Christian Bale, the actor of a thousand bodies
Oscar Best Actor nominee Christian Bale still surprises us with the reach of his body language in Vice (2018).
Historically, one of the most important concepts in the acting process is the mask: it consists in giving focus to facial expressions, vocal abilities and body language as the essential techniques for an actor to define the features and traits of a character, seeking the best performance possible.
The mastery of this technique has always been an important characteristic in a lot of acting careers, visible in the German expressionist cinema, Charlie Chaplin’s humoristic silent films, and the popularity acquired by actors such as Jim Carrey, which has earned him the title of “the man of a thousand faces”.
Following the line of other great actors, such as Marlon Brando (The Godfather, 1972), Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln, 2012) and Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight, 2008), Christian Bale has been popular for building his characters under a movement known as Method acting: a range of techniques based on the Stanislavski’s system. This method was developed by the Russian actor and director Konstantin Stanislavski who believed that, in order to become the catalyst of feelings, emotions and thoughts that define a character, actors must keep the basic principles of honesty and concentration. Thus, resulting in an emotive and intense performance.
Bale‘s 63-pound weight loss for The Machinist (2002) is said to be a record for any role played so far.
Christian Bale is one of the actors who has taken these techniques even further. Overcoming the most common practices of Method acting, the British actor has become famous not for choosing roles that suit his physical and emotional characteristics, but for shaping his own identity according to the needs of the part.
In order to get lost in the character and giving it a life of its own, Bale has put himself through unthinkable changes. Even though his acting career began in his childhood, his personal journey through character transformation started in American Psycho (2000) with his performance of the megalomaniac murderer Patrick Bateman, assuming not only the exercise and beauty routine shown in the movie, but also maintaining his American accent during the whole production process. Later on, he took the part with the most shocking transformation in his entire career, the insomniac Trevor Reznik from The Machinist (2004), in which, thanks to a diet based on apples, coffee and cigarettes, he achieved a weight-loss of 63 pounds. Immediately after, for his portrayal of Bruce Wayne on Batman Begins (2005), the actor managed to regain his weight in only six months, ending up with around 200 pounds, getting a muscular frame that came in handy for later productions.
After another drastical weight-loss for his part as Dick Eklund on The Fighter (2010), which won him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2011, Bale managed to weight around 220 pounds for his impersonation of Irving Rosenfeld on American Hustle (2013), a performance heavily focused on improvisation and character development which earned him a new Best Actor nomination in 2013.
American Hustle (2013) director David O. Russell stated that Robert De Niro didn’t recognize Christian Bale on the set because of his appearance and performance.
Christian Bale got a new opportunity to show the level of commitment he’s willing to take in Vice (2018), a movie written and directed by Adam McKay, who previously directed Bale in The Big Short (2015).
In this role, the actor’s transformation required more preparation. Christian Bale plays Dick Cheney, former Vice President of the United States and a crucial character during the 2003 armed conflicts. After a long path of losing and regaining weight, this time the challenge was to work alongside with the production team and health professionals, including a cardiologist who taught him how to perform a heart attack. This knowledge actually came in handy because Bale was able to detect the symptoms of director Adam McKay’s heart attack during post-production.
Bale’s Method acting shines again with a great performance, where the emotional and physical interpretation of the American politician is proof of the quality of the actor, being capable to take the expressions and behaviors of the character and make them his own, managing to efficiently transmit the intricate thinking processes through his body language, gaining him once more an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in 2019.
Of an incomparable versatility, Christian Bale’s acting has transcended the screen. His physical abilities have emerged in all of his films, giving us each and every time a great taste of his passion. Without a doubt, Christian Bale is one of the most committed actors in the industry, one that already has a guaranteed spot in posterity as the actor of a thousand bodies.
Comparison between Dick Cheney and Christian Bale on Vice (2018).