Looking at the list of Batman also rans, Bale was hardly the biggest star of the group, having only appeared in a number of critically acclaimed but relatively small films prior to his star-making and career defining role.
14. A Drunk Driver Crashed Into The Batmobile
Batman’s vehicle of choice, the Batmobile, is arguably as popular as The Caped Crusader himself. It’s gone through as many iterations as the Batsuit, changing roughly as often as actors who get to drive it, and yet it remains distinctive and iconic, unlike any other car in this world. Or, perhaps, out of this world. According to Bale, some time during the filming of Batman Begins, a drunken Chicago driver intentionally crashed into it, believing it was a UFO. Panic-stricken and faced with the threat of alien invaders, the motorist rammed the car sidelong, and was soon caught and arrested. As annoying and expensive as the mishap must have been, Christian Bale took the ordeal in good humor, admitting that the offender probably had the best story any prisoner would ever get to tell his cellmate. “What are you in for?” “I rammed into the Batmobile.” And he did it to save Chicago from aliens. If the perpetrator hadn’t been too drunk to get behind a wheel when it happened, it would almost be charming.
13. Christopher Nolan’s Presidential Inspiration
In many respects, the writers and directors of a film are as responsible for how a character is portrayed as the actor playing the role. Not to take any credit away from Bale’s performance, director Christopher Nolan and his co-writers David S. Goyer and Jonathan Nolan were equally integral in forming who this version of Batman was. More importantly to this entry, they were also crucial in how Christian Bale would play Bruce Wayne. At Christopher Nolan’s insistence, he, Bale, and the writers all crafted Bruce Wayne to be another sort of pop culture figure entirely—trust busting President Theodore Roosevelt. Referring to Teddy Roosevelt as Batman’s “direct historical precedent,” noting their shared history of philanthropy and familial tragedies. More than simply sharing a similar background, Roosevelt also was heavily involved in restructuring and rebuilding the flawed New York City police department of the late 1890s, not entirely unlike Batman’s own efforts towards ridding Gotham of crime. Nolan and company didn’t simply look to history to inspire their heroes, having done the same with villains, inserting elements of Osama bin Laden into Ra’s al Ghul.
12. His Extreme Physical Transformation
Unless Adam West is wearing it, beneath the Batsuit lies a heavily chiseled, well-conditioned man who can hold his own in just about any fight. Unfortunately for Christian Bale, immediately before he was chosen to don the cape, he starred in a film called The Machinist. Bale lost a dangerous amount of weight in order to accurately portray the overworked and heavily underfed Trevor Reznik, emaciated due to his lack of food, insomnia, and a bevy of other mental problems. Bale lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 63 pounds to portray the character, weighing a mere 120 at his absolute lightest. To transform into Batman, he regained 60 of those lost pounds, and then started to define his muscles to a degree that added another 39 pounds to his overall frame. Bale has been no stranger to both weight loss and gain throughout his career, having previously put on muscle for American Psycho, and later losing his defined muscle in favor of a massive gut for American Hustle.
11. Being Batman Put Him To Sleep
With everything he was putting his body through, thoughts of former Presidents constantly in his head, and drunk drivers smashing into his Batmobile, it’s no wonder Christian Bale regularly got stressed out on set. Fans of Terminator: Salvation might even call that an understatement. While he didn’t suffer any on-set freak-outs throughout the Batman series, Bale did give in to a more relaxing bad habit in regularly falling asleep on set. Bale said the habit started forming while he filmed The Machinist, where his mental state saw him drift in and out of consciousness. He’s in better physical shape now, but certain things will still trigger his instinct, like a scene where cameras start rolling when his character is lying in bed, having barely woken up. Such was the case during the first scene Bale filmed with Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, when Alfred and Lucius walk into Bruce Wayne’s bedroom. Christian actually passed out during filming, and was woken up by a mocking Caine poking him in the chest in disapproval.
10. He Wasn’t A Comic Book Fan Before Taking The Role
Practically every living actor would jump at the opportunity to play Batman, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all diehard fans of the comic book. Prior to accepting and reinventing the role, Christian Bale claimed to have little interest in the Batman character, always gravitating to the villains in other film versions and never taking the time to read any comics. Once Christopher Nolan made it clear he wanted Bale for the role, Nolan also suggested a number of graphic novels to get him started at understanding how to play the character. Specifically, Bale has cited Batman: Year One, Dark Victory, and The Long Halloween as heavily inspiring his performance. As fans of the comics are no doubt aware, the stories of Year One and The Long Halloween went on to serve the basis of Batman Begins and Harvey Dent/Two-Face’s arc in The Dark Knight. These graphic novels weren’t the only pieces of literature given to Bale in preparation for the role, as he was also instructed to read The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris, in line with our earlier entry on Bruce Wayne’s basis.
9. Why He Created The Bat-Voice
Arguably the most heavily criticized element of the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy was the voice Christian Bale chose to inflect whenever hidden behind his Batsuit. Given Bruce Wayne’s status as a socialite celebrity, it makes sense that he would need to disguise his voice in one way or another. Nonetheless, many moviegoers thought his ultra-deep voice was too grizzled to be realistic. When tasked with defending his choice, Bale explained the voice came to him while he was wearing the Batsuit, which initially made him “feel like an idiot.” To stop feeling stupid, Bale needed to get into the mindset of a person who would actually dress up like a bat and fight crime. In his words, this meant he had to “become a beast” due to the pain and torment Bruce Wayne experienced throughout his life. While we won’t go as far as Bale himself, who claimed Batman would be “loopy beyond belief” if he didn’t speak with the gruff voice, it’s fair enough to acknowledge the method behind the madness and move on.
8. Does Batman Need A Trip To Arkham?
Given how he sends all of his enemies there, few comic book characters have a more direct connection with mental hospitals than Batman. His rogue’s gallery never get killed or sent to jail, they go to the Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane, until they inevitably break out and wreak havoc over Gotham once again. If one was to ask Christian Bale, though, Bruce Wayne might actually be the one in need of psychiatric care. After claiming his version of Batman intended to highlight the character’s “incredible pain, anger, guilt, and rage,” Bale was flat-out asked if his version of Batman was mentally ill. While he ultimately decided Batman didn’t suffer from any form of schizophrenia or actual multiple personality disorder, he nonetheless saw Batman and Bruce Wayne as completely separate personalities. More tellingly to the character’s mental state, he believed Batman was his true self and Bruce Wayne was the mask he wore to hide his instabilities.
7. Who Was The Real Star On Set?
Typically, if a person receives top billing in a film as a pop culture icon, there’s a reasonable expectation that they would be considered a “star.” Christian Bale certainly became one with the public, but when they were still filming, he claims the true superhero of the Batman series was Matthew Stratton, the stunt driver who drove the Batmobile during its most amazing and captivating moments. According to Bale, while he earned a decent amount of attention the first several times he wore the Batsuit, he and his cast mates never ceased to be amazed every time Stratton walked on set to perform his stunts. Telling of how popular the Batmobile and the various stunts performed with it can be, Christian alleges that one of his first requests when taking the role was that he receive a Batmobile of his own when filming was over. Unfortunately for him, the producers thought that was a ridiculous request, but he did at least get to drive it plenty of times while filming some of the less intense scenes.
6. The Digital Death Of Miranda Tate
In 2017, the ending of The Dark Knight Rises is old news, but prior to the film’s release, it was such a hotly discussed topic that Christopher Nolan needed to go to great strides to ensure it wouldn’t leak. If for some strange reason you’re reading this article without having seen it, basically, everyone thinks Bruce Wayne is dead, such to the extent they throw him a funeral, only for Alfred to later discover he’s actually alive and well, hiding in Europe with Selina Kyle. The funeral scene nonetheless featured a headstone for Bruce Wayne, which was a small prop that could have nonetheless caused nonstop speculation about what would happen in the film, and thus had to be hidden from the public eye until after it was released. To make absolutely certain this element of the film would never leak, instead of creating a headstone for Batman, Nolan and his prop designers crafted one for Miranda Tate—the fake name assumed by Talia al Ghul at the start of the film. The name was changed to Bruce Wayne during post-production.
5. He Thinks He Could’ve Done Better
Part of the human condition is that perfectionists can often serve as their own harshest critics, and that may have been the case with Christian Bale’s Batman. Bat-voice aside, Bale is generally considered one of the better actors to portray both Batman and Bruce Wayne, although he himself apparently doesn’t think so. In his own words, Bale felt he “didn’t quite manage what [he] hoped [he] would through the trilogy,” more succinctly continuing that he, “didn’t quite nail it.” At the same time, Bale also said he believes Christopher Nolan did nail it in spite of his own failings as the title character. Part of the problem was that Bale couldn’t fully portray Batman’s subtle psychological damage, though he didn’t get very specific about why. He did, however, allude to the controversial Bat-voice, reiterating that he felt silly without using it, and implying the real-life psychological effects of wearing the Batsuit in general might have been involved with his difficulties. Starting with The Dark Knight, he had a second issue to contend with, as well…
4. He Felt Shown Up By Heath Ledger
Countless fantastic actors and actresses have portrayed comic book characters in one form or another, and plenty even won Oscars at some point in their careers. However, only three actors have ever been nominated for an acting Academy Award for playing a comic book character. After Paul Newman and William Hurt failed to get named Best Supporting Actor for roles in Road to Perdition and A History of Violence respectively, Heath Ledger became the only actor to actually win an Oscar for playing a comic book character with his portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight. It could easily be argued that The Joker has always been equally popular to Batman, and Ledger’s cast mates knew during filming that his charismatic performance could easily turn him into the real star of the sequel. Part of Christian Bale’s aforementioned reservations about his own performance as Batman stemmed from Ledger’s incredible take on The Joker, with Bale admitting, “Heath turned up, and just kind of completely ruined all my plans, because I went, ‘he’s so much more interesting than me and what I’m doing.’”
3. He Was Sad To Give Up The Role
In spite of his feeling outperformed by Heath Ledger, and regardless of the fact he thinks he could do better, Christian Bale was nevertheless somewhat disappointed in 2014 when he learned a new Batman film was being made, and he wouldn’t get to wear the cape anymore. Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice may not have panned out the way everyone hoped, but one thing it definitely made certain was that Bale’s days as Batman are over, and that the character will have life on screen without him. During an interview with Empire magazine, Bale admitted he was somewhat jealous that other people were going to play the role, claiming his initial reaction to finding out someone else would play the role was “stopping and staring into nothing for half an hour.” However, he was soon able to get over it by realizing a man in his 40s shouldn’t be fixated with dressing up like a crime-fighting bat. Whether or not this was a shot at Ben Affleck, who happens to be older than Bale, wasn’t quite clear.
2. He Was Asked To Be In Batman v Superman—In A Different Role
While the odds of Christian Bale’s version of the Dark Knight rising again seem highly unlikely, that doesn’t mean he’ll never again interact with Batman. Unless, of course, he chooses not to, as seemed to be the case with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The entire purpose of Zack Snyder’s film was to revamp the still recent Christopher Nolan movies and allow Batman to begin yet again, and that meant removing all facets of the dark, gritty character Bale created from the new version Ben Affleck would go on to play. That didn’t mean Snyder couldn’t wink at Bale’s success, though, which he wanted to do by having the actor appear in his new film as a different character. Snyder even suggested Bale play “Alfred with age makeup,” only to immediately change his mind on that particular idea. He didn’t specify which character he actually would have Bale play, likely because somehow talked him out of the idea before it had a chance to happen.
1. His Advice For Ben Affleck
The announcement that Ben Affleck would take over the role of Batman for Dawn Of Justice upset legions of fans, and as we just covered, Christian Bale wasn’t entirely happy, either. That said, Bale didn’t hold any particular resentments about Affleck being the man picked to replace him, and the two even bonded over the role after a chance meeting at a costume shop. According to Affleck, the two sparked up a casual conversation leading to one minor but nonetheless helpful piece of advice: “Make sure they put a zipper in the suit.” These may not have been his exact words, however, as Affleck has also told the story with the more folksy phrase, “Make sure you can piss in the suit.” As it turns out, the advice was actually crucial, considering Henry Cavill’s Superman suit in Man of Steel lacked that necessary implement. Based on this story, it would appear urinal functionality was one of the few things missing from Christopher Nolan’s version of the Batsuit, as well.