Christian Bale has turned to alter his body for film roles into a work of art over the course of his four-decade career. There’s nothing Bale won’t do to get deeper into character, whether it’s growing muscle to portray the iconic superhero Batman or beefing up to play Vice President Dick Cheney as he did for 2018’s Vice.
Bale has been a professional actor since he was a teenager, and during that time he has proven to be the ultimate chameleon, playing a wide range of characters in a variety of genres for award-winning directors such as Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Terrence Malick, Ridley Scott, David O. Russell, and James Mangold.
In his 2018 film Vice, which he co-wrote and directed with Oscar-winning writer-director Adam McKay, Bale underwent one of his best and most drastic makeovers. Bale gained a lot of weight, shaved his head, and dyed his eyebrows to become Cheney.
Here’s a quick rundown of what Bale did to prepare for his role as Vice President:
But changing his physical appearance isn’t always easy, and Bale has spoken openly about the physical toll it’s had on his body.
“I started to feel like I was putting too much strain on my body because I gained 100 pounds in five months,” Bale remarked in an interview with IGN about his training for Batman.
Here are Christian Bale‘s most dramatic and drastic physical modifications during his career.
American Psycho, 2000
Bale’s portrayal as Patrick Bateman in the dark comedy/thriller American Psycho, based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, was one of his first major Hollywood body makeovers. Bale worked hard to develop a six-pack and a lean, muscular body for his role as Bateman, who is concerned with his physical and professional appearances. Bale discussed his preparation for the part with The Guardian.
Bale admitted, “Working out took over my life.” “Talking about the body, food, and the gym piqued my interest. It also made me quite judgemental of other people’s bodies.”
The Machinist, 2004
Bale’s metamorphosis for this role could be his most extreme—and dangerous—to date. Bale shed 63 pounds and ate a very low-calorie diet to play an insomniac machine worker who had hallucinations throughout production. Bale discussed his metamorphosis with The Guardian.
“When you’re so emaciated that you can’t even go up a flight of stairs,” Bale added, “you’re this being of pure idea.” “It’s as though you’ve given up on your body.” That is the most Zen-like state I’ve ever experienced. Two hours of sleep, ten hours of uninterrupted reading… incredible. You couldn’t get me riled up. There is no emotional rollercoaster. The roller coaster returns as soon as you start putting food back into your stomach.”
Batman Begins, 2005 – The Dark Knight, 2008 – The Dark Knight Rises, 2012
Bale bulked up three times for Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy. Bale was fresh off his part in The Machinist, for which he shed 63 pounds. As a result, Bale went to extremes, packing on 100 pounds of muscle. Bale’s contribution was so significant that Nolan requested that he lose a few pounds before filming, which the two discussed in this TV interview.
Ford v Ferrari – 2019
Bale had to immediately modify his physical form to begin filming Ford v Ferrari after adding over 40 pounds for his role as former Vice President Dick Cheney in Vice. Bale portrayed driver Ken Miles in the historical racing thriller, so he’d have to be skinny and little to fit into the film’s super-fast race vehicles. Bale took a drastic—and rather simple—step to lose weight.
Bale’s co-star Matt Damon spoke with Men’s Journal earlier this year about what Bale advised him about losing weight: “[Christian] was coming off of Vice, and he lost 70 pounds between the time we chose to make the movie and the time we started shooting,” Damon remarked. “On the first day on set, I asked him, ‘How did you do that?'” says the actor. For parts of my life, I’ve lost and gained weight, and there are a lot of theories about how to achieve it. And all he did was look at me and say, ‘I didn’t eat.’ That individual isn’t made of the same material as the rest of us. He has a monk-like discipline that is truly amazing to witness.”
Rescue Dawn, 2006
Bale collaborated on the 2006 adaption of Werner Herzog’s 1997 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly, which portrayed the story of German-American aviator Dieter Dengler. During the Vietnam War, Dengler was shot down and imprisoned, and his captors subjected him to physical and mental abuse. According to the Chicago Tribune, Bale shed 55 pounds to achieve Dengler’s slender build while in jail.
The Fighter, 2010
Bale lost weight for his role as Dicky Eklund, the drug-addicted brother of Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) in David O. Russell’s film. Bale told Latino Review that he “was simply running like mad.” I could run for hours on end and feel great.” According to the New York Times, Bale kept in character throughout filming and earned an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.
Bale underwent one of his most stunning changes to play former Vice President Dick Cheney in Adam McKay’s movie Vice. Bale previously collaborated with McKay on The Big Short, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and the physical metamorphosis appears like it may earn him another nomination. The trailer is simultaneously humorous, serious, and satirical, and Bale is unrecognizable as Cheney. Bale talked about his change with Star2.com.
Bale told Star2.com, “I have never gone to a doctor or a dietitian about gaining or reducing weight for my roles.”
“However, it eventually caught up with me.” Finally, for [Vice], I decided that maybe someone knows more than I do, so I went to someone and they helped me gain 40 pounds. It’s never healthy to gain that much weight in such a short period of time, but I did it in the healthiest way possible.”
American Hustle, 2013
Bale reunited with David O. Russell after working with him on The Fighter to play con artist Irvin Rosenfeld. Bale gained 43 pounds and developed a huge belly for the role, according to People. Bale was nominated for an Academy Award for the role.
“I ate a lot of doughnuts, a lot of cheeseburgers, and whatever else I could find. According to People magazine, Bales remarked, “I simply ate anything that came my way.” “I was around 185 pounds when I climbed up to 228.”