When, in 2004, Christian Bale received a raft of glowing reviews for his shape-shifting efforts in The Machinist and then was announced as the next Batman, many of his compatriots wondered where this new British phenomenon had sprung from. Unlike most of his Brit film star peers, he had not served an apprenticeship in TV or on the stage, he was not a household name or face. His sudden rise to art-house and Hollywood prominence seemed oddly spectacular.
In fact, Bale, though still in his early thirties, was 18 years into his screen career. Chosen by Steven Spielberg to play the youngster battling to survive Japanese occupation in the epic Empire Of The Sun, he'd first hit the headlines back in 1987. Then, having shifted to Los Angeles when only 17, he'd undergone failure as an aging child actor, become a teen heart-throb due to Little Women and one of the original stars of the fledgling Internet, then gradually, through a series of risky challenges, moulded himself into a quite brilliant screen actor. Those few who witnessed his extraordinary work in 2000's controversial American Psycho knew he had arrived. The rest would remain in the dark till he emerged as the new Dark Knight. His journey, bumpy and fraught with artistic dangers, is well worth examining.
He was born Christian Charles Philip Bale on the 30th of January, 1974, in Haverfordwest, otherwise known as Hwlffordd, in the far west of south Wales. His father, David, was then a pilot, stationed at RAF Brawdy, but would soon have his career ended by illness. This would allow him to indulge a life-long penchant for travel. Having been born in South Africa, he'd run away to sea in his early teens and seen the world. Now, taking a variety of jobs, including financial advisor (the kids were often not sure what he did to bring food to the table), he moved the family all over the country and beyond. They left Wales when Christian was 2 and began a nomadic existence that took in Oxfordshire, Portugal (when he was 11) and Dorset, such that by the time he was 15 Christian reckoned he'd lived in 15 different places.