A Chronological Round-Up Of All Christian Bale's Most Dramatic Role Transformations

Moviegoers know Christian Bale loves getting into character. From Batman to Patrick Bateman, Bale has proven himself a versatile actor who can immerse himself in any role - the more complex, the better.

But aside from the mental prep Bale uses to get into character, he has a long and storied history of transforming himself physically, and pushing himself to the limit, however challenging that may be. Audiences have watched in awe as he's slimmed down, bulked up, and donned wigs in record time. No role is too great a challenge for Bale, as he often defies expectations of the types he can play. 


  • While Bale didn't undergo a head-to-toe transformation for 1998's Velvet Goldmine, it did show viewers a side of Bale they hadn't seen before.

    Rocking long hair as Arthur Stuart, a journalist following a glam-rock star similar to David Bowie, Bale donned colorful and flamboyant costumes for the '70s era role - think leopard print and velvet galore.

  • The creepy yet fascinating American Psycho saw Bale in one of his biggest roles yet, playing the deranged Patrick Bateman. The part required what Bale called his "most restrictive" diet; he had to not only put on muscle mass, but also maintain the character's lean and svelte physique. As he put it, "There were no cheat meals. It was all lean protein. No sugars, good fats and low carbs."

    As for the internal transformation? Bale didn't have to look too far to find inspiration. According to the film's director, Mary Harron, Bale based the character in part off of a Tom Cruise interview. 

  • It may not have been as big of a hit as some of his other films, but Bale did his due diligence in hitting the gym once again for his role in Reign of Fire. Co-starring alongside Matthew McConaughey, Bale played a survivor slaying dragons in a post-apocalyptic world. He also sported a scruffier look. 

    In the film's big fight scene, Bale took a brutal (and real) headbutt from McConaughey.

  • Bale is nearly unrecognizable in The Machinist; he lost about 60 pounds (about a third of his weight) to play Trevor Reznik. Once again playing a character suffering from paranoia and delusions, Bale lost all that weight due to a simple misunderstanding in the script. In the film, Trevor writes his weight on the walls. The screenwriter, Scott Kosar, had written these in based off his own weight - but was only five foot six. Bale, six feet tall and never one to back down from a challenge, decided to reach that weight (121 lbs) rather than adjust for his height.

    Bale described the weight loss as transformative: "It's an amazing experience doing that. When you're so skinny that you can hardly walk up a flight of stairs... you're, like, this being of pure thought. It's like you've abandoned your body."

    But how did he do it? Bale says he "came up with the absolutely brilliant method of just smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey to lose weight."

  • In arguably his most dramatic transformation, Bale bulked up to play Batman himself in Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. The most shocking aspect of this physical change was the time, or lack thereof, he had to accomplish it. Six weeks before his first screen test for Batman Begins, Bale wrapped filming on The Machinist, the role for which he'd lost 60 pounds. Regarding his physical state at the time, Bale stated, "It was frankly pathetic, I was down to 121 pounds and I couldn't do a single push up - this is maybe not the guy you want to cast as Batman. But we had enough time. It was an arduous journey to get there, but I managed to get into appropriate shape by the time we started filming."

    In just five months, Bale had to gain back 100 pounds, most of it pure muscle. And just like Batman, Bale had no super powers to help him achieve his goal - he relied on plain old hard work. Bale explained his regime: "I would do splits - every day focusing on a different muscle group. I would do three sets of 10 to eight, depending on what I was working on. Usually, the last set was a little lower rep-wise because I’d want to be struggling, you know? Then I’d always shock my body with drop-sets and supersets."

    Bale actually went so hard at the gym he actually overdid it by 20 pounds and had to cut back down. 

  • Shortly after playing the muscular Bruce Wayne, Bale took on the role of a Navy pilot shot down in the Laos jungle during the Vietnam War.

    Bale only dropped a small amount of weight, at least relative to previous roles: "I just wanted to do enough to give kind of an indication of time and everything for it, but it really wasn't anything on the scale of The Machinist. I wouldn't do that again. I’ve kind of conquered that in my mind and don’t need to prove that to myself again."

    As for his gaunt POW appearance, Bale attributes it mostly to the make-up team. However, Bale faced a whole other slew of physical challenges for the role. He performed many of his own stunts, wrestled snakes, and ate maggots.