At 35, Christian Bale is already regarded as one of the most talented and versatile contemporary actors. Bale has embodied a range of characters throughout his career, starring in epics and cult classics alike. While a certain *ahem* viral audio file has overshadowed some of his recent work, we'd like to think that his dedication to exploring the dark side of a role is actually admirable. With his most recent performance in "Public Enemies" opposite Johnny Depp hitting theaters on July 1st, we take a look back at the many faces of Christian Bale.
What were you up to when you were 12? Dissecting a frog? Playing four square? Having your first kiss? Starring in your first war epic?
Prepubescent Christian Bale played the leading role in the Steven Spielberg-directed World War II epic "Empire of the Sun," beating out 4,000 other boys for the part. (No big deal.) Aww, and he still makes that same manic face when he screams. Adorable.
At the ripe young age of 14, Christian Bale starred in "Treasure Island," costarring legends like Oliver Reed and Charleton Heston, who played Long John Silver. Fighting pirates and discovering lost treasure on an exotic island? Basically every 14-year-old boy's dream gig.
Who doesn't love them some turn-of-the-century singing and dancing paperboys? A precocious teenage Christian Bale sticks it to the man in "Newsies," playing a paperboy who plans a strike against publishing heavyweights Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. Starting a paperboy revolution may be hard work, but a few musical interludes seem to ease the tension.
Shortly after "Newsies," Bale used his new dance skills in "Swing Kids," playing a teenager coming of age in Nazi Germany. Bale's character and his friends have a grand old time living it up out on the town, until he swing-dances straight into the Third Reich. Not exactly as carefree of a story as the title might imply.
Christian got promoted to dreamboat status when he played Laurie, the romantic lead in "Little Women." Winona Ryder apparently handpicked him to play the role. Winona certainly has good taste.
Probably concerned that he was getting a little soft, what with the romantic period piece and all, Bale signed on to a '70s glam rock film, "Velvet Goldmine." He plays a journalist who is writing a piece on Brian Slade, a gender-bending David Bowie-esque rock star played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers. His character ends up becoming the archetypal role of "the journalist who gets more involved in the story than originally intended."
Bale blew everyone away with his now legendary performance as Patrick Bateman in "American Psycho," a film about a 1980s social-climbing Wall Street guy who just happens to be a sociopathic serial killer.
Somehow managing to one-up himself, Bale went on to play Trevor Reznick in "The Machinist," a lathe operator who suffers from an extreme case of insomnia and fears he is losing his mind. Bale lost over 60 pounds for the role, which in and of itself would cause insanity naturally. Maybe it's the X-treme method acting technique?
Ooh, it's a movie about magic so it must be a little lighter? Nope. In "The Prestige," Bale plays a magician who has an extreme rivalry with the other leading magician, Hugh Jackman, in London. Both take on extreme measures to outdo the other, eventually leading to murder and general dark deeds. Moral of the story: pulling a rabbit out of a hat is for wusses.
Bale then took rivalries to their original genre: the Old West. In "3:10 to Yuma," Bale plays a smalltime rancher assigned to escorting the most dangerous outlaw in the West (Russell Crowe) to a train that will send him straight to the authorities. Should be super easy, right?
Bale takes on one of the six incarnations of Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There." Judging by his track record, it's probably the stage of Bob's life when he was a psychotic, swing-dancing, insomniac magician from the Old West.
The youngest actor to take on the "Batman" franchise, Bale has starred in two films as Gotham City's hero. With Christian starring and Christopher Nolan directing, the films took on a bit of a darker tone. Which is understandable, as something about "BAM!!" and "POW!!" doesn't strike us as Bale material.
Most recently, Christian starred in "Terminator Salvation" which is where the audio tape that launched a thousand viral mash-up videos took place. He plays the messianic John Connor, a survivor of the machine-induced nuclear holocaust who fights to stop the machines from destroying what's left of mankind.
And finally, Bale plays an FBI agent on a mission to stop the infamous John Dillinger in the much-anticipated "Public Enemies" co-starring Marion Cotillard and Johnny Depp. Looking forward to another Bale transformation!
This gallery was brought to you by "Public Enemies" in theaters July 1st.