Balemorphosis: 6 Movies Where Christian Bale Totally Transformed His Image

Joel Stice

Read Time 4 minutes

Vice via Plan B Entertainment

When it comes to method acting there’s Christian Bale and then there’s everyone else. Sure other actors might refuse to break character while on set, but how many of them put their body through the wringer the way Bale does? He’s been a working actor since he was a teen, but it’s his roles in the last 16 years or so where the actor has truly become a chameleon on screen.

Bale has put his body through punishing extremes that most health professionals would probably advise against. The most recent example would be the weight he piled on for his portrayal of Dick Cheney in last year’s Vice. (More on that later.) In celebration of the actor’s 45th birthday today, let’s take a look back at Christian Bale’s most extreme body transformations.

1. The Machinist
Type: Drama, Thriller
Release Date: 2004
Director: Brad Anderson
Starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Ironside
Rating: 77% RT, 7.7 IMDb

Via Paramount

The film that centers around an industrial worker who grapples with insomnia is truly unsettling, largely due to Christian Bale’s skeletal frame. The actor reportedly ate only an apple and a can of tuna a day, causing him to lose over 60 pounds. Bale said that the weight loss took such a toll on his body that he could barely walk up a flight of stairs. Yikes.

2. Rescue Dawn
Type: Action, Drama
Release Date: 2006
Director: Werner Herzog
Starring: Steve Zahn, Toby Huss
Rating: 90% RT, 7.3 IMDb


Centered around U.S. military pilots shot down and taken prisoner during the Vietnam War, the movie tells a harrowing tale of survival. The grim state of Bale’s character is driven home by the actor’s gaunt appearance that worsens as the movie moves along. Bale isn’t an actor who takes biopics lightly and in order to tell the true story of aviator Dieter Dengler, he dropped 55 pounds for the part.

3. The Dark Knight
Type: Action, Crime
Release Date: 2008
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine
Rating: 94% RT, 9 IMDb

Via Warner Bros.

On the other end of the spectrum, Bale can buckle down and put on pure muscle when the role calls for it. Case in point, his portrayal of Batman in The Dark Knight. The actor had toned his body before for American Psycho, but to play billionaire Bruce Wayne he went full beast mode and added 100 pounds to his body, most of it being total muscle.

4. The Fighter
Type: Drama, Sport
Release Date: 2010
Director: David O. Russell
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams
Rating: 90% RT, 7.8 IMDb

Via Paramount

Once again, Bale decided to nearly starve himself in order to play the drug addict character for this award-winning drama. In order to achieve his incredibly skinny frame, he ran for miles every day and scaled back his diet considerably. In the end, it all paid off for the actor and Bale took home an Academy Award for his commitment to the part.

5. American Hustle
Type: Drama, Crime
Release Date: 2013
Director: David O. Russell
Starring: Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner
Rating: 92% RT, 7.3 IMDb

Via Columbia Pictures

Bale’s second movie with director David O. Russell called for him to take a completely opposite approach than his preparation in The Fighter. This time, Bale said it was all about eating “lots of doughnuts and a whole lot of cheeseburgers.” That’s probably a diet that a lot of people could easily get on board with, of course, the big downside is when filming wraps and it’s time to lose that weight.

6. Vice
Type: Drama, Comedy
Release Date: 2018
Director: Adam McKay
Starring: Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell
Rating: 63% RT, 7.1 IMDb

Via Plan B Entertainment

Similar to American Hustle, in order for Bale to play the former vice president, Dick Cheney, he had to pack on serious pounds. In the end, the actor packed on 60 pounds to play Cheney, but the downside is the scene above didn’t make its way into the final film. According to Variety, while the shirtless scene with Bale showing off his belly did find its way into the movie’s trailer, an editing mishap resulted in it having to be cut from the final product. Considering that the actor reportedly bought a $3,000 machine just to bulk up his neck for the role, it’s a shame his full Cheney-body glory was left on the cutting room floor.

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