The double life of Christian Bale

For being one of the film industry's biggest names, Christian Bale manages to keep a pretty low profile. While his films gain heaps of praise and his performances are showered with accolades, the actor's personal life is a bit of a mystery. 

In fact, Bale doesn't like to talk much about anything pertaining to publicity. After all, this is the man who once told Take Two that speaking about acting makes him "want to push a pencil through my eyeball and slowly just destroy my brain."

His general distaste for interviews is nothing new. During a press junket in Paris promoting Empire of the Sun, a 14-year-old Bale was often combative and unresponsive to his interviewers. At the time, Empire Magazine (via Christian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman) said the British teen "was rude, gave monosyllabic answers and generally proved as uncooperative as possible. His reputation for being difficult was born."

Despite his rough reputation off camera, Bale proved to be a wonder in front of it. Even then, at such a young age, it seems that Bale the actor and Bale the celebrity were two very different people. Over the next 30 years, this duality would grow and present itself in myriad different ways. Let's take a closer look at the double life of Christian Bale and try to distinguish between the two.

He downplays his artistry

With an Academy Award for best supporting actor and two additional Oscar nominations under his belt, no one doubts Christian Bale's excellence as an actor — well, except Christian Bale. "The fact anybody hires me is surprising," he told The Guardian in early 2018. 

It's this insecurity that drives him to physically shape-shift so extraordinarily between roles. For Bale, drastically altering the way he looks helps him get into character. "There is a much easier way," he said. "But I can't do it. I don't know if it's because I don't have any training." 

While Bale certainly knows himself and his limitations best, it's possible he uses modesty to distance himself from other industry greats. When speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Bale claimed that if it wasn't for the disappearance of true movie stars, he "wouldn't get a gig."

On the flip side, the actor's habitual self-deprecation also allows him to separate himself from the industry as a whole. Bale has spoken openly about his love-hate relationship with acting and how he's considered leaving it all behind. "It's just disgusting, this vanity-fueled profession," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "I mean, I just can't stand it."

But he takes his job very, very seriously

For a man who routinely question his value within the acting profession, Bale sure takes himself seriously when he's in character. 

Case in point: the actor infamously unleashed on a crew member while shooting Terminator Salvation in in 2008. Under normal Tinseltown circumstances, whispers of on-set tensions might flutter about in the press and then fade away, but unfortunately for Bale, a recording of the altercation went viral and exposed his prima donna act to the world. 

Allegedly, the altercation erupted when Shane Hurlbut, the film's director of photography, walked through Bale's eyeline while the actor was mid-scene. Bale completely lost it: name-calling, making threats, promising to quit the production if it happened again, and calling for Hurlbut's termination. To many, the verbal assault made Bale appear entitled and immature, but for Bale, that couldn't be further from the truth. 

While speaking to the KROQ radio show, Kevin and Bean (via TMZ), Bale insisted that he got caught in character as "half John Connor … half Christian." He added, "…I put so much into what I do … sometimes that enthusiasm just goes awry." 

If nothing else, Bale's outburst highlights his tortured relationship with acting. While he may publicly refuse to acknowledge his own artistry, he clearly values his time and work.  

Feminism is embedded in his life

Bale considers himself a feminist. While that word means different things to different people, he dons the title as someone who believes in equality for all genders. After all, he's a loving husband to Sibi Blazic (pictured) and a father to daughter Emmeline

"I have a daughter, so it becomes very important to me, more and more, to do things like making sure there's a female artist playing on the radio," Bale said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "Just making sure that she's aware that she can do anything."

Though Bale's interpretation of feminism might be his own, it's a concept that is clearly etched into his family tree. His father, David Bale, married feminist icon Gloria Steinem in 2000. Bale, who was away at the time of the wedding, spent a few weeks with the newlyweds afterward to get to know his father's new wife. Though David passed away a few years later, Steinem is still connected to the Bale family. In a 2016 piece in Daily Life, she had this to say about Bale:. "He is a very good person, a great lover of animals and an immensely talented actor … I don't see him that often, but we're in touch from time to time."

He was arrested for allegedly assaulting his mother and sister

In July of 2008, reports emerged about an altercation involving Bale, his mother, Jenny, and his sister, Sharon, at London's Dorchester Hotel. According to a spokesperson for the police, Bale "was arrested in connection with an allegation of assault."

Bale denied any wrongdoing, and the following month, authorities dropped the investigation, citing "insufficient evidence to afford a realistic prospect of conviction." 

According to Bale's sister, filing the police report was a mistake, but she noted a troubling pattern in her brother's behavior. Speaking to The Telegraph, Sharon said, "He verbally attacked us. He spoke in the same aggressive way he did to that lighting engineer. I wouldn't have minded so much but it was in front of my family and three children." She added, "I went to the police because I felt he should be cautioned. I thought one day his temper could get him into trouble." 

Considering that lighting engineer was male, and the targets of this alleged attack were female, perhaps Bale truly does support gender equality?

He wants more diversity in Hollywood

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal, the public microscope focused on the power dynamic in Hollywood and many people from within the industry spoke out about Hollywood's woeful status quo. While promoting his film, Hostiles, Bale touched on the topic briefly, noting how much richer our culture would be if we stopped letting "white dudes" run everything. 

Bale worked Hollywood into the discussion, claiming that this hierarchical shift would allow for "much better films and so much more interesting stories being told." In that BUILD Series interview, Bale also suggested that the more diverse the storytellers, the more accurate the depictions of America will become. This change would allow the industry to "recognize what makes this such a beautiful and brilliant country," he said. "It's a country of inclusion and invitation."

For many film fans, Bale's passionate proposal felt like a breath of fresh air. It sounds like a great plan. Let's get started! If enough high-power stars feel this way, and if more actors speak out with a similar conviction, change is within reach, right?

Alas, it seems Bale's talk and action are two very different things.

He works with nearly all white dudes

Even though Bale made an impression on the industry early on with his work in Empire of the Sun, his breakthrough role was 2000's American Psycho, directed by Mary Harron, who is decidely not a "white dude." That same year, he also collaborated with African American director John Singleton in Shaft. However, if you take a closer look at the rest of Bale's film resumé, it appears that his ideals and his actions are world's apart.

Aside from working with Lisa Cholodenko on the small film Laurel Canyon in 2002 and dubbing his voice for the English version of Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle, Bale's films have been managed almost entirely by white men. Not only that, but he's worked with the who's who of whitemovie moguls, including Werner Herzog, Ridley Scott (pictured right), Jim Gianopulos (pictured left), David O. Russell, Scott Cooper, Christopher Nolan, McG, Brad Anderson, and Terrence Malick.

Perhaps it's his extensive professional experience that enables Bale to speak so passionately on the lack of diversity in Hollywood. Still, simply by observing the directors he's worked with throughout his career, Bale doesn't exactly seem to be contributing to the cultural shift he speaks about.

He says he's 'cut from a different cloth'

Listening to Bale speak about the Hollywood machine, it's clear that he sees two sides to the industry: the acting and everything else. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bale insisted that the latter half — the business side of the industry — detracts from his craft. "There's way too much business in this to really, truly call myself any kind of an artist," he said.

By Bale's definition, actors and movie stars are different animals. Actors take on characters, whereas movie stars play their charismatic selves, play the game, and bask in the limelight. "I'm not familiar, I'm not comfortable yet with this notion of being a movie star," Bale said

How, after some 30 years in the industry, is Bale still uncomfortable in this role? To hear him tell it, being a movie star is just not in his DNA. "I am not in it because I like being the center of attention," he told The Talks. "In fact, I can't stand it, unless I am acting." While Bale said he respects those that thrive within the industry, he's thinks of himself as a different breed. "I really don't think I'm cut from that cloth."

But he hails from a family of entertainers

While Bale often goes to great lengths to distance himself from other performers and entertainers, he does have the pedigree for the profession. You might even say that he's cut from exactly "that cloth."

When Bale was a young boy, his mother, Jenny, performed in a circus. Bale admits to having enjoyed growing up around that scene. "I'd be in a caravan with beautiful women who would walk around naked except for fishnets and peacock headdresses," he recalled

Bale used to say he caught the acting bug from his sister, Louise, at age 10 when he watched her perform in a West End stage production of Bugsy Malone. He has since changed that story, insisting that he acted more for the money than any familial inspiration.

Regardless, Bale's inherited relationship with performance goes back generation. One of his grandfathers was a ventriloquist and a stand-up comedian. (Apparently, he was also a boxer and jockey.) Bale's other grandfather was a showman as well, standing in as a body double for John Wayne in the 1962 film Hatari. Whether Bale likes it or not, entertainment is in his bones.

He's an animal lover

Animals are also an integral part of the Bale family. His father, David, was an animal rights activist who devoted much of his life to helping animals in need. "We were always surrounded by animals," Bale's mother, Jenny, told The Telegraph. "We'd take in every stray cat and dog, so it was quite mad." 

According to Bale's stepmother, Gloria Steinem, the bond between David and his animals was beautiful to behold. "If he saw an animal by the road, he'd always stop and, if it was still alive, take it to the vet," she said. "He was obsessed with animals. That's a wonderful trait."

It seems that this trait rubbed off on Bale, who is also a long-time supporter of several animal rights organizations, including the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. The actor has also followed in his dad's footsteps when it comes to rescuing stray animals. Bale reportedly found a street dog in North Hollywood limping down the road, picked him up, took him home, nursed him back to health, and adopted him as part of the family.

But he worked on a film that may have mistreated animals

While Exodus: Gods and Kings took a lot of flack for its apparent whitewashed casting, Bale revealed another uncomfortable situation involving the film during a discussion with Fandango's Dave Karger (via Screenrant). To get the best shots for the Ridley Scott epic, the crew allegedly enlisted hundreds of live animals, including frogs and horses. Though all the intentional harm done to the animals in the film was likely inflicted on CGI counterparts, Bale suggested that live animals may have suffered too. 

"I imagine with the frogs there was a lot of stepping on them, I wasn't actually there for the frogs," he said. "I was around a lot of horses who were kicking each other and trying to bite me and camels who, as we were crossing the red sea they like to relieve themselves a lot and you know, you just get used to less than glamorous situations."

Though being part of the film doesn't necessarily make Bale complicit to any potential animal abuse, it does bring attention to the uncomfortable fact that animals are often hurt on movie sets. While the American Humane Association tries to ensure the safety of animals involved in filming, granting the "No Animals Were Harmed" production accreditation to films, The Hollywood Reporter (via Slate) highlighted a number of occasions when the association allegedly overlooked serious incidents. For Bale, his career in the movie business may contradict and undermine his animal rights endeavors.