- English actor Christian Bale has changed his weight and physique countless times to prepare for different roles.
- For “The Machinist,” Bale reportedly lost 60 pounds to play an insomniac.
- For his role in “Vice,” Bale said he gained around 40 pounds to portray Dick Cheney.
One of the few actors today who truly goes “method” to play characters, Christian Bale has dramatically changed his appearance many times by gaining and losing weight for roles.
Here are 10 times Bale majorly changed his appearance to prepare for a film
Bale bulked up for “American Psycho” and had dental work done.
In “American Psycho,” Bale portrayed Patrick Bateman, a wealthy businessman with a dark and murderous edge. In the film, Bateman is obsessed with his image and he does everything he can to keep his body in peak physical condition, even as he’s killing his victims.
To reflect that important aspect of his character, Bale followed a diet and work out regimen to bulk up his upper arms and achieve chiselled abs. He was 26 years old at the time and he told The Guardian that “working out took over [his] life” and he became fascinated with the gym and diets.
He also had dental work done to straighten his smile and remove a gap between his front teeth. “I liked my old teeth,” Bale told the publication in 2000. “But with Patrick Bateman, his physicality is much more important than with most characters. He deals totally in the superficial, and he’s incredibly narcissistic.”
Bale reportedly lost 60 pounds for his role in “The Machinist.”
In the 2004 dramatic thriller “The Machinist,” Bale played Trevor Reznik, a scarily slender man with insomnia who starts to question his own reality. As the result of a weight that wasn’t changed in the script to reflect Bale’s height, he lost 60 pounds for the movie, reported The Guardian.
“When you’re so skinny that you can hardly walk up a flight of stairs…you’re, like, this being of pure thought,” Bale told The Guardian in 2018 when talking about his experience filming “The Machinist.” “It’s like you’ve abandoned your body.”
Bale said he gained 100 pounds while preparing for his role “Batman Begins.”
Soon after he finished filming “The Machinist” Bale learned that he had landed the role of Batman in Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins,” the beginning of a trilogy that would be a dark reworking of the caped crusader.
He wrapped “The Machinist” in July of 2003 and had about half a year to gain the weight back to play Batman in February of 2004. Bale said he put on over 100 pounds and then lost some of it.
“I had a lot of work to do because Batman [is] one of those parts you have to be in decent shape for,” Bale told Femme Fatales in 2006. “I ate like crazy, trying to put on pounds. I actually went way overboard. When I arrived in England, Chris Nolan looked at me in shock, saying, ‘God, you’re like some sort of grizzly bear!’ It was not a very healthy thing to do; I could lift a lot of weights, but you asked me to run across the room I’d be exhausted. So I started working out and doing a lot of running to bring my weight back down again.”
Bale lost a bit of weight again to play a stranded pilot in “Rescue Dawn.”
In “Rescue Dawn” (2007) Bale played real-life figure Dieter Dengler, a German-born US fighter pilot who was shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War and struggled to find his way home.
Despite the seemingly drastic weight loss, Bale told Collider in 2007 that preparing for “Rescue Dawn” wasn’t a daunting task for him compared to the weight he lost for his earlier role.
“I really actually didn’t lose a whole lot of weight for this one … it really wasn’t anything on the scale of ‘The Machinist,'” Bale told the publication. “I wouldn’t do that again. I’ve kind of conquered that in my mind and don’t need to prove that to myself again.”
Bale said he gained back his weight and muscle strength for “The Dark Knight.”
After he finished filming “Rescue Dawn,” Bale had less than a year to gain back muscle and bulk up once more to play Batman in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” (2008).
In an interview with Yahoo! in 2016, Bale reflected on his performance as Batman, particularly in “The Dark Knight” when he acted opposite Heath Ledger. “Heath turned up, and just kind of completely ruined all my plans,” Bale said. ‘Because I went, ‘He’s so much more interesting than me and what I’m doing.'”
Bale went on to say that the physicality of the role paired with the costume helped him mentally step into a mind darker than his own. “I found when I put on the suit I went, ‘I just feel like a bloody idiot if I don’t use this as a means to show his true, monstrous self that he allows to come out in that moment.'”
Bale reportedly lost 30 pounds to play Dicky Eklund in “The Fighter.”
In 2010, Bale blew critics away with his performance as Dicky Eklund, a boxer-turned-trainer who trained his half brother Micky Ward for the ring. According to Daily Mail, Bale dropped 30 pounds for the role and adapted a more lean body type to model himself after the real-life Dicky Eklund, who struggled with a cocaine addiction.
“I was just running like crazy. I could just run for hours on end and I felt really healthy,” he told Latino Review as per The Huffington Post’s reports.
Bale returned to his Batman physique for the filming of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
For 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises” Bale muscled up once more to step into the shoes of Bruce Wayne for a final time. Bale spoke to the Digital Journal in 2012 about the emotional experience of wrapping up a trilogy that had been filmed over the course of seven years.
“It was a real moment of pride … because of what we had achieved,” Bale said. “We did what we set out to do. It was a very important character to the fans, and me, which makes me very proud. All three movies not only changed my life but my career and I appreciate that very much.”
Bale said he gained around 43 pounds for his role in “American Hustle.”
In “American Hustle” Bale played Irving Rosenfeld, a paunchy conman. Bale put on weight for the role and he told USA Today he went from 185 pounds to 228 pounds, gaining 43 pounds in total. He also adopted a bad posture that ultimately caused a back injury.
“At one point I said enough already,” David O. Russell, the director of “American Hustle,” told USA Today. “He lost three inches of height, and even got a herniated disc.”
“I think I’m certainly getting older,” Bale said in the same interview. “I thought I was going to lose the weight I gained for ‘American Hustle.’ I said, two months, flat, that will do it. And I’m still working that off! Now I know that when I was in my early 20s it would have been two months and that’s it.”
Bale injured himself during pre-production of “The Big Short.”
Although it reportedly took longer than he expected, Bale eventually returned to his original weight to play hedge fund manager Michael Burry in the comedic biography “The Big Short.”
The role required him to take intense drum lessons for three weeks, but according to Public Radio International, Bale injured himself during pre-production.
“[Bale] completely blew out his knee – ACL, MCL, patella, everything,” the film’s director Adam McKay told the publication. Concerned for his lead actor, McKay suggested they use a double. But Bale, known for pushing his body to its limits, insisted he do it himself. McKay said they had a set of doctors on set to make sure everything went smoothly.
Bale reportedly gained 40 pounds and spent hours in hair and makeup to portray Dick Cheney in “Vice.”
In 2018 Christian Bale reunited with “Big Short” director Adam McKay to portray Dick Cheney in “Vice.” According to the Evening Standard, Bale gained 40 pounds for the role, even though he was told it wasn’t necessary because of the advanced prosthetics and makeup. He also spent hours in the hair and makeup trailer to take on the appearance of the political figure.
Bale spoke to Screen Rant in 2018 about preparing for the role, from changing his posture entirely to matching Cheney’s voice.
“Really it was just obsessing,” Bale told the publication. “There’s a load of interviews with Mr. Cheney and I got every single one of them on my phone. It’s just jam-packed full of videos of Chaney. And I’m just sitting there watching for hours and hours and hours. And imitating it and then walking around myself and trying to get the body position and all that.”
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