From Batman to Dick Cheney, Christian Bale Walks Us Through His Most Iconic Roles

Bale has been a leading man since he first graced the big screen at 13 years old.

It’s hard to get more iconic than Christian Bale. And in the latest episode of GQ’s Iconic Characters, Bale gives exclusive insight into his most memorable onscreen moments.

It may be hard to believe, but there was once a time when Bale struggled to book roles. One surprising near-miss? Patrick Bateman, in the 2000 film American Psycho. Luckily, the film’s director, Mary Harron, fought for Bale’s place in the movie. “We both realized we had the same very sick sense of humor,” explains Bale. “She really put herself on the line and I so appreciate that. She had so many known actors who stepped up and said they wanted it. She just said ‘No, I want Christian.’”

Having taken one sort of risk with Patrick Bateman, he was ready for another one in Bruce Wayne. “People were telling me, ‘You can’t go play Patrick Bateman, it’s career suicide,’ and I was like ‘Bring it on,’” says Bale. “Other people also said, ‘Hey, you know, if you play Batman, you’re never going to play anything else. You will always be Batman.’ I went, ‘Bring it on. Let’s see what happens.’ I always felt like… look, if I don’t have the skill to rise above that then I don’t deserve to.” He had his own take on the character, naturally: to Bale, Batman was a “weirdo, jumping around town at night in a bat outfit.”

When Bale played Dick Cheney in the 2018 film Vice, he lobbied for extra time to make sure the production could nail his extensive makeup. “Usually they don’t allow special effects makeup artists that much time to prep but I said, ‘No way, we’ve gotta have months and months and months to get anywhere close to something that could work here,’” he says. “I really enjoyed the immersion that that took even though it was like four hours in the chair.”

The blockbuster star takes it all the way back to the beginning of his career, too, digging into his first role, in 1987’s Empire of the Sun. “Man, what an adventure. I got to not go to school and travel about by myself,” Bale reminisces. “I didn’t realize every film didn’t travel to China and have 10,000 extras. It wasn’t until later that I was on much smaller films that I went, ‘Oh, yeah, that was a big one.’”

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