He’s an Oscar winner. He’s the ideal blend of character-actor chops and marquee-boosting star power. He’s The God Damn Batman. But it wasn’t until we watched him back-to-back in Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace and David O. Russell’s American Hustle that we recognized what a chameleon Christian Bale can be in the name of his art.
During a recent press conference held on behalf of Hustle, Russell told a fantastic story about how co-stars like Robert De Niro, who’d never met Bale in person, didn’t recognize the actor in character as overweight, follicly-challenged con artist Irving Rosenfeld. And Raging Bull star De Niro knows a thing or two about drastic physical transformations, when it’s right for the part.
We got to thinking about the roles that required Bale to alter his appearance. Sometimes it’s a hairstyle. Sometimes it’s a lack of hygiene. Often it has to do with his body build, either bulking up to fight crime, or slimming down to deal with the consequences of his action. Here, then, are the many faces of Christian Bale. Which parts stands out as your favorite?
1. He Drops a Ton of Weight for The Machinist
The Part: Trevor Reznik is the machinist of the title, a gaunt insomniac who is wasting away. There’s a reason, and once you learn it, it may haunt you, as well.
The Transformation: Easily Bale’s most drastic physical change, the actor dropped what looked like half of his body weight to play this guilt-ridden character in Brad Anderson’s 2004 psychological thriller. After fighting dragons in Reign of Fire and trying to establish his career with various arthouse projects, Bale convinced the industry of his dedication with The Machinist, and caught the eye of one Christopher Nolan, who would transform Bale for another role you’ll find later on this list.