Why Christian Bale Says He Owes His Career To Leonardo DiCaprio

No two people get their start in Hollywood the same way. Take Leonardo DiCaprio, for instance, who made his movie acting debut in, of all things, "Critters 3" in 1991. By that point, his peer Christian Bale (who, despite what their dating habits might lead you to believe, was born the same year as DiCaprio) had already worked on films with the likes of directors Steven Spielberg and Kenneth Branagh.

The duo's careers have deviated pretty wildly since then, even as they've evolved into two of the most respected working actors in their age bracket. Where DiCaprio has made it his practice to avoid superhero movies and sequels, Bale has starred in everything from "Terminator" films to movies about Batman and Thor, in-between far more esoteric and anti-commercial undertakings with Terrence Malick and Werner Herzog. But for all the ways their paths have differed from one another, the duo has also joined forces with many of the same directors, including Spielberg, Adam McKay, and Christopher Nolan.

There was even a time when Bale apparently had a bit of a one-sided rivalry with DiCaprio. In the 2012 book, "Christian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman" (via CBR), Bale's former publicist Harrison Cheung claims the actor came to regard DiCaprio as his nemesis after losing roles to him in the acclaimed '90s dramas "The Boy's Life" and "What's Eating Gilbert Grape." Personally, I like to imagine Bale used to narrow his eyes and growl Leo's last name the same way Timmy's dad says "Dinkleberg!" on "The Fairly OddParents."

Anyway, assuming that was ever actually the case, then it seems the years have humbled Bale — enough so he can now playfully credit DiCaprio as the reason he even has a career at all.

Leo always gets dibs

"Gilbert Grape" was far from the last occasion when Bale and DiCaprio nearly bumped into each other. A few years after that, Bale came very close to playing Mercutio opposite DiCaprio's Romeo in "Romeo + Juliet" and was among those eyed for the role of Jack Dawson in "Titanic" before DiCaprio snagged the part. Three years later, however, it was Bale who would star in Mary Harron's now cult classic horror-comedy "American Psycho" after DiCaprio passed on the role of Patrick Bateman, allegedly at the urging of Gloria Steinem (or so the film's co-writer Guinevere Turner told Vice in 2020).

Speaking to GQ (via Entertainment Weekly) to promote his new movie "Amsterdam," Bale half-joked that he would never get cast if it wasn't for DiCaprio's selectiveness when it comes to his movie roles:

"Look, to this day, any role that anybody gets, it's only because he's passed on it beforehand. It doesn't matter what anyone tells you. It doesn't matter how friendly you are with the directors. All those people that I've worked with multiple times, they all offered every one of those roles to him first. Right? I had one of those people actually tell me that. So, thank you, Leo, because literally, he gets to choose everything he does. And good for him, he's phenomenal."

Bale also waved off the idea he's ever taken personal offense when DiCaprio was cast in a film over him:

"No. Do you know how grateful I am to get any damn thing? I mean, I can't do what he does. And he does it magnificently. But I would suspect that almost everybody of similar age to him in Hollywood owes their careers to him passing on whatever project it is."

"Amsterdam" opens in theaters on October 7, 2022.