There are few working actors who have the talent and endurance of Christian Bale. He has already embodied some of the most iconic roles of the new century, in huge blockbusters and indie projects alike. He starred in the most popular Batman trilogy of all time, and he’s also an Oscar winner. On top of all that, he’s routinely named among the sexiest men alive.
Bale doesn’t get where he is on dumb luck, though. He works hard. Dangerously hard. Unafraid to put everything on the line for a role, Christian Bale pushes his body to the limit in order to create the most realistic possible screen performance. His intensity literally burns through the screen and we sometimes genuinely worry he will kill himself for a role. With weight loss and weight gains, dangerous conditions and obsessive behavior Bale makes a case for acting as an extreme sport.
Bale has been acting since he was a child, so there is really no shortage of bizarre and awesome behind the scenes stories of his most extreme transformations. What is especially surprising is that more often than not, Bale starts to go into hyper-drive to prepare for roles that he hasn’t even secured yet, meaning that there are many times where he prepares months for a role he doesn’t even get! And for this infamously short-tempered actor, you really don’t want to be the one who took his part away - let’s just say, he’s been known to make phone calls masked as threats to other actors who’ve been cast in roles he’s wanted.
12 Studied to be George W. Bush
At one point, Christian Bale had been one of the frontrunners to play George W. Bush in Oliver Stone’s controversial biopic W. (2008). While the role eventually went to Josh Brolin, Christian Bale allegedly spent months watching George W. Bush interviews and reading about his life in order to bring the former president to life on-screen. Politics aside, studying any politician that closely for that long seems like torture to us - and after everything, have it all be for nothing. We’re especially disappointed that Bale didn’t bring all that hard work to The Daily Show, where we could have at least imagined how good he would have been in the movie.
11 Kept a Scrapbook to play Bob Dylan
Sure, for most of us, scrapbooking is anything but crazy - it’s something your grandma does. But, for Bale? The man, the wonder who pushes himself to the limit - this is something completely out of the ordinary. While he can often come across as abrasive in public, filmmakers clearly like working with him, and this is not the first time Bale collaborated with filmmaker Todd Haynes. For this unconventional exploration of Bob Dylan, where 6 different actors play different versions of the actor, all the actors were encouraged to keep scrapbooks about their character to better understand how they embodied Bob Dylan.
10 Trained with the Keysi Fighting Method
This close ranged fighting technique is known for being suitable for real-life street altercations. Often advertised as an effective self-defence mode, it requires a great deal of skill and anticipation on behalf of the fighter. Christopher Nolan was pretty adamant about using this style in his Batman trilogy, to give it an even grittier edge. As a result, Bale trained extensively with the developers of the technique, who also happened to be two stuntmen who worked on the film! We have to say, the techniques worked and Bale was very convincing as a vigilante fighter!
9 Gained 43 Lbs for American Hustle
While this isn’t the first time that Bale would gain a lot of weight for a role, there is a difference between working with a trainer to bulk up and look good, and gain a bunch of belly fat to look as disgusting as possible. While most of us wouldn’t necessarily struggle to gain 43 pounds if we really set our mind to it, why would we? Especially if we usually looked as good as Bale does. Though he has demonstrated a unique talent for putting on and losing weight, that kind of stress on your body is not good for it - and call us selfish, but we’d much rather this adonis stay healthy and make movies for the rest of time.
8 Shaved his head so he could have comb-over
Not one for vanity, Bale shaved off some of his hair for American Hustle to best achieve the comb-over effect. We can’t say we’ve ever heard someone purposefully adopting a comb-over before, even for a film role, especially when they have a full set of hair otherwise. This isn’t the only time that Bale was willing to risk some follicles for a part and similarly shaved in a bald spot so he could better embody the role of a drug-addled Welterweight boxing champion. For his role in The Fighter, where he would also once again lose a lot of weight, he would win an Oscar for best supporting actor.
7 Made himself seem shorter by slouching
Again for American Hustle, to play the much shorter, Irving Rosenfeld, Bale decided to slouch over the filming to appear 3 inches shorter than he was. Absolutely dedicated to looking as awful as possible, Bale cast aside everything that makes him sexy to fully embody the role. Unfortunately, he garnered very little attention compared to his co-star Jennifer Lawrence, and slouching was very bad for his back. The result of this attempt to shrink down caused bale to get a herniated disc, which is not only very painful but difficult to treat. There seems to be no limit to what Bale will sacrifice to give the best possible performance.
6 Worked out religiously for "Olympian Physique"
Even before he secured the part, Bale had devoted his life to achieving the “Olympian Physique” of Patrick Bateman for American Psycho. With intense workouts, a strict diet and regular tanning sessions, Bale wanted to become the Wall Street ideal that was necessary for American Psycho. We gotta say - he went above and beyond. People around him thought he was crazy, especially since the film’s producers apparently told him they were not interested in him for the role. It was only after another actor dropped out that they decided to go with Bale, but more about that later down the list...
5 Survived a jungle in Thailand
Working on a Werner Herzog film shoot is infamously dangerous. His preference for remote locales, dangerous stunts, and hot-tempered actors has meant that people have died in his productions, and it’s not unusual that guns are brandished. On Rescue Dawn, Bale not only performed another momentous weight loss, he did it over the course of shooting of the film. Shot in reverse order, throughout the film, Bale gets progressively more emaciated. He had to run through the jungle barefoot, leaving his feet badly cut. Without finances secured and Herzog’s signature madness on display, there were a few times the crew nearly walked off the set. The atmosphere was described as “toxic”, though Bale, who seems to thrive under pressure, said he enjoyed the shoot and was laughing every day.
4 Gained 100 Lbs in six weeks to play Batman
Shortly after wrapping on The Machinist, where he lost 63 pounds and was severely malnourished (more on that later), Bale was cast as Batman with the promise that over 6 weeks he could bulk up. While it was hard at first (in losing so much weight, Bale basically had no muscles left to train), he eventually managed to put on nearly 100 lbs of muscle with the help of a personal trainer. He even went overboard, and Christopher Nolan insisted he lose a little bit of weight to properly fill out the bat suit. One thing's for sure, Christian Bale makes the rest of us seem very, very lazy.
3 He got other actors to turn down a role
Christian Bale was very eager to be cast as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. Even before he got the part he started his intense workout and obsessive research on Bret Easton Ellis’ novel. However, it seems that someone called Bale to let him know he was no longer the front-runner for the part! The filmmakers wanted either Leonardo Dicaprio or Ewan McGregor instead, which inspired him to call them up to let them to back down. He apparently said, “Don't touch. Step away. Or if you're not going to step away, understand what you're up against.” Can’t say we blame them for dropping out, we wouldn’t mess with Christian Bale either!
2 Hung off the side of the Sears Tower
The producers of Batman could not have been happy when Christian Bale volunteered to do this stunt himself. This 108 story building lies in the heart of Chicago, the infamously windy city. While Bale had a safety harness, he said that once the wind picked up and the helicopter got closer and closer things got interesting. In an interview he describes the thrill of the experience: “But it was a thrill; it got the heart going - especially when the wind picked up and I was leaning all the way out over the edge. I mean, you can't play a superhero and not enjoy it, right?”
1 He lost over sixty lbs for The Machinist
Subsiding on a diet of apples and cigarettes, Christian Bale lost 63 pounds in order to play the insomniac industrial worker who starts to lose grip on reality. Not having any other films in the work at the time, Bale devoted all his time to this project because he loved the script so much. Pushing his body to the very limits, he not only lost an absurd amount of weight in a short period of time, he tried to sleep as little as possible and was well below his target weight by the end. Since the release of the film, Bale now says he might have gone too far for this role, as he seriously put his health on the line!