Christian Bale

Christian Bale

Last updated: 28 February 2011

Pembrokeshire-born Hollywood superstar Christian Bale rose to fame as a teenager in Empire of the Sun and is now one of the silver screen's finest actors, perhaps best known for playing superhero Batman and for his Oscar-winning performance in The Fighter.

Christian Charles Philip Bale was born in January 1970 in Haverfordwest into a family long-connected with theatre and the arts. The family moved away from Wales when he was two and Bale subsequently grew up in, among other places, Oxfordshire and Dorset.

After starring in a few commercials and small theatre parts Bale was selected to play the part of Alexei in a television film Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna. Impressed by her co-star's ability Amy Irving, then married to Steven Spielberg, recommended the child actor to her husband.

Subsequently, the 13-year-old Bale was cast by Spielberg to play the role of Jim Grahame in the screen version of JG Ballard's semi-autobiographical Empire of the Sun. The role won him critical acclaim, and the first ever Best Performance by a Juvenile Actor award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.

Failing to cope with the media pressure following the film's and his personal success, Bale considered moving away from acting but was drawn back into the field when Kenneth Branagh suggested the role of Falstaff's boy in the 1989 star-studded Henry V.

Following this Bale starred as Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island alongside the likes of Oliver Reed, Charlton Heston and Christopher Lee. Parts in less successful movies Newsies and Swing Kids ensued before Bale was recommended by Winona Ryder for a part in a film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, in which he would play Theodore 'Laurie' Lawrence.

In 1995 Bale voiced the character Thomas in Disney's Pocahontas and a year later was cast as Edward Rosier in an adaptation of Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady alongside Nicole Kidman. 1996 also saw Bale star in Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, a testing role in which his 19-year-old character Stevie had the mental age of an eight-year-old child.

A lead role in Metroland in 1997 followed and in 1998 he starred in Todd Haynes' Velvet Goldmine; a film largely based on David Bowie's character Ziggy Stardust in the 1970s glam rock era.

Ten years after his first brush with Shakespeare, Bale starred in his second screen adaptation in 1999, this time playing Demetrius in Michael Hoffman's A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was also in this year that Bale engaged in filming in what would be regarded as one of his most accomplished roles, the murderous psychopath Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, directed by Mary Harron.

Bale won huge plaudits in the screen adaptation from Bret Easton Ellis' disturbing novel, of which many had claimed 'unfilmable', when it was released in 2000. He cemented his cult status at the young age of thirty thanks to this performance, and it was in this year that he married Sandra 'Sibi' Blazic, a former model and assistant to Bale's former onscreen colleague Winona Ryder.

The next project for Bale was a lesser character in blockbuster Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Directed by John Madden, and adapted from Louis de Bernières acclaimed novel, the character holds more stature in the latter but is relegated to little more than a love rival to Nicholas Cage's Corelli in the movie. He also played a supporting role in the remake of 1971 film Shaft.

2002 saw the release of three films. Bale took the lead in Equilibrium and Reign of Fire, both futuristic science fiction films, and also starred in Laurel Canyon alongside Kate Beckinsale and Frances Mc Dormand.

2004 brought an exceptionally challenging role to Bale's door in the form of psychological thriller The Machinist, a role in which he lost 63lbs in two months to play lead character Trevor Reznik, an emaciated paranoid insomniac. He won acclaim for his portrayal by critics, and also for the dedication shown to the role in his dramatic weight loss for the sake of authenticity.

After filming The Machinist, Bale was announced as the new Bruce Wayne/ Batman for the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman Begins. Bale had to quickly gain 100lb for the lead role in six months, and won critical acclaim for his performance including the Best Hero award at the 2006 MTV Movie Awards.

Before reprising the role in 2008's The Dark Knight, Bale starred in Terrence Malick's The New World. It was his second involvement with the Pocahontas story, this time playing John Rolfe, one of the first cultivators and exporters of tobacco and the husband to Pocahontas.

Harsh Times followed in 2006, an American crime film starring opposite Freddy Rodriguez and Eva Longoria and Bale took the lead in 2007 film Rescue Dawn, based on the true story of German-born pilot Dieter Dengler. He also appeared in I'm Not There, a biographical film about the life of Bob Dylan, before starring with Russell Crowe in the successful remake of Western classic 3:10 to Yuma.

Bale returned as Batman in the 2008 big-budget blockbuster The Dark Knight. He once again shone in the role but was somewhat inevitably overshadowed by the sublime performance, and headline-hitting tragic death, of co-star Heath Ledger as the Joker.

2009 proved another busy year for Bale, who played John Connor in American sci-fi thriller Terminator Salvation and FBI agent Melvin Purvis in Michael Mann's Public Enemies alongside Johnny Depp.

In January 2011 Bale won the Golden Globe award for best supporting actor for his role in The Fighter, and a month later scooped the Oscar for best supporting actor in the film.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.