OK! (June 2005)

BATMAN SPEAKS | CHRISTIAN BALE COMES TO GRIPS WITH THE CAR, THE SUIT … AND GETTING HIGH ON LOVE

Christian Bale has a reputation for being a bit secretive and elusive, and not at all like the superstar he could be. Not the kind of celeb you’ll see in the paper coming out of a nightclub drunk, he’s a serious actor who’s highly regarded by industry bigwigs. So much so, they’ve just given him the coveted role of Batman, over Ashton Kutcher and Ben Affleck, in Batman Begins. He’s the seventh actor to take on the role and the only one who’s the same height as Batman – 1.88m, according to the comic books!

But there are cither reasons to give him the part. With the kind of preparation Christian goes through for each role, he practically becomes each character he plays. After looking almost anorexic for his film The Machinist, where he played a man who had lost the ability to sleep, he then had just a few months to put all the weight back on and become super-fit and scary, in order to play the Caped Crusader.

‘I finished The Machinist in July, then we started [Batman Begins] at the end of February. I did have a lot of work to do, because it’s one of those parts where you have to be in decent shape visually,’ he says, ‘and to deal with being in the suit for 12 hours a day! I was eating like crazy, trying to put on pounds and pounds. And I went way overboard. By the time I arrived in England, I had long hair, a beard and was filling up the hallway!’ Luckily, he began training, and managed to become fitter – and stronger – to play Batman more like a dark hero than a comic book character. ‘I wanted to make him more like a creature, more like a beast than a human being,’ he says. ‘I didn’t want him to be just a funny bloke in a fancy dress costume.’ So how did he feel when he tried on the costume for the first time?

‘It was a great feeling. I felt like a panther the first day… like some kind of wild animal. I don’t know if I appeared as ferocious as I felt I did, but I really felt everybody was looking like ‘oooh’! [Laughs.] It makes you feel you want to kind of run and jump at people… It gives you this neck and physique that looks intimidating. It’s all aggressive, pointed forward, very much like a predator. And that was a thrill…’

But his Batman costume isn’t the only thing that’s thrilling Christian right now… He and his wife of five years, Sibi Blazic, welcomed their newborn daughter into the world in March. The two met when Christian was working on Little Women with Winona Ryder. Sibi was Ryder’s assistant and the pair quickly fell in love, marrying in Las Vegas in 2000.

Born in Wales, in the UK, Christian began his career in school productions and commercials. By the age of 10, he’d made his West End stage debut. Then came the role that made him famous – Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun. He was only 13 when he played the part of Jim, a young boy captured by the Japanese in WWII, but he became incredibly famous incredibly quickly, saying, ‘I was shocked by all the attention when I got home. Girls were all over me, boys wanted to fight me, and I was being asked to open local fetes – when all I wanted to do was ride my BMX bike. I told my parents I wasn’t interested in doing anything again.’

But, at 17, Christian started to look for acting work once more. Work offers began to roll in, mostly from the U.S., and Bale moved to LA with his father. And it was a good thing he did: it was his portrayal of a serial killer in American Psycho that had everyone sitting up and taking notice. Not only because of his terrifying performance, but also because the film gave him the chance to display his talent for personal transformation. Although, sadly, after finishing the gruelling shoot, Christian had to deal with a personal loss – his father’s sudden illness from cancer and subsequent death.

Now, with the help of Sibi, his new baby and Batman Begins, he’s finally happy again, saying of his wife, ‘I love her beyond belief, we have a fantastic life. I get the biggest high out of my wife!’ He’s also ready to take on the highs of fame without feeling overwhelmed. Which brings us back to Batman and the reason he took the role. ‘I loved the fantastical notion of the superhero… and being able to bring a psychologically interesting element to that.’ That, and the cool boys toys he got to play with, of course. So what’s his favourite gadget from the film?

‘The car! It has to be. There were a couple of times in Chicago, where it was like, “We can load it onto the truck or drive for five minutes down there. And you see this thing going down the street and everybody is stopping and looking… “What the hell is this?” There was even this guy who crashed into it – this poor drunken guy who didn’t have a licence, who said he got so panicked when he saw the car he thought aliens were landing!’

By Claire Isaacs.