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)
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)
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)
Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises (2012).

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.

Actor Christian Bale is pictured at the June 2005 premiere of 'Batman Begins' in Berlin, Germany
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.”

11 Fascinating Facts About Mad Max

Mel Gibson stars in George Miller's Mad Max (1979).
Mel Gibson stars in George Miller's Mad Max (1979).
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

What began as director George Miller's ambitious action film about a solitary cop (Mel Gibson) on a mission to take down a violent biker gang has evolved into a post-apocalyptic sensory overload of a franchise that now has four films to its credit—Mad Max (1979), The Road Warrior (1981), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)—and additional sequels in the works. So let's obsess over Miller’s masterpieces even more with these 11 things you might not know about the franchise.

1. Director George Miller worked as a doctor to raise money for Mad Max.

Mel Gibson in Mad Max (1979)
Mel Gibson in Mad Max (1979).
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Since the film only had a budget of $350,000, Miller scraped together extra money as an emergency room doctor to keep the movie going. “It was very low budget and we ran out of money for editing and post-production, so I spent a year editing the film by myself in our kitchen, while Byron Kennedy did the sound,” Miller told CraveOnline. “And then working as an emergency doctor on the weekends to earn money to keep going. I’d got my best friend, and friends of friends of friends of his, and Byron ditto, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, we made a film and it won’t cut together and we’re going to lose all their money.’”

Miller’s medical training is all over the film: Max Rockatansky is named after physician Carl von Rokitansky, a pathologist who created the Rokitansky procedure, a method for removing organs in an autopsy.

2. Mel Gibson went to the Mad Max audition to accompany his friend, not for the part.

Gibson was black and blue after a recent brawl with “half a rugby team” when his friend asked him to drop him off at his Mad Max audition. Because the agency was also casting “freaks,” they took pictures of Gibson, who was simply waiting around, and asked him to come back when he healed. When he did, Miller gave him the role on the spot. In a clip for Scream Factory, Gibson recalled the moment: “It was real weird. [Miller] said, ‘Can you memorize this?’ and it was like two pages of dialogue with a big speech and stuff. I was like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ I went into the other room and just got a gist of what it was and I came out and just ad-libbed what I could remember. I guess they bought it.”

3. George Miller paid Mad Max crew members in beer.

With barely enough money to finish the original film, Miller offered to pay ambulance drivers, a tractor driver, and some of the bikers on set with “slabs” (Australian for a case of 24 cans) of beer, according to The Guardian.

4. Real-life motorcycle club the Vigilanties played Toecutter’s gang for Mad Max.

Forget the money required to train stuntmen; Miller and crew hired real bikers to professionally ride into production. In an interview with Motorcyclist Online, actor Tim Burns said about working with them: “[The Vigilanties] all wanted to ride the bikes as fast as possible, as often as possible, by their nature. Their riding was individually and collectively superb.” Additionally, stuntman Dale Bensch, a member of The Vigilanties, recalled seeing the ad for the shoot at a local bike shop, and took a moment to clarify a mishap that had happened during production. Bensch said, “There’s an urban myth that a stuntman was killed, and that was me. The scariest thing was dropping the bike on that bridge. They took the speedo and tach off because they didn’t want to damage more than they had to. They wet the surface to make it easier, but I hung onto the bike too long and it flipped me over with it; that’s why it looked bad. But it’s a famous scene, so it worked out all right!”

5. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior was inspired by the oil crises of the 1970s.

During an interview with The Daily Beast, Miller discussed the making of The Road Warrior. Of its inspiration, he said, “I’d lived in a very lovely and sedate city in Melbourne, and during OPEC and the extreme oil crisis—where the only people who could get any gas were emergency workers, firemen, hospital staff, and police—it took 10 days in this really peaceful city for the first shot to be fired, so I thought, ‘What if this happened over 10 years?’”

6. Mel Gibson only had 16 lines of dialogue in The Road Warrior.

Upon Fury Road’s release in 2015, social media lit up with complaints that Tom Hardy was underutilized, only there to grunt and utter a couple of one-liners. But just to remind you, in Mad Max 2, Mel Gibson only has 16 lines of dialogue in The Road Warrior.

On his use of sparse dialogue, Miller told The New York Times, “Hitchcock had this wonderful saying: ‘I try to make films where they don’t have to read the subtitles in Japan.’ And that was what I tried to do in Mad Max 1, and I’m still trying to do that three decades later with Fury Road.”

7. Mel Gibson says The Road Warrior is his favorite movie in the original trilogy.

Once upon a time Mel Gibson enthusiastically spoke about Beyond Thunderdome, telling Rolling Stone, "[The films are] a sort of cinematic equivalent to rock music. It's something to do with the nihilistic sentiments of the music of the ’80s—which can't continue. I say, let's get back to romanticism. And this film [Thunderdome] is actually doing that. It's using that nihilism as a vehicle, I think, to get back to romance.”

Years later, he told Playboy what he really thought of the films, namely that The Road Warrior was his favorite. “It still holds up because it’s so basic,” Gibson said. “It’s about energy—it didn’t spare anyone: people flying under wheels, a girl gets it, a dog gets it, everybody gets it. It was the first Mad Max, but done better. The third one didn’t work at all.”

8. Beyond Thunderdome was inspired by Lord Of The Flies.

Mel Gibson and Tina Turner in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).
Mel Gibson and Tina Turner in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).
Warner Home Video

Even though Miller and his producers were on the fence about a third Mad Max, they couldn’t help but give in. "George was sitting and talking to me about … quantum mechanics, I think," Miller’s co-writer Terry Hayes recalled to Rolling Stone. "The theory of the oscillating universe. You could say he's got a broad range of interests. And I said something about ‘Well, if there was ever a Mad Max III ...' And he said, 'Well, if there was ...'"

In a 1985 interview with Time Out, Miller recalled the story himself. “We were talking one day and Terry Hayes started talking about mythology and how where people are short on knowledge, they tend to be very big on belief. In other words, they take a few fragments of knowledge and, if you take like the Aboriginal tribes of Australia, they just take simple empirical information and using those little bits of the jigsaw construct very elaborate mythological beliefs, which explain the whole universe,” Miller said. “Terry was saying if you had a tribe of kids after the apocalypse who had only a few fragments of knowledge, [they would construct] a mythological belief as to what was before. And what would happen if Max or someone like that [came in] ... and it kicked off the idea of kids who were Lord of the Flies-type kids, and that led to this story.”

9. Tina Turner was cast in Beyond Thunderdome because of her positive persona.

According to Rolling Stone, Tina Turner beat out Jane Fonda and Lindsay Wagner for the role of Aunty Entity. On her casting, Miller told Time Out, “One of the main reasons we cast Tina Turner is that she’s perceived as being a fairly positive persona. You don’t think of Tina Turner as someone dark. You think of the core of Tina Turner being basically a positive thing. And that’s what we wanted. We felt that she might be more tragic in that sense. But more importantly [when] we actually wrote the character, as a shorthand way of describing the character we said someone ‘like Tina Turner’—without even thinking of casting her. We wanted a woman ... we wanted someone who had a lot of power, charisma, someone who would hold a place like that together—or build it in the first place. And we wanted someone who was a survivor.”

10. Mad Max characters’ names hint at their backstories.

One of the most peculiar quirks of Miller’s franchise has to be his bizarre character names. In an interview with Fandango, Miller explained exactly how he comes up with them: “One of the things is that everything in the story has to have some sort of underlying backstory. Not just every character, but every vehicle, every weapon, every costume—and the same with the language. So [the concept] was always found objects, repurposed. Immortan Joe is a slight adjustment to the word 'immortal.' The character Nux says 'mcfeasting' instead of using the word 'feasting,’” Miller explained, adding that his favorite name of all is Fury Road’s The Dag (played by Abbey Lee). “In Australia, the dag is sort of a goofball-type.”

11. George Miller is a proud feminist.

Director George Miller, recipient of the Feature Film Nomination Plaque for “Mad Max: Fury Road," poses in the press room during the 68th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on February 6, 2016 in Los Angeles
George Miller poses with the Feature Film Nomination Plaque for Mad Max: Fury Road during the 68th annual Directors Guild Of America Awards in 2016.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Perhaps evidenced by Charlize Theron’s scene-stealing role as Imperator Furiosa, Miller is a proud, outspoken feminist. He told Vanity Fair, “I’ve gone from being very male dominant to being surrounded by magnificent women. I can’t help but be a feminist.” That female influence even stretched behind the scenes, with Miller asking his wife Margaret Sixel to edit Fury Road. “I said, ‘You have to edit this movie, because it won’t look like every other action movie,” Miller recalled. Moreover, feminist activist Eve Ensler also consulted on the film to offer, according to Ensler herself, “perspective on violence against women around the world, particularly in war zones.”

What Happens During a Jeopardy! Commercial Break?

Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek chats with the show's contestants.
Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek chats with the show's contestants.
Getty Images Entertainment

Jennifer Quail:

Typical Break One: First, if there are "pickups" (re-recordings where Alex misspoke or coughed or stuttered, or Johnny mispronounced someone’s name or hometown) to record, they do those. A stagehand brings water bottles for the contestants. The production team who wrangles contestants comes over and gives their pep talk, makes any corrections, like if someone is consistently buzzing early; and keeps you quiet if there are pickups. Alex gets the cards with the "fun facts" (there are about three, one highlighted, but which one he goes for is ultimately up to Alex alone) and when the crew is ready, they come back from commercial to Alex’s chat with the contestants.

Typical Break Two: If there are any pickups from the second half of the Jeopardy! round they do those, the water gets distributed, the production team reminds the contestants how Double Jeopardy! works and that there’s still lots of money out there to win, and Alex comes over to take a picture with the two challengers (the champion will have had their picture taken during their first match.) Then we come back to Double Jeopardy!.

Typical Third Break: This is the big one. There are pickups, water, etc. and they activate the section of the screen where you write your wager. One of the team members brings you a half-sheet of paper ... and you work out what you want to bet. One of your "wranglers" checks it, as does another production team member, to make sure it’s legible and when you’re sure that’s what you want, you lock it in. At that point you can’t change it. They take away the scratch paper and the part of the board where you write your answer is unlocked. Someone will tell you to write either WHO or WHAT in the upper left corner, so you do know at least whether it’s a person or thing. They make sure the "backup card" (a piece of card stock sitting on your podium) is turned to the correct who or what side, just in case your touchscreen fails. If everything’s ready, then as soon as the crew says, they come back and Final Jeopardy! starts.

There are breaks you don’t [even know about, too]. If there is a question about someone’s final answer, they will actually stop tape while the research team checks. Sometimes if something goes really off, like Alex completely misreads a category during the start of a round, they’ll stop and pick it up immediately. Those [are breaks] you’ll never notice because they’ll be completely edited out.

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