How Christian Bale’s ‘Batman Begins’ Suit Changed His Take on the DC Superhero
Christian Bale has openly admitted he’s often drawn to movie roles that feel “a bit dodgy.” Time and again, the Oscar-winning actor chooses to take risks with the parts he plays. And moreover, he is even willing to transform his body to suit the character he’s playing. In the case of Batman Begins, however, Bale found that perhaps the key to playing the Dark Knight laid not with his muscular physique but the Batsuit itself.
Christian Bale starred in ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy
When Christopher Nolan cast Bale as Bruce Wayne in 2005’s Batman Begins, the actor was far from a household name. Even though his first role was 1987’s Empire of the Sun, the former child star had never taken on such an iconic character before. Still, Nolan saw the potential for Bale to become a Batman the likes of which audiences hadn’t seen. And the franchise needed a change after 1997’s Batman & Robin.
A few years earlier, Bale played another suit-wearing character who used a facade to hide a double life. And while American Psycho‘s Patrick Bateman is very different from Bruce Wayne, they do have that in common. But what would Bale bring to Wayne’s superhero alter-ego? Could he create a distinctive take from previous stars such as Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney? As it turns out, he definitely did.
The actor used the suit to build his performance
Nowadays, Bale’s gravelly Batman voice might be the butt of some jokes. Indeed, perhaps he does lean into it a bit too much in the sequels. But when the actor was building his character in Batman Begins, he had a clear intention behind that decision. According to the Warner Bros. production notes (via CinemaReview.com), Bale channeled the discomfort of wearing the Batsuit into his performance.
“I put [the suit] on as much as possible so that I could really get a feel for it and get the moves and the presence of the Batsuit correct. Naturally, after six months of filming, I had a kind of a love-hate relationship with the thing. It induced headaches and would send me into a foul mood after half an hour. But I wasn’t going to be some little acting ninny who says I can’t deal with it anymore, take it off. I used the pain as fuel for the character’s anger. Batman’s meant to be fierce, and you become a beast in that suit, as Batman should be – not a man in a suit, but a different creature.”
Initially, Bale was hesitant to play Batman, as he always considered him a boring character. But after diving into some of the graphic novels, the actor came to realize a Batman film like what Nolan was proposing had never been made before. Batman Begins was indeed the first film to center on Bruce Wayne’s story. And it makes sense that Bale would identify and hone in on the animalistic side of his superhero life once he put on the suit.
Could Christian Bale ever return for a fourth ‘Batman’?
Even after 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises gave Bruce Wayne a happy ending, fans still clamored for more. But Bale has been adamant that he and Nolan are done with the franchise. Just a few years later, Ben Affleck would take over the role in the DC Extended Universe. And Robert Pattinson is set to play yet another big-screen incarnation of the character in 2022’s The Batman.
But if Bale does decide to come back — perhaps even with Nolan involved — there’s certainly opportunity there. Watchmen showrunner Damon Lindelof already proposed the idea of a Bale-led adaptation of the 1986 graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, which focuses on an older version of Batman. If a live-action version of that story happens — an animated one is already out there — Bale would be the perfect choice.