The Many Literary Faces of Christian Bale (Just Not That Really Angry One)
Anger management issues and on-set rantings aside, Christian Bale is also no stranger to literary adapations. While he's best known for his gravely-voiced Batman, his roles run the gamut from the Antebellum heartthrob to a sociopathic yuppie with a penchant for axe murder. Here's a look at Christian's bookish career, just don't mess with any of the set lights while you're reading this post, m'kay?
This adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women features Christian Bale as the Antebellum heartthrob, Laurie. (If you were a young girl in the 1990s, you know what we are talking about.) He is the complete package: he is handsome, wears awesome period clothing, acts in plays, and helps save Amy when she falls through the ice. Bale’s lovable performance made viewers yell at the screen and gnash their teeth in despair and disbelief when Jo rejects his declaration of love. How could you turn down Laurie for an old, stodgy professor, Jo?
We could not forget Christian Bale’s role in this adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho no matter how hard we try. Bale adopts an American accent as Patrick Bateman, but he is not making sweet, adolescent proclamations of love. Oh no, he is talking about Huey Lewis and the News as he commits murder with an axe. We also cannot forget the prostitutes and Wall Street greed. While this role has gained him critical acclaim, it has not won over overprotective parents.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Christian Bale returns to the 19th century in the 1999 adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His character, Demetrius, has a major fan girl, Helena, but he is in love with Hermia, who is love with Lysander. Don’t worry, this love quadrangle works out with the help of fairy flowers and some major magic. There isn’t much to say about his role here—Shakespeare intentionally made the lovers generic and interchangeable—except that he rides a bicycle like a boss.
Howl's Moving Castle
Christian Bale must have a thing for magic because he lends his voice to Miyazaki’s animated adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle. He plays a wizard named Howl who has major powers (he can turn himself into a bird and has a castle that, well, moves) as well as gigantic tantrums. We never see his body language or facial expressions—we enjoy Miyazaki’s stunning artwork instead—but we do still get incredible sense of character and emotion from Christian Bale’s voice acting.
Just when you think Christian Bale is done with magic and period pieces, he pulls another rabbit out of his hat and appears as a turn of the century magician in the film adaptation of Christopher Priest’s The Prestige. His character does not actually perform magic; he has a permanent double—he and his twin share the same life. As in, they both pretend to be married to the same woman and share fatherhood duty with her child. They even go so far as cutting off the finger of one twin when the other one loses it for the sake of continuity, taking the idea of suffering for art to a whole new level. It is a stunning feat for Christian Bale to play two men playing the same man. If trying to keep up with the trick was difficult for us, it must have been even harder to orchestrate.
There you have it. Christian Bale loves himself some period costumes and magic in his book adaptations. If you were going to put money on his next film, bet on a steampunk piece about powerful wizards, with Huey Lewis and the News’ “Hip to Be Square” as the theme song. Which Christian Bale book adaptation role is your favorite? Let us know on Twitter at @QuirkBooks!
Sarah Fox is an editor, writer, writing consultant, and pop culture enthusiast. Besides regularly contributing to Quirk Books’ blog, she has published an edition of William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. She lives in Washington D.C. with her husband and Pembroke Welsh Corgi. You can find her online at www.thebookishfox.com.