8 Surprising Facts About Christian Bale

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

From being known as a child actor in films like 1987’s Empire of the Sun and 1992’s Newsies to becoming Batman, Christian Bale has enjoyed one of the most unpredictable careers in Hollywood. In honor of the actor’s 46th birthday on January 30, we’re taking a look at some of the lesser-known facts about his life and performances, including his preference to drool while playing Batman and his fondness for Super Mario Bros.

1. Christian Bale’s early acting career killed his love for acting.

Christian Bale in Newsies (1992).Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Born in Pembrokeshire, Wales on January 30, 1974 to David and Jenny Bale, Christian Bale followed his older sister Louise into performing, appearing in commercials for fabric softener. (It ran in the family: Their mother was a dancer and circus performer, his father was a talent manager, and his grandfather was a stunt double for John Wayne in the 1962 film Hatari!) At 12, Bale beat out 4000 other young actors to land the starring role in Empire of the Sun, a World War II drama directed by Steven Spielberg.

That rapid success, and the accompanying pressure to keep his family’s finances on track, led to what Bale later called a “prison” and unpleasant sense of obligation to keep doing it. "I certainly wouldn’t have my daughter do anything like that because it becomes a necessity and, in that case, it killed it—it actually killed my drive of acting because it became something I felt like I had to do,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2011. “You know, you can’t enjoy something when you’re actually—not being forced to do it, but you feel that duty and obligation that if you don’t a lot of people are going to suffer.” Bale said that those experiences led to a “love-hate thing” with the profession that continues to this day.

2. Christian Bale didn’t know Newsies would be a musical.

After Empire of the Sun, Bale made just one other film—1989’s Henry V—before being cast in 1992’s Newsies, a Walt Disney musical based loosely on the true story of a newspaper boy strike in 1899. In 1997, Bale told Movieline that he accepted the role without knowing it would be turned into a musical. The script, he said, offered no indication it would feature musical numbers. When he realized what he had signed on for, he asked director Kenny Ortega if he could just “duck over here into the pub” when the singing started. As he was the lead, that was not practical.

Newsies bombed—though it later garnered a cult following as well as a 2011 stage revival—and Bale didn’t receive significant attention as an adult actor until 1994’s Little Women.

3. Christian Bale was an early object of affection for the internet.

Christian Bale in Little Women (1994).Columbia TriStar Home Video

Before Nicolas Cage and Keanu Reeves preoccupied online forums, Bale was receiving a surplus of attention from a burgeoning internet circa the 1990s. Following Little Women, a crop of fans dubbed “Baleheads” congregated online, with up to 60,000 visitors to a fan club site arriving weekly. Admirers coordinated letter-writing campaigns to try and pressure studios into casting him in films and circulating a newsletter. Bale told Movieline in 1997 that the single-minded devotion initially left him “mortified.”

4. Christian Bale kept preparing for American Psycho even after he was told he would not be making American Psycho.

The 2000 film American Psycho, a takedown of elitism and the male ego that was adapted from the Bret Easton Ellis novel, cast Bale as a serial killer named Patrick Bateman with a fondness for sharp suits and Phil Collins. But before Bale and director Mary Harron got to make the film, it looked as though it would instead be produced with Oliver Stone directing and Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role. After Harron signed on and cast Bale, Lionsgate was prepared to pay DiCaprio $20 million to do it instead. (At the time, Bale was still best known as the star of low-budget films, while DiCaprio had just been in 1997’s Titanic.)

Harron refused the choice, preferring Bale. While it looked like the project would go on without them, Bale continued to train and prepare for the role, which called for him to be in perfect physical condition. Harron found it odd Bale would continue getting ready for a film they didn’t appear to be making. “I said to her, ‘I’m still gonna make this, and I’m still gonna keep prepping on it,’” Bale told MovieMaker in 2020. “And I would call her to talk about scenes, and she would be on a family vacation and she’d say, ‘Christian, please, I’m trying to have dinner. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s other people making the film now.’ And I’d say, ‘Mary, just stop being so negative.’ We’re gonna do this.’ Everybody thought I was crazy, but it became a crusade for me.”

DiCaprio was talked out of doing the film by Gloria Steinem, who believed—as did others in Hollywood—that his fan base of teenage girls would be horrified to see him as the murderous Bateman. Bale later said he phoned other actors who he heard were being offered the role, like Ewan McGregor, and told them that the part was his. Eventually, Harron and Bale were able to step in and make the film, which became a critical success. (In a strange confluence of events, his father David married Steinem in 2000, after the two met at a political event.)

5. Christian Bale was afraid his voice doomed his chances as Batman.

Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises (2012).Ron Phillips/WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES FUNDING, LLC

Bale’s three appearances as Batman in director Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy—2005’s Batman Begins, 2008’s The Dark Knight, and 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises—were some of the most successful comic book adaptations of the 21st century, with Bale lauded for his portrayal of the moody vigilante. Bale told MTV in 2013 that he was able to understand the part by thinking of the character as something animalistic, with a voice to match. When he auditioned for Nolan, he adopted a growl similar to the one heard in the films to avoid feeling self-conscious.

“They put me in Val Kilmer’s suit,” Bale said. “It didn’t even fit properly, and I stood in it and I went, ‘I feel like an idiot.’ What kind of guy walks around, dressed as a bat? And is then going to go, Hello, how are you? Just ignore I’m dressed as a bat.'" Bale lowered his voice but wasn’t sure how it was received. He went home dejected, particularly after his wife told him he had “f***ed that one up.” Of course, he got the role—as well as a customized suit.

6. Christian Bale was asked not to drool while playing Batman.

Not all of Bale’s decisions as Batman went over well. Recalling a scene he was shooting with Michael Caine, who played Alfred, for Esquire UK in 2014, Bale said that his choice to have Batman drooling after being knocked out was challenged. “I was lying there in some scene in Batman and I started dribbling,” he said. “Because I was like, ‘Well, he’s passed out. You’d have no control. In the position you guys have put me in, dribble would be coming out of my mouth.’” After Caine walked over and told him that “You can’t bloody dribble” as Batman, Nolan agreed. Bale was not allowed to drool in the role.

7. Christian Bale was a Nintendo fan.

Michael Kappeler, Getty Images

Appearing in a 1983 commercial for Pac-Man cereal at the age of 8 apparently put Bale on the road to becoming a video game hobbyist. “I played video games in my entire growing-up years,” he said in 2009. “One of my favorites is Super Mario [Bros.]. I wouldn’t sleep until I finished the game, you know.”

8. Christian Bale will probably never do a romantic comedy.

Bale has appeared in everything from action films to thrillers to psychological dramas, but it isn’t likely you will see him in a romantic comedy at any point. The actor became horrified when the subject was broached in a 2018 interview with The Guardian. “Have you ever enjoyed a romantic comedy?” he asked his inquisitor. “I was asked to do a romantic comedy recently and I thought they’d lost their minds. Cats have those insane half hours every evening. I think it must have been that for the production company. I don’t know why anyone would ever offer me a romantic comedy. I find American Psycho to be very funny.”

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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Late MythBusters Star Grant Imahara Honored With New STEAM Foundation

Grant Imahara attends San Diego Comic-Con
Grant Imahara attends San Diego Comic-Con
Genevieve via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Fans of MythBusters and White Rabbit Project host Grant Imahara were saddened to hear of his passing due to a brain aneurysm in July 2020 at the age of 49. Imahara, a graduate of the University of Southern California, used the television medium to share his love of science and engineering. Now, his passion for education will continue via an educational foundation developed in his name.

The Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation was announced Thursday, October 23, 2020 by family and friends on what would have been Imahara’s 50th birthday. The Foundation will provide mentorships, grants, and scholarships that will allow students from diverse backgrounds access to STEAM education, which places an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. (Formerly referred to as STEM, the “A” for art was added more recently.)

Imahara had a history of aiding students. While working at Industrial Light and Magic in the early 2000s, he mentored the robotics team at Richmond High School to prepare for the international FIRST Robotics Competition. Whether he was working on television or behind-the-scenes on movies like the Star Wars prequels and The Matrix sequels, Imahara always found time to promote and encourage young engineering talent.

The Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation’s founding board members include Imahara’s mother, Carolyn Imahara, and close friends Don Bies, Anna Bies, Edward Chin, Fon H. Davis, Coya Elliott, and Ioanna Stergiades.

“There are many students, like my son Grant, who need the balance of the technical and the creative, and this is what STEAM is all about,” Carolyn Imahara said in a statement. “I’m so proud of my son’s career, but I’m equally proud of the work he did mentoring students. He would be thrilled that we plan to continue this, plus much more, through The Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation.”

Imahara friend Wade Bick is also launching an effort in concert with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering to name a study lounge after Imahara. Donations can be made here.

You can find out more about the foundation, and make a donation, on its website.