Interview by Anwar Brett; previously published on BBC Movies.
Last updated: 01 December 2008
An international star since Steven Spielberg cast him in Empire Of The Sun 18 years ago, Christian Bale has followed a very unstarry path in his choice of roles. Highlights include Henry V, Little Women, Velvet Goldmine and American Psycho. And although no-one saw 2003's Equilibrium, it's great.
These days the 31-year-old Welshman is as adept at playing American characters as Brits, so much so that Batman fans may be surprised he hails from this side of the Atlantic. His commitment is in no doubt though, as he came to the role of Bruce Wayne having lost 63 pounds for his acclaimed performance in The Machinist.
You came straight to this film after The Machinist, so what fitness regime did you have to undertake?
I had to put on a great deal of weight, which was necessary for the character. He has no superpowers so you have to believe he's capable of this. I kind of knew I could do it. I think Chris [Nolan, director] was probably worrying far more than me. I was talking to him one time on the telephone whilst we were doing The Machinist and he'd say, "How're you looking these days?"
It was frankly pathetic, I was down to 121 pounds and I couldn't do a single push up - this is maybe not the guy you want to cast as Batman. But we had enough time. It was an arduous journey to get there, but I managed to get into appropriate shape by the time we started filming.
How easy is it acting in the batsuit?
I think I probably had it the easiest out of all the actors who have been Batman - well maybe not Adam West, that looked like a pretty flimsy outfit he had there. Lindy Hemmings came up with the most light-weight batsuit so far, with more mobility than the previous ones had.
Our Batman was able to turn his head, which had never been done before, it had always been very robotic. And it's true that it's hot and sweaty wearing it, it gives you a headache, but I'm not going to complain about it because I got to play Batman!
Was it nice too to be given a rounded character who's not overshadowed by the over-the-top villains he faces?
I'd never actually realised from seeing the other movies how interesting Batman was because I was so fascinated with the villains. It felt like treading water when Batman was on screen. It wasn't until reading the graphic novels in 2000 that I became aware of how interesting he could be. And I wasn't sure why that had never been seen in a feature film before.
Did any aspect of your own childhood inform the state of mind Bruce Wayne finds himself in this film?
I don't think there's a person alive who doesn't have some kind of anger stemming from their childhood. But I can't say I ever consider my own history particularly when I'm playing and creating a new character.
You did, though, have a very nomadic childhood - does that have any effect on the man you are today?
It certainly helps with doing this job. Living in a different place for every single job. I like that and kind of need that, because that's normality for me.
Are you already in the picture for a sequel - if it's made?
I am, and it's something I'll be more than happy to come back for if people embrace and enjoy the style in which Chris has made this one. If they enjoy my portrayal of Batman, then I'd very much like to reprise the character.
Where do you see him going in future stories?
Unlike some other superheroes, it's kind of limitless because he is so contradictory and complex. There would be no point in making a sequel if we don't see anything new.
I don't think it would make any sense to suddenly return to what we've seen in the past where Batman is sidelined and the villains are the more interesting characters again. We've established that Batman is just as interesting and I hope that will continue.
In The Machinist you went above and beyond the call of duty to create a character in an extreme state. Just how far are you willing to go for a movie?
I have to say, I look back on The Machinist and I'm very proud of it. I very much like the movie, it's absolutely one of my favourites. But looking back, I can see that I was crazy, though I certainly didn't feel that at the time.
With each and every project you become obsessive about it. But nothing is worth permanently damaging yourself for.