The Evolution Of Christian Bale: A Look Back At 'The Dark Knight Rises' Star's Career In Photos

Over the weekend, fanboys (and girls!) got their first look at the final installment of director Christopher Nolan's epic Batman trilogy. And it was good. Of course, right at the center of "The Dark Knight Rises" is—I think we can all agree—the Best Batman Yet, the brilliant and intense Christian Bale. So, in honor of the film swooping into theaters, let's take a look back at all the things Gotham's hero did before he heeded the call of the Bat Signal.

Christian was born in Wales in 1974, and it didn't take long for him to find his way in front of a camera; by the time he was eight years old, the talented youngster had made his first foray into acting with a fabric softener commercial across the pond. Soon, he was making movies, beginning with a turn opposite Rowan Atkinson and finding his way to fame with his breakout performance in the 1987 film "Empire of the Sun."

It'll come as a surprise to no one that Christian, renowned for his method approach to acting and his seriousness on-set, was a thoughtful kid—and initially, his newfound celebrity status freaked him out so much that he considered quitting the business altogether. But his talent won out; over the next decade, he worked steadily and variably, in roles ranging from a song-and-dance man in the musical "Newsies" to joining the all-star ensemble cast of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Christian has never hesitated to take on dark, strange and physically grueling roles—even long before he put on the Batsuit. No longer a precocious kid or energetic teen actor, Christian made a name for himself as a versatile and committed professional who would go to incredible lengths for his work; he chainsawed nude in "American Psycho," showed his sensitive side in "Laurel Canyon," tried his hand at action films with "Reign of Fire" and then shrank to a terrifying 121 pounds for "The Machinist." (As all-over-the-place as Christian's career has been, and despite his growing mega-celebrity, his personal life is remarkably staid; he married model Sandra "Sibi" Blaži? in 2000 and we've heard barely a peep about it since—but considering how great they look together, perhaps discussion is unnecessary.)

And then? Hey, you know the rest: Christian scored the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan's reboot of the franchise, growling his way through two record-shattering blockbuster flicks—pausing only long enough to generate an internet meme for his outburst on the set of "Terminator: Salvation" and then win an Oscar for "The Fighter." And while he'll likely be hanging up the batsuit at the conclusion of "The Dark Knight Rises," there's no doubt that he'll be an actor to watch for a long time to come.

Click on any of the images above to see our entire Evolution of Christian Bale flipbook!

Are you so psyched to see Christian finish off the final chapter in Christopher Nolan's Batman?