Christian Bale Ignored Every Warning Telling Him Not To Become Batman

Playing a role as iconic as Batman seems like a clear-cut good thing, but the men who've actually played him have other things to say. Ben Affleck was the most recent actor to step down from the role, doing so before he even got his solo movie, and handing the cape and cowl over to Robert Pattinson. Affleck didn't go into any huge detail over the decision, but said in an interview this January that although he was "not blaming anybody," ultimately he didn't feel happy in the role. "I didn't like being there. I didn't think it was interesting."

Michael Keaton, who played the character in "Batman" and "Batman Returns," also seems to have struggled with the aftermath of the role. In his starring comeback role in the 2014 film "Birdman," he played an actor who couldn't escape his reputation as the guy from the "Birdman" movies. There's a lot going on in that movie, but the parallel between Birdman and Batman is hard to miss. 

This danger of becoming typecast as one of the main reasons why, when Christian Bale was offered the star role for "Batman Begins," everyone around him told him it wasn't worth it. As Bale recalled in a recent interview with GQ: "Other people also said, 'Hey, you know, if you play Batman, that's it. You're never gonna play anything else again. You will always be Batman.'"

'Bring it on.'

Apologies for the spoilers, but it turns out that Bale didn't listen to anyone's warnings, and ended up starring in all three movies of Christopher Nolan's revered "Dark Knight" trilogy. "I went, 'Bring it on. Let's see if that happens,'" Bale said. "Because I just always felt like, look, if I don't have the skill to be able to rise above that, then I don't deserve to either." 

Like with Mark Hamill playing Luke Skywalker or Daniel Radcliffe with Harry Potter, Bale knew this would end up being the main role he'd be remembered for throughout the rest of his career — but he'd already made peace with that reality: "I don't view it really as being stopped in the street. For me it was, ah, I can pay off my house! That's a huge relief."

Another thing that contributed to this decision was the fact that he'd played Patrick Bateman in the 2000 film "American Pyscho," which he was also warned against doing. Bale recalled the same people warning against playing Batman also telling him, "'Hey, you can't go play Patrick Bateman, it's career suicide.'" Bale had ultimately proved he was right to follow his instincts then, so why wouldn't he follow them again?

And sure enough, playing Batman did not in fact ruin Bale's acting career. Since "The Dark Knight Rises," he's gone on to star in memorable roles in "American Hustle," "The Big Short," "Vice," "Thor: Love and Thunder," and many more. The quality of those movies is a little debatable (we've got mixed feelings on that Thor movie), but it's rare to see someone criticize Bale's performance specifically.

Beyond Batman

There are a couple potential explanations for why Bale avoided the curse of playing an iconic superhero. For instance, it probably helps that he wore a mask and disguised his voice throughout most of those Batman movies, which makes it easier for audiences to separate Bale from the character he played. It also helps that Bale is a bit of a shape-shifter; he's known for going through insane diets and workout regiments to dramatically change his body for roles, which makes him basically unrecognizable as someone like Dick Cheney in "Vice."  

Bale has since decided to stop with the body transformations, but sometimes he's also playing a character that's so covered in make-up and CGI that you'd still barely be able to recognize him as the guy who played Bruce Wayne. If it wasn't for the fact that his name was on the poster, would we have even known that it was him in "Thor: Love and Thunder" at all? Actors in iconic roles often struggle to get cast in new movies due to concerns that it might break audiences' immersion; after all, it can be a little jarring to be watching a serious drama and then suddenly Batman shows up. But the fact that Bale looks so different in every role helps to sidestep that problem. 

Even beyond that though, Bale himself will tell you that getting cast in new movies has only gotten easier this past decade. "Post-Batman," he said, "it got a little easier for directors to suggest me and financiers to say, 'Okay, yeah, we'll take him.'" Ten years after "The Dark Knight Rises" released in theaters, it seems safe to say that playing Batman — for Bale at least — is not in fact career suicide.