Hot Stars (August 24th-30th, 2002)

I WAS MOCKED ENDLESSLY AT SCHOOL

An early appearance in Spielberg’s Empire Of The Sun almost put Christian Bale off acting for good – but now he’s being tipped as the next Batman

Welsh actor Christian Bale turned the launch of his new movie into a real family affair. When the futuristic, dragon-slaying adventure Reign Of Fire was premiered in Dublin, the Hollywood heart-throb took his wife of two years, film producer Sibi Blazic, to the star-studded party – along with his mum and gran. “It was nice that they could be there,” he says.

Afterwards, Christian, 28, talked to Hot Stars about being a sex symbol – and perhaps starring as a big-screen superhero. For since his muscle-flexing role opposite Matthew McConaughey and Izabella Scorupco in Reign Of Fire, and his powerful performance in American Psycho, Christian is being touted as the next Batman.

So how does he feel about following in the footsteps of Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney? “I honestly have no knowledge of it. It is very flattering to be linked,” he says. “It can be a fantastic character if it is done really well. Batman is dark and twisted. Full of dark thoughts and negative emotions.”

Talk of Batman indicates just how Christian’s career has taken off. Movies such as American Psycho, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Velvet Goldmine have established him as a screen idol. He has even been called one of the hottest leading men under 30. “There are an awful lot of people who are called that,” he says. “So how on earth am I suddenly in the company of mega-stars? I can’t explain it at all.

“I’m really flattered that people pay attention to my work and enjoy it, but I am fearful of ever becoming flavour of the month because that appears to be the kiss of death!”

On Reign Of Fire, fitness was important because of all the demanding action scenes. During one, a fight between Christian and McConaughey, things became too realistic and Christian was head-butted. “I crawled around on the ground for a couple of seconds and tried to find my bearings,” he says. “Then, when we finished, I ran over to Matthew and asked if he was okay. He said, ‘Yeah, you mad man. I head-butted you!'”

Christian made his film debut as a schoolboy in Steven Spielberg’s 1987 Japanese POW camp drama, Empire Of The Sun. He was chosen from 4,000 youngsters for the role, but afterwards things turned so sour that he thought about ending his film career before it had hardly begun. “Far from being the most popular boy at school, I was just mocked endlessly for it. But in many ways that made me want to act even more because you could disappear into some other character,” he says.

Today, Christian says he enjoys taking on films that are risky. Surprisingly perhaps, he doesn’t regard his portrayal of murderous yuppie Patrick Bateman in the controversial American Psycho to have been a big risk.

“Many people said that they thought that American Psycho would be career suicide – and that was attractive to me. One movie could finish everything? Great, let’s see if it does! “

But with the way his movie career is going, it should be a long time before Christian Bale has to look for other things to do.

By John Millar.