Every actor has their schtick. Christian Bale’s is his magical ability to dramatically mutate his body, gaining or losing weight for it seems like every other role he takes. He’s actually only done it a handful of times, but even that’s almost certainly unhealthy. And now even Christian Bale, no longer a youthful, immortal adonis, is starting to worry.
“I need to stop it, it’s not healthy for your body,” Bale told Variety. “I’m in my mid-40s now, it’s going to start catching up with me if I don’t start being a little bit aware of my mortality.”
So enjoy it while it lasts! One can currently behold Bale as Dick Cheney in Adam McKay’s serio-comic Vice (the title Dick was already taken). The Oscar-winning actor gained 60 pounds to play the former veep, who the film makes clear is the man you can blame for most of the atrocities committed by the Bush II administration. (Although let’s not forget Steve Carell’s Rummy.)
Over his long career — though less so when he was a child and tween actor, in Steven Spielberg’s underrated Empire of the Sun and the bomb-turned-cult-item Newsies — Bale has distinguished himself by routinely pulling Robert De Niro-in-Raging Bull weight changes. It all started with 2004’s The Machinist, in which he lost 63 pounds, dropping to a skeletal 121, to play a man haunted by a mysteriously tragic past. He then very, very quickly roided up to crime fighter weight — 221 pounds, to be exact, before he dropped down to 190-ish — for his maiden stint as the Caped Crusader in Batman Begins.
He also lost a mess of weight for his Oscar-winning turn in The Fighter, and gained a mess of it for American Hustle, both for director David O. Russell.
Such weight fluctuations have been one of Bale’s trademarks, but for him it’s not just about wowing the crowds with his disappearing/reappearing gut. He’s simply one of those old school Method actors — or at least he was before he realized his increasingly middle aged body probably won’t allow that anymore.
“I have almost always enjoyed transformation – mental and physical, sometimes it can be a great help to look in the mirror and not see yourself, in terms of being able to remove yourself from any kind of a character,” Bale said. “I’m glad I did it, but I think it should be in the past now.”
Incidentally, that nightmare-inducing shot in the Vice trailer of Bale’s Cheney wearing only boxers? Perhaps you noticed it wasn’t in the final film. Well, it wasn’t: McKay, in the same Variety piece, said he had to cut the scene because the movie — which clocks in at an epic 132 minutes — was simply too long. But don’t worry: When the movie hits home video, a deleted scene will allow you a long gander at the near-nekkid man who once shot his friend in the face after mistaking him for a bird.