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Movies can’t all be hits, but you want your big-screen debut to at least be decent. After all, many people do, in fact, judge people on their first impressions. Unfortunately, Christian Bale’s first time out of the gate was one of the worst outings of his entertainment career. 

Let’s look at Bale’s stellar career and his unfortunate first movie role, including the movie’s poor performance and whether it had anything to do with his performance.

Christian Bale has had a very diverse acting career

British actor Christian Bale as lost schoolboy Jim Graham in 1987's Empire of the Sun
Christian Bale as lost schoolboy Jim Graham in 1987’s Empire of the Sun | Murray Close/Getty Images

Before Bale became Batman, he was in American Psycho and The Fighter. The actor took on some artistic early roles in films, including Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, an adaptation of Little Women, Jane Campion’s Portrait of a Lady, and a remake of the early Alfred Hitchcock movie Secret Agent with Gérard Depardieu and Patricia Arquette, which was based on a story by Joseph Conrad. Bale even performed in the beloved musical Newsies. 

In 2000, he hit the big time with American Psycho and Shaft. But Bale also continued to act in smart dramas and adaptations, such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Kevin Kline and Michelle Pfeiffer; Captain Corelli’s Mandolin with John Hurt, Nicolas Cage, and Penelope Cruz; and the brilliant The Machinist and Christopher Nolan’s Prestige with Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, and Michael Caine. 

After a remake of 3:10 to Yuma, Bale took on his first iconic role in the Dark Knight trilogy. Then, he joined the cast of Terminator: Salvation. The father of two also likes to appear in films by foreign directors, such as Zhang Yimou’s The Flowers of War and Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn. His recent roles have included Mowgli, based on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, and Thor: Love and Thunder.

Christian Bale’s debut was a flop

Bale’s first role in a feature film was in Mio in the Land of Faraway, which premiered in 1987. Vladimir Grammatikov directed the fantasy film, and Bale worked with a cast including Nick Pickard and Timothy Bottoms. William Aldridge wrote the screenplay based on Andre Ivanov’s adaptation of a 1954 novel by Astrid Lindgren, who gave the world Pippi Longstocking. 

Critics and the public did not take well to the movie. It received a 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Viewers felt it was a bad adaptation of the original story, in which a boy is transported to a fantasy land by clinging to the beard of a genie so he can search for his lost father, who is the king of this other world. There, a well whispers to him that he must rid the land of Kato, the iron-clawed knight, played by Christopher Lee. Critics singled out Lee’s acting as dull, rather than Bale’s. 

Mio in the Land of Faraway had a rocky start when the Chernobyl disaster interrupted production in Ukraine, reports Details. Filming was postponed for a month. The movie also suffered greatly in comparison to its contemporary, The NeverEnding Story. But Mio did see two members of Abba compose the movie’s titular song, so that added something positive.

Bale has won many accolades for his acting


Christian Bale Once Admitted That He Went a Little Too Far With His Method Acting in This Movie

Bale has received Oscar and BAFTA nominations for four performances in The Fighter, American Hustle, The Big Short, and Vice. He won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for The Fighter and a Golden Globe for Vice, even thanking Satan in his acceptance speech. Bale also won SAG Awards for his roles in The Fighter and American Hustle; he won Satellite Awards for The Fighter, The Big Short, and Ford v. Ferrari.

Bale won a Young Artist Award for his work in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, and he won an Independent Spirit Award for I’m Not There. His accomplishments even include many festival awards, including a silver medallion at the Telluride Film Festival and the award for best actor for The Machinist at the Catalonian Film Festival.

Bale also won a Chainsaw Award for American Psycho. He earned Saturn, Empire, People’s Choice, and MTV Movie awards for his work in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.