There's no doubt that, throughout the years, Christian Bale has been able to successfully augment himself for each and every role.
For 'American Psycho', he underwent a rigorous exercise routine, polished off his accent, and became the murderous Patrick Bateman. Four years later, he lost close to 30 kilograms of weight in order to play the title role in Brad Anderson's psychological horror 'The Machinist'. Shortly after filming was completed, he bulked up once again for 'Batman Begins'.
Beyond these physical transformations, however, Bale's ability to disappear into a role puts him on par with the likes of Robert DeNiro's heyday or Daniel Day-Lewis. With that in mind, here's our choice of his five best scenes.
5. 'The Prestige' - "I'm sorry for a lot of things..."
In between starring in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, the director did some of his best work - 'Inception' being one, and 'The Prestige' the other. In the Victorian-set mind-bending thriller, Christian Bale plays the magician Alfred Borden who - it's eventually revealed - had a twin brother who he frequently changed back and forth with. The final scene for the two is at a jailhouse just hours before Alfred's execution, and the two reconcile as best as they can. It's only when you actually see Fallon - the disguise the twin used throughout the movie - that you realise how hidden in plain sight he's been the entire time. More than that, you truly feel for Bale's character in that it required total commitment, even to a point where one is going to their death and the other has to live for both of them.
4. 'Hostiles' - "A part of me dies with you."
'Hostiles' was mostly overlooked by both audiences and during awards season, but it's not hard to see why. It's a deep, depressing movie about rage, grief, forgiveness, generational trauma, and the utter catastrophe that was American colonisation and its impact on Native tribes. More than that, 'Hostiles' deals with how forgiveness isn't easily given or easily received, but when it comes like in this scene, it is done meaningfully and without grand gestures or huge displays. It's done in quiet, measured tones between two people who have seen enough bloodshed to know it never fully washes away.
3. 'Batman Begins' - "Do I look like a cop?!"
Despite the fact that Batman is now destined to be one of those characters that gets reinvented every few years, Christian Bale's performance defined it in such a way that it's become the benchmark for future Batmen. Ben Affleck and now Robert Pattinson is measured against it. Bale's commitment to realism and intensity gets it over some of the ridiculousness, but this scene in particular really nails it. You get just utterly terrifying it must be to be interrogated by him, and why he can go to places where conventional law enforcement can't.
2. 'American Psycho' - "You like Huey Lewis and the News?"
Although Bale's career to date has been marked by transformations and his full commitment and intensity, 'American Psycho' proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he's a gifted comedic performer and this scene is his greatest achievement. The physicality of it could be lifted out of a 'Monty Python' sketch and the denouement is equally comedic, though set in pitch black. Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner's script lifted much of Bret Easton Ellis' stream-of-consciousness rants about '80s pop music and placed them into key scenes throughout the movie, but it's how Harron placed them and how Christian Bale played them out that makes them so witty. Of course a yuppie serial killer would wax lyrical about Huey Lewis or Phil Collins right before a blood-soaked orgy.
1. 'The Fighter' - "It fades... then you gotta get high again."
Christian Bale's performance as Dicky Eklund won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, but so much of 'The Fighter' is evenly split between him and Mark Wahlberg. They're two people, fighting two very different battles. Whereas Wahlberg fights against his body giving up on him, Bale has to fight himself again and again. The documentary in this scene is real - 'High on Crack Street' was a HBO documentary that the real-life Dicky Eklund took part in, and showed him high on crack cocaine. This scene, however, shows Bale as Dicky being forced to look at his actions and being unable to face them. It's a brilliant scene, as you see both sides of the character - before and after - and how they're at war with one another.