IC Wales (May 31st, 2005)

BATMAN BALE DITCHES THE DIETS

He’s gone from super-skinny to Superhero in a matter of months, proving that if anyone can play the iconic Batman, Christian Bale can.

The last time we saw the versatile actor he was looking alarmingly emaciated for his role in the acclaimed film, The Machinist.

The star was so dedicated to his part as a skeletal insomniac he lost a staggering 63lbs, causing genuine concern for his health.

But fans needn’t have worried, the star is back, more bulked up than ever, and about to make his entrance as the Caped Crusader in the eagerly awaited movie, Batman Begins, opening on Thursday June 16.

It’s a testament to Christian’s versatility that he can change his frame so dramatically in a matter of months, but as the Welsh-born star admits, he couldn’t wait to get stuck back into the grub.

“It should have been a slow process,” he says of his weight-gaining regime, “but I ignored every bit of advice I’d had about taking it slowly.

“The day we wrapped The Machinist I was having bread and pizza, pasta and doughnuts, stuffing my face with everything possible and making myself really sick,” he adds, laughing.

“I put on a lot of weight in two months, which was too quick, that’s when I felt unhealthy, when my heart was going like crazy.

“Batman helped me with that because I had to get very fit. I had to build my strength and go running and eat healthily, so that kind of solved the problem.”

Today there’s no hint of the dramatic weight fluctuations. Glowing with health, the 6ft 2in star says he’s now ditched the extreme diets and doesn’t even work out.

“I eat whatever the hell I want now,” he grins. “I eat normally when I don’t have a job to prepare for. Batman was a film where I obviously had to look capable, so I had to work out, but to be honest with you I got really sick of that, so I don’t do it unless I have to for a movie.”

But though he’s been through the mill physically in the past couple of years, mentally Christian couldn’t be more upbeat about donning the famous Batman cape, even though he’s never been a comic book fan.

“I’m not somebody that comes from a comic-book loving background,” he admits. “But I read the graphic novel, Batman Year One, and thought it was great, nothing like the Batman TV series or movies. It was so much more interesting. I thought, `This is good stuff, there’s a really great character here,’ the way they play it is fantastic.

“When Chris Nolan [director of Memento and Insomnia] came on board, a really interesting director, it meant that it wasn’t going to be the same thing we’d seen before, and that’s what I was excited about, creating something completely new.”

Though he’s not giving too much away, Christian does reveal that his batsuit definitely won’t be the flimsy, swishing cape and tights ensemble, as worn so fetchingly by Adam West in the 70s TV series Batman And Robin.

This time the famous Batman cape was made of specially developed material, with more than 900 square metres of fabric.

“It was hot, dark and sweaty, and it gave me a headache,” he says. “But you know, I’m playing Batman, for God’s sake. That’s pretty fantastic.

“I’m not going to complain about getting a little bit sweaty in the suit.”

With no expense spared on costumes, gadgets and special effects, Batman Begins is a departure for Christian, who has often opted for low-budget affairs, such as American Psycho and Velvet Goldmine, to gain creative control.

However, the star, who found fame at the age of 13 in Stephen Spielberg’s epic Empire Of The Sun, says blockbusters have their bonuses.

“I’m not averse to the big pay cheque,” he says laughing. “The nice thing is, if you get a big payday you can choose the projects you want to do.

“You don’t ever get into the situation where you have to do something because your house is about to be repossessed, so I’m not averse to that.

“But the films I gravitate towards generally don’t give you the big payday. I don’t want to get into that comfort zone, it doesn’t seem interesting to me.”

Besides, these days, the 31-year-old star has more pressing matters on his mind. He’s just become a father for the first time with the birth of his daughter in March.

Notoriously secretive about his private life, his wife of five years, Sibi Blazic once worked as a personal assistant to actress Winona Ryder, who Christian used to date.

The couple now live in LA, but avoid the Hollywood party circuit, preferring to devote their spare time to environmental causes such as Greenpeace, and a school for street children in Rio de Janeiro.

And although Batman Begins is bound to propel his career into the stratosphere, the down-to-earth star says he has no worries about forever being known as the Caped Crusader.

“That’s down to me,” he says with a nonchalant shrug. “If I can’t convincingly portray other characters after that, then it’s my own fault really. Any extra attention I get because of Batman is a good thing.

“I’m hoping after this film I might actually be able to get more movies made like The Machinist and American Psycho made.

“They’re the stories I love, people going to an extreme and working hard. The image of somebody busting their arse for what they love doing. I enjoy that, and if you do that you feel like you’ve accomplished more at the end of the day than if you sit around getting fat and lazy.”

No chance of that happening to the lean, chameleon Christian Bale.

Real Name: Christian Charles Philip Bale

Birthdate: Jan 30, 1974

Significant Other: Wife of five years Sibi Blazic, mother of his baby daughter

Career High: Donning the iconic cape for Batman Begins

Career Low: Losing his role in American Psycho to Leonardo di Caprio… before winning it back again

Famous For: Showing those supermodels how to really do thin, with his skeletal role in The Machinist

Words of Wisdom: “Why did I start acting in the first place? I didn’t do it to be mediocre or to please everybody all the time.”

By Eileen Condon.