For seven years, Christian Bale was the world’s Batman. His scowling face, his growling voice, and his ice-cold demeanor have defined the Dark Knight for modern superhero fans. He won back moviegoers who were turned off of the Caped Crusader by George Clooney’s nipples and Joel Schumacher’s Dutch tilts and he remains the one true Batman in the hearts of some fans who aren’t impressed by Batfleck.
The years since Bale hung up the Batsuit have been kind to him. This year, Bale is gearing up for another Oscar nomination as his acclaimed performance in Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic Vice has him tipped for Best Actor. He’s one of the biggest movie stars in the world, and it was Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy that got him places. Before Batman Begins, he’d been known for starring in Empire of the Sun as a kid and American Psycho as an adult.
But The Big Short, Terminator: Salvation, American Hustle, The Fighter – it all came after he donned the Dark Knight’s cowl and took to the streets of Gotham. As Batman, Bale represented the seesaw struggle between good and bad, as well as the flip-side of the coins that had Tom Hardy’s Bane and Heath Ledger’s Joker on them.
So, before Bane’s nuclear blast hits and maybe (or maybe not) wipes him off the face of the Earth, here are 20 Wild Details Behind Christian Bale’s Batman That Fans Should Know.
20 Bale enjoyed competing with Heath Ledger for the spotlight
Christian Bale didn’t worry that Heath Ledger’s turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight, which went on to win him a posthumous Oscar, would overshadow his own performance as Bruce Wayne. He actually enjoyed the thrill of it. He said, “I have no problem with competing with someone else. And that’s going to make a better movie.”
Given the fact that it became the first (and so far only) superhero movie to win an Academy Award in an acting category, it grossed over $1 billion at the worldwide box office, and it is still ranked as the third greatest movie of all time by IMDb, it’s fair to say that it did make a better movie.
19 Bale auditioned in Val Kilmer’s Batsuit
In one episode of Friends, Ross wears a tuxedo that was worn by Val Kilmer in the 1995 movie Batman Forever. But Christian Bale did one better – he auditioned for the role of Batman wearing the actual Batsuit that Kilmer wore in the movie. Bale completed his first screen test in Kilmer’s Batsuit, albeit without the cape, because the cape has been mysteriously missing for several years.
Christopher Nolan said that by wearing the suit to the audition, Bale proved his ability “to project this extraordinary iconography,” and therefore won himself the role that would elevate his general stardom to superstardom and make him universally recognizable to an entire generation of superhero fans.
18 Bale’s Batman wasn’t conceived to be all dark
Until Ben Affleck’s divisive Batman came along, Christian Bale’s Batman was the darkest we’d seen on the big screen. Then Zack Snyder gave us a Batman that was angrier, more violent, and overall darker. However, Christopher Nolan did not conceive his Batman to be a dark character. In fact, he decided to cast Bale after determining he had “exactly the balance of darkness and light that we were looking for.”
The success of Nolan’s Batman trilogy is often naively thought to be a result of his films being the darkest Batman movies that had come along at that point. His films have even inspired a slew of dark reboots, like 2015’s Fantastic Four reboot. But Nolan’s plan was actually to balance the dark with the light, so all of those copycats missed the point completely.
17 The comics gave Bale a new perspective on Batman
Christian Bale is the first to admit he’s not a comic book guy, but he happened upon a Batman comic once, years before he was up for the part, and it gave him a whole new perspective on the character. Previously, his only conception of Batman had come from the Adam West TV show from the ‘60s, which is drastically different in tone from the Batman depicted by the likes of Frank Miller and Grant Morrison.
But when someone gave him a copy of “Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth,” he realized what a dark and complex character Batman was and became interested in playing him. After he got the role, he read “Year One” and “Dark Victory” to further his understanding.
16 Bale’s Batman favors functionality over style
While Will Arnett’s Lego Batman pokes fun at the Caped Crusader’s penchant for style and aesthetic (“I only work in black...and sometimes very, very dark grey”), Christopher Nolan chose to make his Batman more interested in functionality. So, the classic Batmobile – which looks cool, but isn’t very maneuverable or useful on most terrains – was eschewed in favor of the more practical Tumbler.
Plus, Batman’s utility belt is better stocked. Instead of a bunch of silly gadgets that have little value in a combat situation apart from getting the Bat-brand out there into the thug community, the emphasis in Bale’s utility belt is on utility. There might not be a “Bat” pun in his gadgets’ names, but that doesn’t matter, because they have a purpose.
15 He’s more like a panther than a human
Christian Bale explained that the heavy suit weighing down on his shoulders and neck made him play Batman as more of an animal than a human: “The suit gives you this huge neck, like a Mike Tyson neck, which you really rarely see amongst humans. It’s more like a panther. It gives you this real feral look, as though you’re going to pounce on somebody any moment.”
As the Bat of Gotham, Batman is supposed to embody a more primal and animalistic presence than other superheroes. However, he is characterized more like a human bat in the comics, whereas Bale played him like a jungle cat looking for prey. Either way, it touches on the same sort of thing: predatory instincts.
14 Harvey Dent’s burning face looks like a flaming Batman logo
In The Dark Knight, when Harvey Dent’s face catches on fire, the flames look eerily like a burning Batman logo. This could be a coincidence, but since a burning Batman logo was used all over the promotional material for the movie, maybe this was slipped in as an intentional Easter egg by the movie’s award-winning visual effects team.
If this was intentional, then that is crazy attention to detail and it’s not too far beyond the attention an auteur like Christopher Nolan would pay to his movies. It’s probably just the kind of thing that only gets picked up when a movie becomes so popular that millions of people watch it a hundred times and analyze every single frame for possible hidden meaning.
13 Bale’s Batman always wanted to eventually stop being Batman
The nuclear blast at the end of The Dark Knight Rises that was thought to have eliminated Batman – and might well have done – gave him the perfect opportunity to retire. But according to Bale, his Batman always saw fighting crime as “a finite endeavor.” He didn’t have a sudden change of heart at that moment – he always wanted to hang up the cowl.
When he was promoting The Dark Knight in 2008, Bale said that his Batman was thinking, “Is this something that has an end? Can he quit and have an ordinary life?” As it turns out, if there’s a nuclear bomb around and the people of Gotham need to be inspired by what they perceive to be the ultimate sacrifice, he can.
12 Batman was not written as the lead of any of the movies
Despite the movies being named after him and Christian Bale’s name getting top billing, Batman was not written as the lead of any of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies. Nolan felt that the movies were defined by their villains and not by Batman himself, and this meant that each movie fell into a different genre.
With Ra’s al Ghul as the “mentor-turned-enemy,” Batman Begins was a straightforward superhero origin story. The Joker’s stance made The Dark Knight a sprawling Michael Mann-style crime movie about a city in chaos, like Heat. Lastly, Bane’s French Revolution-style takeover of Gotham inspired by Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities made The Dark Knight Rises a historical epic.
11 Bale’s costume is a combination of every past Batman costume
There was a lot riding on Christian Bale’s costume in Batman Begins. The emotional wounds from George Clooney’s nipple-laden Batsuit in 1997’s Batman & Robin were still fresh, so Bale’s suit needed to be something special: grounded, formidable, menacing, raw. Christopher Nolan understood this and put careful consideration into what the Batman in his gritty reboot would wear.
Nolan said, “I looked at the great comics and graphic novels through the history of Batman to try and distill the essence of what those extraordinary pictures and drawings were saying about what Batman should look like. Each artist interprets the costume differently, but there are these common aspects that define the essence of the character.” So, Nolan dressed his Batman in a mixture of the best parts of every past Batman costume.
10 Future Superman, Joker, and Scarecrow campaigned for the role
Before Christian Bale was cast, many actors who would go on to take other iconic DC Comics roles expressed interest in the role: Henry Cavill, who now plays Superman in the DC Extended Universe and has actually fought Batman on-screen; Heath Ledger, who went on to play the Joker in The Dark Knight; and Cillian Murphy, who ended up being cast as the Scarecrow in Batman Begins instead.
Other actors who campaigned for the role include Eion Bailey, David Boreanaz, Billy Crudup (who went on to bag the role of Dr. Manhattan in Zack Snyder’s big-budget adaptation of Watchmen), Hugh Dancy, Jake Gyllenhaal (who will play Mysterio in the upcoming MCU movie Spider-Man: Far From Home), and Joshua Jackson.
9 Christian Bale hates Robin
Christian Bale has been a very vocal critic of the Robin character. He once said, “If Robin crops up in one of the new Batman films, I’ll be chaining myself up somewhere and refusing to go to work.” There’s a rumor that Bale auditioned to play Robin in Batman Forever and lost the role to Chris O’Donnell, but he’s less vocal about that.
Despite Bale’s passionate objections to the character, Nolan still managed to slip in the “Robin” Easter egg with Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character Blake in The Dark Knight Rises. The end of the trilogy seems to set up a wayward young man named Robin taking on the Batman mantle, but since he didn’t have to fight alongside a kid in a red suit, Bale might’ve been okay with that.
8 The bat opera emphasized the importance of bats in Bruce’s trauma
In the comics, Bruce Wayne’s parents are murdered after they watch a Zorro movie. However, Nolan changed this to an opera involving dancers dressed as bats that Bruce is scared of. This was an intentional story move to emphasize the role of bats in the trauma surrounding the murder of Bruce’s parents.
Plus, the fact that Bruce’s fear of bats got his parents eliminated gives him extra reason to overcome it in his quest to avenge them. Falling into a dry well after his parents’ funeral is taken from the comic book storyline “The Man Who Falls” – the bat swarm that surrounds him in the well is another little touch that adds to the symbolism of Bruce needing to overcome his fear of bats.
7 Bale’s weight was all over the place leading up to Batman Begins
When Bale was cast as Batman, he had just dropped down to an emaciated 124 lbs for The Machinist. When that movie wrapped, he only had a couple of months to get into superhero shape, and he feared that he wouldn’t be able to look convincingly tough by the time shooting started on Batman Begins.
So, he worked extra hard with a trainer to put on 100 lbs of muscle for the role, essentially doing the impossible. But then, in a tragic twist, the producers felt that he had actually become too heavy, so he had to, once again, lose weight. He settled at around 185 lbs in time for Batman Begins to start filming.
6 He won’t be the good guy forever
One of the most iconic quotes in The Dark Knight trilogy is Harvey Dent’s line: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” While it applies perfectly to Dent, who went from being the beloved District Attorney to a fearsome, power-hungry supervillain involved in the Joker’s plot, it could also apply to Batman.
Bale has said that while his Batman is depicted as “somebody that is doing good” in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, he is “right on the verge of doing bad.” Depending on how you interpret The Dark Knight Rises, Batman might have passed away as a hero, and if he hadn’t sacrificed himself in that nuclear blast, he would’ve eventually become a villain. If he is alive and hanging out in Florence, then he seems to have retired from being Batman, so he might’ve dodged the villain bullet.
5 Bale got his angry, growling Batman voice from how painful the costume made him
The growling, aggressive voice that Christian Bale uses when he’s wearing the Batman costume has become a subject of praise, ridicule, and criticism over the years. Zac Efron and Seth Rogen make fun of Bale's voice in a scene in Neighbors where two men from different generations compare their Batmans. Some people complained that it made the lines difficult to understand.
But as Bale himself explains, the aggression in his voice actually came from the anger he felt from spending long hours in that heavy suit. He said, “Batman’s meant to be fierce, and you become a beast in that suit, as Batman should be – not a man in a suit, but a different creature.”
4 Bale was unhappy with his performance as Batman
Christian Bale initially intended to play Batman as a “very, very dark, messed-up character,” and looking back on the trilogy, he’s disappointed with his performance as he feels he didn’t fully realize that vision. There are many fans who count his Batman movies among their favorites of all time who would disagree that he didn’t fully embody the character in a satisfying way, but those are Bale’s personal feelings.
He is lined up for an Academy Award for Best Actor this year – or at least a nomination – for his uncanny turn as former Vice President Dick Cheney in Adam McKay’s satirical biopic Vice, so this guy is clearly a perfectionist who takes his craft very seriously.
3 “The Man Who Falls” was Nolan’s “jumping off point”
Nolan used the comic book story “The Man Who Falls,” which was featured in Secret Origins of the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes, as a “jumping off point” in developing his first Batman movie. That story did what Nolan hoped he could do to differentiate his movie from the previous movies – it filled in the blanks in Batman’s origin story.
Whereas most Batman stories skip over the gap between Bruce’s parents’ passing and his adult career as the Caped Crusader, “The Man Who Falls” told the story of Bruce traveling the world to train in various combat styles before returning to Gotham to become Batman. Nolan used this as the seed of what would become Batman Begins.
2 Bale played Batman as four different characters
A shoddy actor would play Batman as one character. He would carry himself and deliver all of his lines in the same way, no matter what the scene was or what persona he was adopting. A good actor would play Batman as two characters, playing Bruce Wayne and Batman differently.
But a great actor would deconstruct the character and go even further than that, and that’s what Christian Bale did. He actually played the role as four different characters: the aggressive Batman persona (which is the most obvious one), the shallow playboy Bruce pretends to be in his private life so people don’t catch on, the vengeful young man, and the older, more bitter Bruce who is discovering his purpose in life.
1 Bale believes that Bruce is still alive
The Dark Knight Rises’ ambiguous ending is left to be interpreted by fans. Bale has acknowledged that with these types of endings, it’s up to the viewer to decide what it means. However, he has also divulged his personal opinion on it: “It was not a dream. That was for real and he was just delighted that finally, he had freed himself from the privilege, but ultimately the burden, of being Bruce Wayne.”
Christopher Nolan has said nothing definitive about the ending, calling it “simply a very important thematic idea...that Batman is a symbol,” while Michael Caine believes that there is “no imagination” in the scene and that Alfred was seeing Bruce and Selina for real in Florence.
What do you think of Christian Bale's performance in The Dark Knight trilogy? Let us know in the comments!