Not many Hollywood stars can claim the same amount of commitment to their roles as Ford v Ferrari star Christian Bale, the English actor known for his rapid fluctuations in weight between films. Whether gaining a beer gut, emaciating himself, or getting shredded for shirtless scenes, Bale has done it all - but he's never been blind to the impact this behavior has on his health. Now, he may finally be putting this phase of his career to bed, and calming his commitment down to the level of his more casual peers.
Bale's weight loss and gain have been the subject of media legend for years. He has, like many other household names, bulked up for roles like Batman in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, or (to a lesser extent) in 2000's American Psycho. He also isn't alone in putting on pounds for American Hustle (2013) and Vice (2018), in which the actor gorged himself on fatty foods for months in preparation. He isn't even the only actor to ever starve himself on as little as a can of tuna and an apple a day to achieve a horrifying 65 pounds in The Machinist. What really makes Bale's physical commitment stand out, in the end, is how quickly he transitions from one state to the other.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Bale claims that these on-screen transformations of his are in the past. “I keep saying I’m done with it,” he told CBS Sunday Morning in an interview. “I really think I’m done with it, yeah.” This isn't the first time Bale has shown concerns over the health effects of his weight gain and loss. He recently rejected a role as Enzo Ferrari, ironically a prominent side character in his and Matt Damon's new film Ford v Ferrari, because of the weight it would have required him to gain by the time shooting began. Earlier this year, he made a similar comment to Sunday Times concerning his role as Vice President Dick Cheney in Vice, saying: "I can't keep doing it. I really can't. My mortality is staring me in the face."
Co-star Matt Damon, on the other hand, seems nonplussed with Bale's physical history, and if anything is impressed by the commitment. “I had a great time watching him,” Damon said. “He’s got an incredible monk-like discipline… he went from Dick Cheney to this guy. So he had to lose 70 pounds.” Other actors have taken note of the positive attention received by Bale for this discipline; Simon Pegg, for instance, underwent a similar transformation at the age of 49 for the film Inheritance.
In the end, though, Bale is correct: no human being could keep up these sort of fluctuations in weight and muscle mass, especially as they age. While his commitment has undoubtedly been impressive (most people only know The Machinist at all because of Bale's transformation, after all), it isn't worth the actor's health or, at an extreme, his life. Bale is a great actor in his own right, regardless of how well he's melted into the body types of certain characters; his fantastic performances in The Prestige, Public Enemies, and The Big Short are proof enough of that. Hopefully he isn't kidding about taking his health seriously this time, and will be focusing on the emotional and psychological sides of his characters in the future.