I don’t have a clue what happened on the set of American Psycho, but whatever it was, it changed Christian Bale’s life forever. Up until that film, Christian had mostly been playing the lovable-crafty-slightly-abrasive-gorgeous-dream-boy, then he beefed up and veneered out to play Patrick Bateman, and I feel like he kind of stayed that way forever. (The same way Jennifer Connelly sadly lost all of her luscious curves to play a heroin addict in Requiem for a Dream, and then stayed scary skinny afterwards.) In recent years, Bale has kind of gone into Nicolas Cage territory – swinging wildly from blockbuster action films (Terminator Salvation) to indies where he gets sharply emaciated (The Machinist, Rescue Dawn, The Fighter) and, of course, his ridiculously voiced Batman. He’s yelled at lighting guys, he’s shaved his head bald – he’s kind of all over the map. So I can’t say much for him as he is now (except I saw him at Disneyland once and he is TALL.) But, once upon a time….
A couple of years ago for my birthday, I threw myself a “Dress as a Spielberg Character” party. We had several Elliots from ET, Elsa from Last Crusade, even a Smee and Peter Pan. I dressed as Christian Bale’s character in Empire of the Sun, in a little British school boy outfit – and everyone asked me if I was supposed to be the guitarist from AC/DC. NO ONE at that party had ever seen Empire of the Sun – a Spielberg movie!! As you can probably guess, I saw it upon its release in the theater. And while WWII internment camp movies probably aren’t normal fare for 8 year olds, I adored it. And thought Christian Bale was precious – and an incredible actor. He blew me away again in Henry V.
So, of course, when in 1992 I heard he was headlining a musical about cute NYC turn of the century paper boys called Newsies I was all in. At the time, Christian was adorable, the movie was decent, and that was that. I recently learned that Christian did not sign on to a musical, but that they changed their minds once he was already cast, and he bravely decided to learn to sing and dance and stay on the film. When watching Newsies as an adult, this is very obvious. He is kind of an awful singer and dancer, but he’s so beautiful and he’s trying so hard that it’s kind of endearing.
I guess Bale really loves to dance, though, because his next film was the 1993 film Swing Kids. LADIES. Can we talk about this movie. Seriously talk. Because I cannot even tell you how INTO this movie I was. I was heavily into swing the moment I saw Swing Kids – which was about six months to a year before it became cool in popular culture. I bought and wore a vintage 40’s dress to my freshman year winter formal (see photo below, i’m bottom left) and was HEARTILY made fun of. (“Why are you wearing those weird clothes? Why is your hair like that?) (Even though I knew deep down I looked bitchin’). And all of those fucking posers were the ones who got super into swing when it got fashionable. Ahh, high school…but I digress…
Swing Kids is a movie wherein good-hearted best friends Christian Bale and Robert Sean Leonard (don’t worry, we’ll get to him soon…) decide that the only way they can really rebel against that pesky nazi party is to swing dance. This is seriously the plot of this movie. Swing dancing vs. nazis. (But who didn’t tear up at the end….swing heil! swing heil!) For ME this was a movie featuring two of my very favorite boys being so incredibly adorable I could bearly stand it, AND dancing like fucking badasses. (and some nazi stuff….) I listened to the soundtrack obsessively, I was INTO it. AND it fully cemented my Leonard/Bale crushes. One of my favorite things about the film is that even though he is supposed to be German, Bale has the exact same New Yawk accent he has in Newsies. The fact that Branagh is doing a hard German accent, and Leonard and Whaley have a flat Americans just makes it even weirder…
Then we had his super cute portrayal of Laurie in Little Women, followed by his incredibly fucking hot performance in Velvet Goldmine. Can I pause just a minute and say that VelvetGoldmine might be one of the best Hollywood films for hot boy-on-boy action – Ewan McGregor, Christian Bale AND Jonathan Rhys-Myers? YES PLEASE. We had one more dreamboat role for Bale in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and then BAM! Patrick Bateman for life. So weird.
BUT! At least he is a man who had grown up strong and takes the roles he really wants, so kudos to him for that.