Reuters (June 17th, 2005)

BALE EYES NEW FAME FROM BEHIND BATMAN MASK

Los Angeles: Perhaps it’s fitting for an actor whose breakout role is playing a man with a secret identity. “Batman” Christian Bale can walk along sidewalks and eat in restaurants in relative anonymity.

That may change this week with new movie “Batman Begins.” Bale’s starring role in a mask that hides his face has the ironic effect of revealing the 31-year-old actor to the world.

“Most of the time, I really blend right in,” Bale said in an interview. “I do get to live my life and buy the groceries and do all the usual stuff, and I like being able to do that.”

The British-born actor with dark hair, sharp cheekbones and square jaw, began working at age9 inTV commercials. Before his teens, Bale had landed his first starring role in a majorHollywoodfilm in Steven Spielberg’s 1987 World War Two drama “Empire of the Sun.”

But “Empire” never hit big at box offices, nor did Bale’s other youthful movies like “Newsies.” As an adult, his roles have been mostly in low-budget, independent movies like “Velvet Goldmine” and “American Psycho,” which earned Bale good reviews but failed to ignite ticket sales.

“I’ve never really had a movie that’s been a big success before,” Bale said.

His sister teased him about his most recent film, 2004’s “The Machinist,” telling Bale, “the only place it was playing was some little out-of-the-way theatre where they actually had to winch the curtain open.”

“Batman Begins” will not have that problem.

The Warner Bros. movie is a $120 million (66 million pounds), effects-filled comic book flick of the type that normally generates hundreds of millions of dollars in global ticket sales and creates stars.

‘MENACING AVENGER’

The film is the fourth big-budget Batman movie in a series that began with 1989’s “Batman.” Bale gave a lot of thought to the pros and cons of taking on the same role that has produced mixed results for previous Batmen, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney.

His wife recently gave birth to their first child, a girl, and the couple talked a lot about the likely intrusions into their personal lives. An everyday life “is something I absolutely need to have,” Bale said.

But Bale said he was attracted to the challenge of bringing a new dimension to the familiar character as “Batman Begins” explores billionaire Bruce Wayne’s psychological transition from angry young man to cape-wearing crime fighter.

He also hopes the publicity will help him find money in the future to produce low-budget films.

The film’s director, Christopher Nolan, said Bale’s intensity — the 6-foot 2-inch tall actor lost 63 pounds (29 kg) to play an insomniac in “The Machinist,” then muscled up with 80 fresh pounds (36 kg) in six weeks for his “Batman” screen test – made him the perfect choice.

Critics seem to agree. The Los Angeles Times calls Bale an “excellent fit” for the character, and The New York Times called him “a superbly menacing avenger.”

With reviews like that, there is likely no way Bale can retain his anonymity. In other words, the mask is off.