Happy birthday, Christian Bale! You’re 38 years old, pretty young considering how long you’ve been around the movie business. Not everyone’s film debut comes in a Steven Spielberg flick right as they’re hitting puberty, getting kicked around and covered in mud for the world to watch.
But fortunately, Bale’s had a long and fruitful career, enough to establish him as one of the best method actors of his generation — and certainly one of the very best Caped Crusaders we’ve ever seen.
It’s been over twenty years since “Empire of the Sun” came out, but Bale’s movies have barely dipped in quality. There’s the iconic role of Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho,” for which he created the definitive yuppie psychopath archetype. Over the first decade of the millennium, he lost weight for “The Machinist,” tore up hearts in “The New World,” learned magic in “The Prestige,” played Bob Dylan in “I’m Not There,” and rode horses in “3:10 to Yuma.” He even won an Academy Award for playing the crack-addicted Dicky Eklund in “The Fighter,” a role as memorable as his rotting teeth. Hell, we even like “Shaft.”
We need barely mention his work as Bruce Wayne, playing the spoiled billionaire and tortured vigilante more perfectly than any Batman before him. (Apologies to Adam West.) Christopher Nolan’s direction is the bulk of why the Batman relaunch went so well, but without an actor like Bale to shoulder the at-times unbelievable Wayne/Batman dichotomy, the franchise would’ve died sooner than you could say “Arnold.” Bat voice aside, there’s not much else Bale could’ve done to improve on Bruce Wayne, and the collapse of any non-Bale live-action Batman-related project speaks to that.
Acting isn’t the only thing, and Bale’s seemed admirable on the other side of the camera. When in China to promote his movie “The Flowers of War,” he used his stature to visit quarantined activist Chen Guangcheng — an attempt that got him brushed off by Chinese guards, a little worse for the wear. After a recording of him screaming at a director of photography on “Terminator: Salvation” was widely circulated around the Internet to just about everyone’s amusement, he offered a more-than-contrite apology, saying he acted “like a punk.” These are just small snap snots, of course, and you shouldn’t read too much into them. Still, considering the lifestyle Bale’s enabled himself to have, no one would blink twice if he spent his free time playing in bad rock n’ roll bands or rapping on the new Justin Bieber song. (Well, we might blink a little.)
So happy birthday, Christian Bale. We don’t mind if you don’t do another Batman movie, even if it ends up getting relaunched by way of Channing Tatum. These 38 years have been more than enough.
Give the Caped Crusader some deserved birthday love in the comments and on Twitter!