The weekend has arrived and it’s time for our celebrity pick of the week: Christian Bale.
A native of the United Kingdom, Christian Bale has received 76 nominations and won 63 awards, including an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for The Fighter where he plays a washed-up boxer with a crack addiction alongside co-star, Mark Walberg. Bale acquired his first leading role at the age of 12 in Steven Spielberg’s war epic, Empire in the Sun for which he won The Best Performance For a Juvenile Actor by National Board of Review. Bale never formally trained as an actor, but his performances in cult films of the early 2000s such as American Psycho, Equilibrium, and The Machinist made him a favorite of the film critics and an online celebrity.
Yet, it is his portrayal of Bruce Wayne/ Batman that got both the studios and fans creaming his name. In Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, Bale successively revived a character that was long thought dead at the box-office due to several, let’s say horrific (and not the gory slasher kind of way) installments, adding new psychological depth to the character Batman and proving that comic books films can, if done right, bring in the big bucks at the theaters. In fact, his portrayal of Batman has widely been acknowledged as the performance that initiated the trend in comic adaptations.
Why I Like Him:
I adore his interpretation of Bruce Wayne, the actor brought to life one of my favorite childhood heroes. I am, after all, a die-hard Batman fan. However, I cannot let that one role define him; to reduce his talents to one performance is doing the actor a great disservice. With his sharp cheekbones and handsome features, Bale could have easily taken the easy way out, traded in on his good looks and made a name for himself as another Hollywood pretty boy. However, Bale refused -choosing roles that demanded intense transformations of his physical body. For several roles, he has repeatedly shed and gained weight (both muscle and fat) in order to get into character.
For The Machinist, he dropped down to a dangerous weight of 121 lbs; he became a virtual skeleton with no regards for how appealing he was to the audiences. There are few actors who are as mentally and physically committed to their craft. Bale’s performances have always been for himself or for the film, not the fans, and that is what makes him stand out among other actors. Rather than seek the spotlight, Bale followed a different path, playing detached and obsessive loners. Still, fame found him anyway, and now Entertainment Weekly calls him one of the most respected and intriguing actors of his time.
My first introduction to the talent of Christian Bale came with the 2000 release of American Psycho; sure, I had seen him in other films like Little Women and Newsies, but I had never noticed him as an actor until his enigmatic and altogether disturbing portrayal of Bret Ellis’s Patrick Bateman. I was, perhaps, a bit too young to watch this film as it is a vivid adaptation of a controversial novel that is known for its blood and pornographic elements. Upon my initial viewing of the
Bale is an actor who completely disappears behind the roles that he inhabits, and his performance as 1980s Wall-Street business man and part-time serial killer absolutely captivated me. The intensity he brought to the character of Bateman chilled me to the bone; he switches from wry comedy to gruesome terror in the blink of an eye. The sheer physicality Bale brought to the role, highlighted the film’s central theme of the human body as the ultimate commodity and rigorous workout for the film would begin a trend that can still be seen in his films today.
The film had it’s share of problems; the production was fairly low budget (a measly $10,000) and several organizations attempted to prevent the film from being made. The National Organization of Women’s Foundation boycotted both Ellis’s novel and the film adaptation, citing the novels’ gruesome treatment of women, and endorsement of misogyny. Bale, himself, was warned that playing this role would be tantamount to career suicide -which, incidentally, is why the actor wanted to take the role. Obviously, the opposite proved to be true. The writers and the director, Mary Harmon, received letters of opposition and budget cuts from the studios along with death threats from supporters of the NOWF. The film was rushed into and out of production so that studios could distance themselves from the fall out. It’s amazing the film was even made in the first place. Yes, the film’s content is graphic but these critics are missing the point: the film doesn’t encourage misogyny rather it exposes the inherent patriarchy and superficiality of the Reagan Era.
Patrick Bateman, himself, is not a person; he is an empty shell, a warning against the corrosive influence of greed and luxury of Wall-Street. His personality is simply “not there.” True women are often, though not always, the victim’s of Patrick’s explosive rage, but it is the men of the film who are revealed to be irredeemable and ridiculous. Even if Bateman was not a serial killer, he’s still a complete douche-bag as are all of his so called friends; they call each other by the wrong names and measure their worth by the products they consume. Indeed, the only likable person in this film, is Bateman’s secretary, Jean whom he spares from his murderous rage. Furthermore, the movie is intended to be a satire; therefore the meaning of the text is not literal. Believe it or not the movie is often quite hilarious.
The feminist critics simply overlooked the social commentary of the film, focusing on the same backlash that all slasher films face – the destruction and mutilation of the female body. Ultimately, the film is brutal but fantastic; it’s ambiguous ending (which I won’t spoil) is sure to leave the you guessing. If you are squeamish or easily ruffled by provocative content, then I would recommend skipping it; otherwise the film is a delightful interpretation of the 1980s Yuppie culture and sadly, it’s criticisms of unfettered capitalism resonate powerfully for current viewers. In many ways the film was ahead of its time ,and Bale gives one his most memorizing performances to date.
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