Batman Begins opened in theaters 10 years ago this week, and comic book fans have been arguing about whether Christian Bale or Michael Keaton made the better Batman ever since. While that debate continues to rage on — and will likely become even nerdier when Ben Affleck officially enters the ring — the focus here is on Bale’s portrayal as the Caped Crusader.
To commemorate the anniversary of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, here are some facts you may not know about Bale’s Batman Begins beginnings.
Christian Bale felt like an idiot the first time he tried on the Batsuit.
Bale didn’t exactly fall right into Dark Knight mode as soon as he tried on his first bat suit. He once said in an interview that he actually felt pretty dumb and decided right away that he’d have to adopt a certain mindset to play the role.
“I got there. They put me in Val Kilmer’s suit. 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 like a bat? And is then going to go, ‘Hello, how are you? Just ignore that I’m dressed as a bat.’ Of course, he’s meant to be doing this, if you look at the history of the guy and the pain that he went through. I went, ‘I can’t do this in a normal voice. I have to become a beast in order to sell this to myself.'”
A drunk driver hit the Batmobile because he thought it was an alien spaceship.
The Batmobile’s body armor was put to the test on the streets of Chicago when a drunk driver crashed into it. Bale explained that they were simply moving the car down the street to film a scene, and a drunk driver came barreling down the street and sideswiped it.
“There was even this guy who crashed into it, this poor drunken guy who didn’t have a license. [He] said he got so panicked when he saw the car that he thought aliens were landing, and he put the pedal to the metal.”
Christian Bale decided to take the role after reading Arkham Asylum.
Bale admitted that he wasn’t much of a Batman fan growing up, but knew he wanted to work with Christopher Nolan and was turned on to the part after being given a copy of Arkham Asylum.
“I kind of forget how I actually ended up getting this, but somehow, I got offered Asylum and read it, and was really intrigued by it because it was nothing like it seemed in the Batman TV series, nothing like it seemed in the Batman movies, either.”
Bale was a total weakling before starting Batman Begins.
As we’ve documented before, Bale doesn’t shy away from transforming his body for a movie part: Prior to taking on Batman Begins, he just completed The Machinist, where he got down to a scrawny 121 pounds. The actor commented that Nolan would call him while The Machinist was filming to check in on him, but, by the time filming for Batman Begins began, Bale had bulked up to 220 pounds.
“It was frankly pathetic, I was down to 121 pounds, and I couldn’t do a single push up; this is maybe not the guy you want to cast as Batman. But we had enough time. It was an arduous journey to get there, but I managed to get into appropriate shape by the time we started filming.”
The Batman Begins Batsuit was revolutionary, as far as Batsuits go.
It’s pretty obvious that Adam West had it the easiest in terms of Batsuit mobility, but the rest of the Batmen didn’t have it so easy. The suit that Michael Keaton wore in Tim Burton’s Batman was incredibly cumbersome, and none of the Batsuits between that film and Batman Begins allowed for much neck movement. The Batman Begins suit was the lightest Batsuit thus far and, most importantly, gave Batman the mobility to turn his head instead of doing a full body rotation.
Christian Bale and Liam Neeson were on thin ice.
Bale performed many of his own stunts in the movie, which meant placing himself in not exactly the safest of situations at times. One of those times involved he and Liam Neeson fighting on a frozen lake. During filming, the actors commented that they heard the ice cracking beneath their feet. The ice had melted the following day.
The actor was drawn more to the villains than Batman.
When asked about how his portrayal of the Dark Knight differed from previous incarnations, Bale said he was always much more interested in Batman’s enemies. It wasn’t until he was shown Batman’s backstory that he had an interest in the character.
“I’d never actually realized from seeing the other movies how interesting Batman was because I was so fascinated with the villains. It felt like treading water when Batman was on-screen. It wasn’t until reading the graphic novels in 2000 that I became aware of how interesting he could be. And I wasn’t sure why that had never been seen in a feature film before.”
Bale had trouble staying awake on set.
Bale’s first scene with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman involved him waking up in bed to find them waiting there. He applied method acting to this scene and actually fell asleep in bed and woke up to Michael Cain poking him in the ribs.
“In the scene, I was meant to be waking up, so I laid down and just fell asleep. And I didn’t hear ‘action.’ So, Michael and Morgan were talking, and I was supposed to join in. I woke up with Michael Caine poking me in the ribs and going, ‘Look at that! He’s bloody fallen asleep, hasn’t he? He’s bloody fallen asleep!'”
The actor maintained Bruce Wayne’s American accent during promotional interviews.
Bale is known for sticking in character even after the camera stops rolling, and during promotional interviews for Batman Begins, he maintained his American accent to throw people off on why a Welshman was playing an iconic American superhero.
Bale played Bruce Wayne as if he were mentally ill.
You don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to see that Bruce Wayne, a billionaire playboy who fights crime dressed as a bat, might have some bats in the belfry. When asked about Wayne’s mental stability, Bale said that he definitely thinks the guy probably had a multiple personality disorder, but was still able to function in normal society, and he adopted that mindset to play the role.
Christian Bale wasn’t the most popular guy on set.
The most popular guy on the set by far was Matthew Stratton, the stunt driver who did all the insane driving with the Batmobile. Bale explained that he got some attention with the Batsuit for the first few days, but he just became some guy standing around in a costume after a while. Stratton, on the other hand, was a rock star every time he stepped on set, said Bale.
“I got a lot of attention the first few days I had the Batsuit on, and then, after a while, you get used to me sitting around in a Batsuit. The stunt driver, every time he came on the set, everyone was just in awe. (Laughing) Here comes the man. This is the guy whos really going to make the movie.”
The actor was hoping to get one of the Batmobiles made for the film as a parting gift.
Everybody wants a Batmobile, Bale included.
“That was the first question [I asked]. They looked at me and they went, ’You f*cking kidding?’ So, I didnt get to keep one of them.”
This is an updated version of an article that originally ran in June 2015.